The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Saturday, July 23, 2005

OLYMPIC BASEBALL: The International Olympic Committee say they will drop baseball as a Summer Olympic event sometime in the immediate future, on the grounds that not enough people play the game internationally, a wildly unpopular decision in countries as politically and alphabetically diverse as Cuba, Japan, Venezuela, and the United States. These countries quite rightly regard this decision as shortsighted and simpleminded, and just the sort of thing your average sports fan can expect from the IOC, an organization largely staffed by European bureaucrats presumably too incompetent to waste their own governments’ money, and so these governments fob them off on the IOC, where they can waste other people’s money with equanimity.

Now, if I understand this correctly, for a sport to become an Olympic event people must play the sport in twenty-four countries on four continents. Baseball certainly qualifies under this dispensation: North and South America, Asia, and Australia, where baseball is not nearly as popular as other sports, such as rugby, I grant you, but the game is still played there. In fact, the head of the International Baseball Federation is an Italian, and whoever heard of Italian baseball, and before you start saying Tony Lazzeri, Joe DiMaggio, and Yogi Berra, remember, they played for the New York Yankees, not for Italy.

Now, I suppose if they want to get technical about it, and they will; bureaucrats look forward to getting technical with the same eager anticipation most people reserve for sex or winning the lottery; the IOC can point out that to Europeans, and to South Americans as well, baseball is not played on the required number of continents. The two continents known in the United States as the Americas, and in New York City as Sixth Avenue, are simply America to Europeans and South Americans, to the geographic consternation of the citizens of the former British-French-Dutch-Swedish (no kidding, there was a New Sweden in what is now Delaware, although half of them were actually Finns)-Russian-Spanish-Mexican colonies wedged between the 49th parallel and the Rio Grande, who mistakenly think the words America and American apply only to them.

This, of course, is codswallop when it is not being poppycock. The inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere can very rightly point out that they have a greater geographic right to being two continents, in that they are two large landmasses connected by the Chase Manhattan Bank, than Europe does, Europe being little more than a rather smallish peninsula with delusions of grandeur dangling somewhat precipitously off of Asia’s rather prodigious backside. And yet there does not seem to be any great hue and cry from the nations of the Western Hemisphere to call Eurasia a single continent and to eliminate sports from the Olympic Games on that basis.

And baseball is a wildly popular sport, unlike badminton or hammer throwing, which is popular only among striking carpenters, and then only when they are aiming the hammers at scabs crossing the picket line, or beach volleyball, which is less a sport than an excuse to check out hot American, Brazilian, and Australian babes with great buns; this sport, if you can call it that, will suffer an inevitable loss of popularity once the Saudi Arabian team becomes a medal contender. That’ll be something to see; you can do all sorts of things these days in those new, lightweight burqas.

If the IOC is serious about eliminating sports no one is interested in why don’t they start with archery or that whole spear-tossing thing? Does anyone actually watch these sports except during the Olympics? Do the people engaged in these sports actually get shoe deals or clothing lines, and do the beer companies line up to advertise during their events? I don’t think so, so let’s stop pretending that all sports are somehow equal and just drop them. I do think they should keep the discus throw, though, but only if they let pit bulls run after the discus and try to catch it in their mouths. If the dog catches the discus the man gets the medal; if the dog misses and then goes after the discus thrower and takes a bite out of his backside before the man can get behind a chain link fence, then the dog wins. Which is as it should be, I think; I notice that in the equestrian events the rider gets the medal, although the horse is doing all the work.

Target shooting, walking, water polo (unless they make it competitive by adding sharks; piranhas or killer whales will do if there is a shark shortage) should all go, along with almost any event left over from the ancient Greeks. I’m sure the ancient Greeks were very nice people when they weren’t busy fighting amongst themselves and enslaving Trojan women and gouging out their eyes with costume jewelry, but it’s time to move on. The only event I’d keep from the ancient Olympics is boxing, and then only if the boxers used the ancient Greek rules, complete with brass knuckles and knees to the groin, which makes this form of boxing a much more interesting affair than the modern version with its namby-pamby Marquis of Queensbury rules.

In short, the Olympics would be a much more interesting show if they World Wrestling Federation ran the Games instead of the IOC, and if baseball remained an Olympic sport. The only other sport I wouldn’t change at all is curling, which is played only in the Winter Games, as playing this game during the summer would significantly increase the number of athletes drowning to death. I don’t think curling has reached its full market potential, especially among women, many of whom would like to see men sweeping something up, however incompetent they may be at it.


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