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Olympic Obsession: Day 4

Judging who is a winner in a sporting competition seems counter intuitive to the athletic pursuit, which should be decided by the athletes.

I can’t stand gymnastics.

There, I said it. I’m out of the closet. Gymnastics drives me nuts.

Mind you, the gymnasts themselves are amazing athletes who do things I couldn’t even dream of doing myself. And so do the divers and synchronized swimmers and figure skaters (yeah, I know, they’re winter) of the world.

It’s not them – it’s their sports. And the systems they use to determine a winner.

Call me an ugly American sports fan, but deciding a championship with a group of judges using a formula that you need an advanced math degree to understand seems wrong.

The whole thing just feels so subjective. Obviously, we all can see the major things like stumbling, falling or stepping out of bounds. But when the routine doesn’t include a major error, and looks the same as the previous nearly perfect routine, how can the scores not be similar?

I get it. The people judging are trained to look for the minor imperfections, and each of those imperfections has an assigned deduction. But you’re also allowing for human nature to seep into the Games.

I’ve judged lots of journalism competitions, and no matter how much I tell myself to give each entry the same attention, sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Something that I may have been harsh about on the first entry will be deemed less important by the 20th entry. And what I may judge as harsh, the person next to me may not be as harsh.

The same holds true in all sports. But in many of the others, the referee is not solely determining the outcome. It doesn’t mean that they don’t make mistakes, because they do. And it doesn’t mean you agree with their every decision, because you don’t. But their decisions are cut and dry: Foul or no foul; goal or no goal; this athlete jumped higher or farther than the other.

Unfortunately, there’s no real solution to fix this. But tell me you didn’t get a little freaked out seeing the Japanese coach walk over to the judges table holding a wad of bills at the end of the men’s team competition. It was all legit, having to pay a protest fee, but it just reminds us how the system can be open to corruption due to human nature.

BAD-MINTON: Of course, human nature goes to the athletes, too.

Reading about the debacle that happened at the badminton facility Tuesday was frustrating.

For those who missed it, they moved to pool play (instead of single-elimination) in badminton this year. So, Tuesday, with their advancement secured, a team from South Korea and a team from China spent parts of their match doing their worst, literally, to get a better draw in the knockout round.

Nice.

Luckily, officials stepped in and put a stop to it before it got out of hand. “Rest” was how one coach explained the play. But this is the biggest stage your sport has, and it only comes every four years. Play. To. Win.

UPDATE: Olympic badminton officials booted eight badminton players (pending appeal) for their attempts to throw matches in an attempt to draw a favorable drawing.

LAYING THE SPLASHDOWN: Watching the live coverage of the swimming Tuesday afternoon, and they're showing you every part of the lead up to each race.

Including the introductions of each athlete.

Oh, not the one you're used to seeing during the NBC coverage, where they're already getting ready at the blocks. No, the official walking onto the deck introductions, which could easily be compared to a WWE introduction (without the music and pyro).

It's not flashy, but considering you're talking about the Olympics and swimming, it's interesting.

The swimmers come out from a tunnel behind a wall that features the color changing streaks of lights in front, and then they walk in front of a video screen that displays their name and home country.

It was cool to see that they put that much extra thought into doing something to make the event something even more special than it is.

SHORTYS: A couple of interesting stories out on the net to share.

First, in the wake of the two U.S. gold medals in shooting – including Cal Poly Pomona grad Kim Rhode – the media decided to play devil’s advocate in the wake of the Aurora shootings. The athletes came off well defending their sport. You can read it here.

And here, you can read about NBC defending its practice of packaging sports on tape during primetime. We get it. The ratings are good and people enjoy seeing the “stories.” Doesn’t explain why you cut a piece of the Opening Ceremonies for an interview between Ryan Seacrest and Michael Phelps.

Oh, and the big stories of the day (in case you missed ‘em) were Michael Phelps scoring the 19th medal of his career, making him the most decorated athlete in Olympic history. And the U.S. women’s gymnastics team won the gold medal.

UPCOMING: The men’s gymnastics all-around and swimming will be the big players during the primetime show. Throughout the day, you’ll have soccer, the men’s cycling time trial and some women’s water polo to get your fix. The U.S. women’s basketball team will also be shown live at 2:15 p.m. against a surprising team from Turkey.

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