Thoughts From Week One of the 2012 London Olympics

Posted: August 6, 2012 in ALL II
Tags: , ,

With baseball out of the Olympic Games primarily because London could not accommodate antiquated diamonds, “The Cycle” is off for a couple of weeks in favor for lazily composed thoughts from the Games.  Without further ado, I give you some thoughts from the first week of the Olympics.

Am I A Bad American?

One of my favorite parts of the Olympics is the possibility to become an “ugly” American.  I am a huge fan of this country but I never get a real chance to demonstrate that without concern of being called narrow-minded, insecure, and insensitive.  Usually people compare the USA to others in terms of education, health care, poverty, etc.  Never mind that comparing a country with the third largest population with the eighty sixth seems like apples and oranges but I needed to maintain my composure.  Not anymore.  Stars and stripes all day.  I can wear that novelty American flag tie without the accompanying “are you a Republican” joke.  I can go to the gym wearing red, white, and blue and people would totally understand what is happening.  Does not matter what the event is, I am rooting hard for the Americans.  Oh and I can cheer “USA, USA, USA” and people will actually join me instead of frowning up at my patriotism.  Politics be damned, my nation is in competition and I am going to support them 110%.

This works until I get to Olympic tennis.  My favorite tennis player is Roger Federer of Switzerland (not Sweden).  I only root for the Fed Express.  It is an individual sport and he is my individual of choice.  I had zero interest in watching let alone rooting for Mardy Fish, Ryan Harrison, John Isner (a Federer victim in route to his silver medal), Donald Young (who had absolutely NO business on the USA Men’s Squad), or the grizzled Andy Roddick.  If the stars and stripes faced the Swiss Maestro, I would be in the Swiss camp every single time.  A statement like this would most certainly cost me an election if I was a candidate but at a simpler level, is this a bad thing?  It certainly is awkward to consider how the Olympics shift the lens of fandom from individual to country.  This may speak to the wide range of popularity of tennis or the decline in American men’s tennis.  Should I blindly follow the flag for any athlete?  I most certainly do not blindly support teams from the city I am from but I am the first to recognize that to be unusual.  Maybe it’s good I am not willing to sacrifice my loyalties for one entity (country) for another (player).  Just an interesting thought experiment as I saw Federer become the only member of the “Big Three” to medal, despite its silver constitution.

While we are here, should tennis be an Olympic event?

Yes.  The counterarguments usually begin with the Olympics not being a major event in the sport.  Tennis players already get the opportunity to play the finest players in the World at any ATP 1000 tour event, let alone the four majors throughout the year.  Other Olympic events represent the culmination of a life’s work whereas it is an extra event in amid a packed season.  Secondary reasons include packing an already packed schedule and the lack of amateurism in the event as compared to others like basketball, soccer, or handball.  See one out of three!  These arguments don’t really speak to the pride athletes feel for their country and a chance for their individual accomplishments to be related to their nation.  Nadal was heartbroken  he could not defend his medal and compete under the Spanish flag.  Federer openly raved in 2005 when learning of the Olympics in London to compete for his athletically deprived nation at the holiest of grounds.  Djokovic is a proud Serbian.  Andy Murray, the 2012 gold medalist, playing in his home nation: no doubt about it.  This is one of the few occasions where their accomplishments can be shared by the nation and that matters a great deal.  Consider the seriousness that the players are taking the Olympics?  Two Games ago, most of the major players would never consider interrupting their schedule for the contest.  Now most every player recognizes the value of a medal and appreciate the opportunity to carry their flag in ways that are not possible in normal tournament play.  Tennis should be around to stay and I cannot think of why the IOC would want to eliminate it from their illustrious slate of contests.

Jordyn Wieber’s Outside Looking In

Wieber, the current world champion in women’s all-around gymnastics, did not qualify for the finals because IOC rules state that only the top two competitors from a country may qualify for the finals.  This rule is pretty stupid.  Of course this does not dismiss the fact that the USA’s team was amazingly strong, that Gabby Douglas’ strong performance in the American Cup was not fluke, and that you have to be at your best at all times to be an all-time great.  Still, in a field of over twenty competitors, Wieber was fourth overall and had NO shot to defend her title.  If the Olympics is about displays of the best athletes in the World, it is always good not to cap the best part.  That’s just me.  Shameful that she wasn’t good enough to make it to the final round and divide the country between all sorts of lines (challenger/champion; black/white; “it girl” vs. big smile).  Maybe it was better this way…

Heartbreak City: Fencing Stage

It’s not over until the clock strikes 0:00.  South Korean fencer Shin A Lam knew this but with only one second remaining, the impossible seemed impossible.  And in actuality it probably was unless some time rip or human error.  With one second remaining, the match resumed except the clock did not move.  One second had elapsed but due to a timing error Lam’s opponent had more than one second, enough time for her to score a point and lose.  Of course officials had no protocol in the event of a timing error (not the first time these amateur sports encountered amateur officiating) but the South Koreans filed an appeal which was denied.  Not sure why either.  These types of things should be avoided and what on earth was so confusing about the match resuming and Shin’s opponent scoring after one second elapsed.  Not sure but that is a shameful display of most everything.  It didn’t help that Lam had to wait on the piste for the decision, an agonizing process left over from fencing’s more antiquated days.  Do better.

On Tyler Clary and Michael Phelps…

Remember when Tyler Clary made headlines for calling our Phelps for his lackluster work ethic?  Remember how when Phelps didn’t win his first event everyone flipped out and suggested he shouldn’t have come back?  Phelps redeemed himself and earned more gold medals, outperformed the brash Ryan Lochte, and put Clary back in place and perspective: in the rear view mirror.

When in doubt, cheat (or bend the rules)!

Resident badminton expert and Editor-in-Chief, Bunk covered the atrocity of negotiating the draw and the ire many teams drew from Olympics officials. If manipulating the draw is seen as cheating and wrong, how in the hell can Olympics officials be ok with purposely crashing when on the verge of losing a race?  If you crash early in team sprint, you are granted a restart.  That’s all you really need to know but I’m sure you are saying: “I can see how someone may manipulate this rule if they get a bad start but how could you know they crashed on purpose?”  Well, if the cyclist tells me that would help.  A British cyclist admitted to doing the exact thing after getting a poor start and of course the IOC and cycling officials allowed the ruling to stand.  The ruling is pretty silly, the rule itself is silly but I will not stand here and get mad at a team for using a loophole to their advantage.  It’s not as if other teams would try to do the same thing and get punished…unless it’s in badminton.

It could be worse: Olympic Boxing.  From the annals of Deadspin, here is video of the shadiest boxing ruling since Pacquiao-Bradley Jr.  Referee not giving the appropriate count.  Judges absolutely with the wrong ruling.  No penalty what so ever for being so egregiously bought off that it’s not even funny.  I am but a lowly baseball fan but while my sport maybe incompetent and slow it is not this corrupt.  It’s not like Barry Bonds went from being thin to suddenly huge and back to thin after his playing days were over.  Just slide the money under the door and you can win any match you want in Olympic boxing.  Sad but true!

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