Sunday, February 21, 2010

Unsporting: Olympic Musings--A Sunday Journal

While the Olympic competitions are still compelling and worth a look, it appears that the media's coverage has slipped once again into xenophobia.  American audiences are assumed to have no interest in athletes from other lands, and American coverage panders to the taste for celebrity and  medal count that the media themselves have created.

I have a couple of short takes, then, on trends and stories that have given me pause.....


I suppose many Americans take comfort in American domination at the Olympics.  It is an artificial comfort, as though our victories on the world's playing fields signifies that all is well at home, if not necessarily in the world. The attention to medal count takes away from the pure sport, art and competition of the games.... But, for some, the medal count is the whole point.....

As of this moment, according to the latest tally supplied by NBC, the latest count for the top three medal-winning teams is thus:

Team USA-24; Team Germany:-18.  Team Norway-12.

I am not a whiz at math, but my intuition tells me that the more athletes a nation has on its team, the more total medals the team is likely to win.  It wouldn't make sense for Kenya, with its one team member, to have tallied more than 24 medals....but that's just my simple way of seeing things.

There's another way to interpret this.  As a percentage of total athletes in competition, the medal standings are thus:

Team US- 215 Athletes: 11%;  Team Germany--152 Athletes: 11%;  Team Norway--100 Athletes: 12%.
Team Netherlands so far won only 5 medals, but wih only 34 athletes in competition, that's a 14% ratio of medals to competitors.

My point is that I want to ignore the importance of the final medal tally, because it's an inaccurate measure of the strength of a team. 

~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~     ~


I always thought that the judging for the Olympic Figure Skating Competitions has been subjective; but that is only because I don't have knowledge of the nuances the judges seek, nor do I understand the tally process. 
It is not entirely subjective, I assume; there must be some universally accepted criteria for assigning excellence, on top of which, criteria like the judge's personal preference and artistic interpretation round out a final score.  (It is, in many ways, like film criticism....subjectivity applied to accepted criteria that are recognized in the art and industry of criticism.)

The final scoring in figure skating can be assumed to be somewhat arbirtrary, but with a good foundation in basics.  Therefore it is fruitless to try to argue a judging panel's opinion.  Worse yet is when "controversy" is manufactured by media in order to set up a false sense of competition between nations. So it was when America's Evan Lysecek earned Gold at last Thursday's competition, leaving Russia's Evgeni Plushenko, the "favorite",  to "settle" for Silver.

To me, there was no controversy beyond that which the media tried desperately to create....journalists must really miss the Cold War.....   I heard one news-reader say that Russia was "protesting" the decision.  My curiosity about that remarkable statement made me listen on, wondering if a formal complaint was lodged.  However, I simply fell for the bait.  No protest was made other than the reactions of a high-profile Russian skater whose "belligerence" could have been a misinterpretation of cultural differences in behavior, even a reaction to the baiting of journalists, as it could have been  literally a mis-interpreted statement.  Luckily, Lysecek graciously sidestepped the debate, and made low-key, non-threatening statements.  I hope this"fight" has been laid to rest.

~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~


In my next post, I will examine a troubling dialogue by a pair of sports journalists in Montreal over American Figure Skater Johnny Weir, and my assertion that fear of effeminacy in males is due to a more fundamental and disturbing aspect of our culture.

1 comment:

  1. I don't care for the Olympics. For one, I don't like sports. For another, the coverage always boils down to "who's dick is bigger". That said, Johnny Weir rocks.