Tag:amateurism
Posted on: February 18, 2013 4:23 pm
 

Dousing the Olympic $pirit

Wrestlers and frogs. Don’t laugh, they’ve got more in common than you’d think.

And don’t worry, this isn’t a piece about an Ohio sports legend and his strange, dangerous liaisons with small, snapping, water-born critters.

Both grapplers and croakers are known as what zoologists term, indicator species:
 n.
    “A species whose presence, absence or relative well-being in a given environment is indicative of the health of its ecosystem as a whole (thefreedictionary.com)” or, “sensitive animals that are first to go when climate changes (Time.com / “Environment” / JK / 1-23-06).

In a move that left athletes, fans, bakers & bankers worldwide with their jaws dropping in shock, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced last week their decision to strike one of its originals, as in, ancient Greece original, the sport of wrestling from its 2020 program, citing poor TV ratings and ticket sales (AP / “IOC Votes“ / 2-12-13).

IOC spokesman Mark Adams: “It’s not a case of what’s wrong with wrestling, it is what’s right with the 25 core sports” (“IOC“). Whew! And you had me worried there, Marko. We thought maybe y’all didn’t like wrestling. I feel better now. Oh brother.

Mark’s BS reminds me of George Costanza’s standard break-up line that keeps getting co-opted in the “ball-man” episode (Seinfeld): “It’s not you, it’s me.” And it’s much better coming from Marlee Matlin.

In recent years, herpetologists, a branch of zoology (Wikipedia), have been tracking an unexplained disappearance of frogs from ecosystems around the globe. The evolving, generally accepted view is that their habitats are being altered or destroyed by way of pollutants, commercial development and overall climate change.

Now, I’m not saying ‘sensitivity’ is a commonality amongst matmen, but wrestling’s low placement on the commercial totem-pole leaves it very vulnerable to the shenanigans of today’s greedmeisters who are running amok, in the same way amphibians are highly susceptible to golf-course encroachment and the toxins that infiltrate their waterways.

That dinero dictates Olympic business is no surprise. Probably a major impetus for the inaugural modern Games of 1896. Anything that makes the Sportscenter broadcast, from the NFL (1919) to the college cash cows (men’s b-ball & football), were created for, or is today driven by, the profit motive. Money makes the world go ‘round.

But when profit-taking becomes the guiding principle by which the Olympics’ operate, its sole purpose for being, that’s when we know the Olympic spirit is dead and gone.

And you can thank the greedmeisters.

It’s the reason the Super Bowl is delayed an extra week, dulling player senses in the push to pile on profits;

It’s the reason there hasn’t been a World Series day-game in over 20 years and nearly all major sporting events, excepting the racers, have 8PM start times and end near midnite;

It’s the reason long-held, fan-identification with team colors & logos are being forced into retirement by Nike & friends in the name of freshness. I‘m rooting for the hold-outs;

It’s the reason athletes in nearly every pro sport have become walking billboards;

It’s the reason Little Leaguers (wicked metal bats) and anyone at an MLB park (maple shards) are put at greater risk, while wedge-putters and cantaloupe-sized driver heads make manufacturers wealthy and a mockery of the game;

And it’s the reason PEDs corrupts all sport, endangering the health of adults and children alike.

Removing the touchstone that is wrestling is not the first sign of trouble. In fact, it may be the final act that snuffs out what little semblance of spirit still flickered in the Olympic flame.

Not surprisingly, the new Olympic strategy began taking shape in the 1980s when Ron Reagan’s elitist agenda (taken up by Mr. Obama) ruled America and promoted, among others, the concepts of monopoly, out-sourcing and privatization. In that spirit of cha-ching, Olympic handlers acted aggressively to expand the franchise and maximize profits.

In 1984, synchronized swimming became a medal sport, followed by tennis & ping-pong (‘88), badminton (’92), mountain biking (coinciding with National Park policy of “multi-use”) & beach volleyball (’96), trampoline (’00) and BMX (’08). And the winter fare? Same deal.

Serious competitions? Yes. Olympian in style? Most will answer, ‘No.’

The watershed moment occurred in 1986 when the IOC opened its doors to professional athletes and spawned the age of sponsorship (wiki.answers (pbs.org / “IOC” / 7-96)), effectively ending all non-collegiate, amateur sporting competition among ranked, non-government subsidized competitors.

And it’s a move that may have given boost to game-fixing and PEDs.

Weaker, corruptible minds may’ve seen the IOC’s new standard as an alteration of the athletic moral code and used it as excuse to expand their definition of professionalism to include any monetary transaction connected with their sport. Simplified: sport = money.

Amateurism, while far from pure, had given the world a standard of sacrifice, something stronger, a bit more noble. When the Olympics went pro (showcasing snoozy cake-walks like the “Dream Team”), any connection to past ideals went out the window.

I must confess, wrestling has missed my gaze in some Olympiads, though, I could say the same about basketball and the 100 meter dash. Network airing decisions play a part: best time slot, best ratings. What do ya’ know, IOC? But it made me feel good just knowing that visceral events like wrestling were on the slate, making the newer fare more palatable while connecting me to the real Olympic past.

Organizers may yet decide to alter their projected course and re-instate wrestling as a medal sport for 2020, given the icy reception they’ve received since the announcement. No biggie, they’ll just wield their ax on some other supposedly ratings-poor original.

Rumor has it, golf is next in line to join the Olympic club. Yippee. Can MMA be far behind (after giving boxing the boot)? Wait, let me guess: the brutality of MMA does not comport with the Olympic ideal. Standards.

And don’t expect to see any frogs hoppin’ around those Olympic greens. Maybe promoters can fly in the BudweiserÔ toads for a cameo. Beware of the fungicide, fellas. Better yet, maybe “Mr. Gopher,” aka “Varmint Cong” (Caddyshack) can make an appearance, liven things up a bit. You best stay off the course, Carl.

Steven Keys
Macro Sport
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com