Re: Track

1

Yes, but tell us what you really think.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 1:46 PM
horizontal rule
2

I had a comment! Who deleted it?


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 1:49 PM
horizontal rule
3

Oh. I'll delete the other post.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 1:49 PM
horizontal rule
4

My comment from that one:

And before anyone says the inevitable "you just hate black people", which was the first comment when I said this at dinner the other night, the person whoput me over the edge with the flag thing was Shalene Flanagan, who won the women's 10K the other night. She dragged the flag all over the dirt.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 1:50 PM
horizontal rule
5

2: You just hate black people, Becks.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 1:51 PM
horizontal rule
6

Those of us who advocate flag-burning are in a quandary, because we feel that the athletes are desecrating the flag for the wrong reasons.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 1:53 PM
horizontal rule
7

pwned!

I don't get your reaction, Becks. I think the whole "wrap oneself in the flag" metaphor is negative because it's usually said of speakers who haven't earned the right—whereas Olympians have, by winning pride n' booty for the country.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 1:53 PM
horizontal rule
8

Track events are the purest Olympic events, IMO.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 1:54 PM
horizontal rule
9

I love how the rhetoric of leaving politics behind for a few weeks to just celebrate excellence, etc., is forgotten when it comes time to use athletic achievement as an excuse for nationalistic excess.

Fun fact: One of the many innovations Hitler introduced into the Olympic games was tabulating the number of medals won by each country.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 1:56 PM
horizontal rule
10

Shalene Flanagan merely got a bronze. She was looking around confusedly after finishing because she thought she had come in 4th.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 1:56 PM
horizontal rule
11

Track events are the purest Olympic events, IMO.

Pure steroids!

I like track and field less because with the exception of the 100m events, it doesn't film as well as some of the other sports. The flag thing doesn't bother me, really; they're usually running with it streaming out behind themm.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 2:04 PM
horizontal rule
12

Apparently East African women don't run well.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 2:08 PM
horizontal rule
13

I think the celebratory flag-run is endearing.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 2:18 PM
horizontal rule
14

They jog well enough to win nearly all the distance medals.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 2:18 PM
horizontal rule
15

I couldn't give a shit what anyone does to their flags.

I've watched as much as possible last week, and I'll probably watch as much as possible this week too - not fussy about the events really. The 7 year old and I have a plan to watch some trampolining tomorrow, and I want to see Bolt doing the 200m on Wednesday.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 2:22 PM
horizontal rule
16

Asilon is an Imperial nationalist and possible Rastafarian, so don't expect objectivity from her.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 2:24 PM
horizontal rule
17

If East African women run well, why was Flanagan able to medal?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 2:26 PM
horizontal rule
18

Um. Yes, I don't get the problem about the flag-wrapping either. Apparently some people consider their olympic triumphs to be a source of pride for their countries. Whatever floats their boats, I guess.

I watched Usain Bolt (holy shit, by the way) last night, dripping sweat and clearly wanting the interviewer to Go Away, Please, answering questions along the lines of: Yes, I'm very glad I won. Uh-huh, very happy to have won. What was I thinking? Glad I won, it's a good thing.

He walked away as soon as he could, as did the other two medallists interviewed (also dripping sweat), who may or may not have had flags about their persons. Who gives a shit about the flag thing?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 2:26 PM
horizontal rule
19

Who gives a shit about the flag thing?

Becks! Q.E.D.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 2:33 PM
horizontal rule
20

9.2: that and handball.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 2:38 PM
horizontal rule
21

I must say, the whole plane applauding Phelps last night was a nice little bit of feel-good national pride. Luckily, the 2 hours we spent on the tarmac at our destination cured and residual sense of shared good fortune.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 2:41 PM
horizontal rule
22

Team handball, which is something entirely different. Sifu is rebuked.

Also, a Godwin yellow cards, and one to Kotsko too. Kotsko is also rebuked.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 2:41 PM
horizontal rule
23

22.1: different from the other Olympic handball, you say?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 2:42 PM
horizontal rule
24

Different than real handball.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 2:52 PM
horizontal rule
25

Becks's jingoist contrarian anti-jingoism is suited for any other eclectic web magazine. But here?!?


Posted by: CN | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 2:54 PM
horizontal rule
26

What really bothered the fuck out of me was the Misty May-Treagar / Bush episode. Beach volleyballers represent the US and should try to maintain their dignity.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 3:01 PM
horizontal rule
27

1. Track is the only part of the Olympics that is Olympian. Cripes, everything else is filler to allow more ads to be sold. To hate track and field is to hate the Olympics. I can't even imagine what twisted road would lead you to this sad, desolate place, Becks.

2. Smasher's sort of right*: the Olympians are among the few that would reasonably be said to have "earned the right" to wrap themselves in the flag. Moreover, people** clearly do it to indicate national pride. They aren't protesting, they're celebrating.

* I don't think "earn" is the right word, and insofar as it can be earned, it's earned by being a citizen. But, again, this is a celebration of the flag.

** That, and covering the Rebok logo.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 3:04 PM
horizontal rule
28

And actually, the initial premise of this post is flawed, as there are still loads of other things going on. So perhaps Becks's problem is just with the tv people. Do you lot have the equivalent of the Red Button?


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 3:07 PM
horizontal rule
29

That would depend on what the Red Button is.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 3:08 PM
horizontal rule
30

Is that what you guys call TiVo or something, wot?


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 3:09 PM
horizontal rule
31

Seems like asilon left, Fatman. Do you think—ack, one hates to even speculate—do you think she's gone and pressed the Red Button?


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 3:14 PM
horizontal rule
32

The more I think about it, the more bizarre the "mistreatment" characterization seems. I guess it's technically mistreatment--I know there are rules, and I'm sure the athletes' behavior violates those rules--but it seems clear that the celebrants are indicating that the reason their performance matters at all is that they compete for their country. I actually find the image of someone slumped over, exhausted, with the flag draped over them, pretty moving.

But, then, I don't hate black people.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 3:15 PM
horizontal rule
33

31 - sorry, I was away talking to a possibly ill child (possibly malingering ... ) - do forgive me.

Erm, we get our tv through Sky (satellite? cable? digital tv anyway), and there's a red button on the remote. The Olympic coverage is all on BBC1 or 2, so anytime either of them are on I can press the red button and get a choice of various things to watch, including 6 Olympic channels. So the malingerer and I just watched "Day 9 News" which is a 15-20 minute loop, and now we're catching up on today's other athletics highlights.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 3:22 PM
horizontal rule
34

I think it's possible to believe that people should be allowed to do something to the flag as an act of political speech while thinking that general public mistreatment of it, especially outside your own borders, makes you an asshole.

Fixed.

I wouldn't mind a renewed communal enforcement of older flag-flying norms - if only in order to get rid of those twenty-foot flags that fly 24/7 at car dealerships.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 3:32 PM
horizontal rule
35

Hmm, do you think it's time to make the hurdles higher? They're jumping over them awfully easily. I'd like to see a little more effort.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 3:37 PM
horizontal rule
36

15 gets it right. Who cares about what people do with flags?

Although I would like the guy who flies a big stars and stripes from a pole in his garden directly opposite my front window to stop.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 3:51 PM
horizontal rule
37

So we're all agreed that Becks is just crazy, right?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 4:40 PM
horizontal rule
38

21:
A mere forty years ago, beach volleyball was just beginning.
No bureaucrat would have invented it, and that's what freedom is all about.

-- Newt Gingrich, prophet.


Posted by: Econolicious | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 4:43 PM
horizontal rule
39

37: Signs point to yes.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 5:06 PM
horizontal rule
40

Perhaps the thread in 39 needs to be revisited.

I had a long (well, too long anyway) relationship with a crazy person. The sex was not good. she probably wasn't the same person as Becks, though.


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 5:16 PM
horizontal rule
41

I am dramatically less crazy than I was 20 years ago. Is this hurting my bedroom performance?

Is it worth going crazy to be a better lover?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 5:23 PM
horizontal rule
42

40: There are many different kinds of crazy. Not all produce hott crazypanky. Like, for example, the kind that starts crying every time they have sex.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 5:32 PM
horizontal rule
43

Is there such a thing as too much crazypanky? What's the cutoff?


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 5:51 PM
horizontal rule
44

Lorena Bobbit.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 5:56 PM
horizontal rule
45

42: Sometimes the sex is hott and then they inevitably start crying when it's over. Life is full of compromises.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 6:00 PM
horizontal rule
46

All the kids at the Olympics work for years to compete for their country. I love to see people from poor nations having the opportunity to be proud of their country, make their country proud of them and to share their pride with the world by exhibiting the flag of their nation at the time of their triumph. They deserve their moment.


Posted by: waldo | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 6:03 PM
horizontal rule
47

In the future there will be anarchist and cosmopolitan teams, and they will wave anarchist and cosmopolitan flags.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 6:18 PM
horizontal rule
48

Is there such a thing as too much crazypanky? What's the cutoff?

When it starts raising blisters.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 6:24 PM
horizontal rule
49

My ex is an exception to the crazypanky rule. Fucked in the head, but meh in the bed.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 6:25 PM
horizontal rule
50

Y'know, when Standpipe called in some other thread for more better in-jokes, people, I'm not sure he or she meant threads from four years ago.

Becks is of course crazy with respect to the flag thing.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 6:36 PM
horizontal rule
51

And at times their will be hard feelings, and the anarchists will whip the pansy cosmopolitans' asses.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 6:36 PM
horizontal rule
52

Standpipe has not been pulling his or her weight recently.

When you bore the Emerson, the Emerson bores you.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 6:38 PM
horizontal rule
53

How many boars could a borehole bore, if a borehole bored whole boars?


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 6:40 PM
horizontal rule
54

The Chinese women divers are both very pretty. It makes you wonder whether they have even better divers that aren't allowed to compete because they're sort of homely.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 6:45 PM
horizontal rule
55

The homely ones are competing right now, and are being improved via motion-capture animation, à la the Beowulf movie.


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 6:47 PM
horizontal rule
56

If I'm not mistaken, TV edited out the Australian, Canadian, and Swedish divers, and only showed the Americans plus the medalists from Russia and China.

Conclusion: nuclear weapons help you with your TV coverage.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 6:50 PM
horizontal rule
57

1. Track is the only part of the Olympics that is Olympian. Cripes, everything else is filler to allow more ads to be sold. To hate track and field is to hate the Olympics. I can't even imagine what twisted road would lead you to this sad, desolate place, Becks.

Thanks so much SCMT for saying this. It's good to know that my love of track doesn't make me an anti-American weirdo. Everywhere else I've lived, track and field has been considered the centerpiece of the Olympics, and the 100m dash its blue-ribbon event.


Posted by: WillieStyle | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 6:52 PM
horizontal rule
58

Au contraire, ping-pong is the quintessential Olympic event.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 6:55 PM
horizontal rule
59

It's actually embarrassing how much I love watching ping-pong.


Posted by: WillieStyle | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 6:56 PM
horizontal rule
60

I claim that ping-pong is the correct name. It was changed to table tennis because that's more dignified and less chinky-chinky-Chinaman, but since the Chinese always win and that's their actual name for it, that's what we should call it.

The Chinese characters for "ping" and "pong" are mirror images and look vaguely like ping-pong paddles -- one with a rightward orientation and one with a leftward orientation.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 7:00 PM
horizontal rule
61

I love playing ping pong. Except with people who don't play cooperatively. You smash the ball at me, I'll smash it back and break your nose, I will, because I can't control that. Oh! Sorry!

Ahem. Where were we?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 7:01 PM
horizontal rule
62

One abbreviation: FNAWS


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 7:19 PM
horizontal rule
63

One of the many innovations Hitler introduced into the Olympic games was tabulating the number of medals won by each country.

There wasn't math before Hitler?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 7:33 PM
horizontal rule
64

Before Hitler I don't think nations competed.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 7:37 PM
horizontal rule
65

Emerson, you'd better stop hating on East Africa, now that I've got a niece from Ethiopia.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 7:47 PM
horizontal rule
66

61: Is it even possible to break a nose with a ping-pong ball? You would have to send the paddle across the table as well.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 7:52 PM
horizontal rule
67

How fast does she run?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 7:52 PM
horizontal rule
68

66: I was speaking hyperbolically, but you could at least generate a black eye.

Wevs (as they say); I feel badly for having exhibited aggression in that way.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 8:04 PM
horizontal rule
69

68: On the subject of black eyes, the Brazilian gymnast who just vaulted is a racoon.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 8:05 PM
horizontal rule
70

Gymnasts seem pretty civil. They're always hugging their opponents.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 8:13 PM
horizontal rule
71

The human ones should be careful hugging the raccoon ones. Rabies.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 8:15 PM
horizontal rule
72

The 33-year-old vault silver medalist was impressive, too.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 8:22 PM
horizontal rule
73

60 is wrong; the name was changed because "Ping Pong" is trademarked.

61 is also wrong; you're supposed to play to win! Do you play e.g. checkers coöperatively?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 8:30 PM
horizontal rule
74

No shit - when people are talking about 19 being old, 33 is positively geriatric. She has a kid, too.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 8:31 PM
horizontal rule
75

33 is fucking ancient by any measure.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 8:32 PM
horizontal rule
76

Do you play e.g. checkers coöperatively?

Depends on what you mean by "cooperatively" (or coöperatively): just think of how much cooperation is required just to manage to play the same game, together! (She said, (roughly) Griceanly.)


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 8:35 PM
horizontal rule
77

Is it even possible to break a nose with a ping-pong ball?

Parsimon is using the lost art of power throwing and she'll fuck you right up, Jack.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 8:36 PM
horizontal rule
78

BUT I WAS BEING UNCOOPERATIVE IN MY INTERPRETATION OF 73! DIG IT!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 8:37 PM
horizontal rule
79

Sifu drank the Koolaid again.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 8:38 PM
horizontal rule
80

Becks is of course crazy with respect to the flag thing.

Are you saying that she's a lousy lay, Parsimon?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 9:09 PM
horizontal rule
81

I remember reading somewhere in a sports context that what Americans think of as rules for treating national flags are more like rules Americans have for treating American flags that Americans assume everyone else has for everyone's flags too. Which is not to say that only Americans have flag rules, just that Americans' flag rules might be unusually strict.

In terms of tv ratings, gymnastics and I think swimming are both more popular than track in the US - this hasn't always been true, but it more or less parallels the long-term decline in non-Olympic track popularity in the US - but track is still the most popular sport many, probably most, other countries.

NBC is pretty incompetent at non-sprint track and field coverage, though at least they're showing more of the distance races than they used. Now if they could just have announcers who cared about those events and who took them seriously as races rather than time to be filled with anecdotes about people's families. The field events get even worse treatment. Although NBC has been exercising its monopoly right to not televise a bunch of the track (including even some heats/semifinals that Americans ran in).


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 9:28 PM
horizontal rule
82

You know what would rule? The olympics with no gymnastics and no running. Think of the crazy shit they'd have to show on TV!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 9:58 PM
horizontal rule
83

I said to my wife - "I bet they don't employ only pretty young women to hold the medal trays at the next Olympics in London" - meaning, of course, it wouldn't be politically correct.
She retorted 'That's because there aren't any'.
And I thought she was a feminist.......


Posted by: Herr Torquewrench | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 10:24 PM
horizontal rule
84

I would not mind the no gymnastics. The 20k walk ended up being better covered on USA or MSNBC or wherever it was on than track running events usually get, which are too important to be allowed on a channel other than NBC but not important enough to get better coverage on NBC. Though the men's 10k at least got fully televised.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 10:26 PM
horizontal rule
85

I am willing to make an exception for the men's 100m, because they're so inhumanly fast, and possibly the hurdles. Okay and maybe the women's marathon on a trial basis. But everything else is gone.

In other news, when trail running through unfamiliar wilderness (maybe a strong term for a large, kinda wild park) make sure to keep track of where you're actually going.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 10:31 PM
horizontal rule
86

Did you run over another motorcyclist, 85? While on foot?


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 10:33 PM
horizontal rule
87

I would trade hurdles for steeplechase and keep the men's marathon too (it being the Olympics, after all).


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 10:33 PM
horizontal rule
88

87 is agreeable. Comity! Let's get NBC on the horn.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 10:52 PM
horizontal rule
89

I just called them. They told me that because I'm on the west coast, for my convenience I have to stay on hold for 3 hours.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 10:56 PM
horizontal rule
90

Crap, I'm on the west coast, too. This'll never work unless we get some backup in Beijing.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:01 PM
horizontal rule
91

89: Do you think you can keep them on your horn for that long?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:01 PM
horizontal rule
92

My horn endures.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:05 PM
horizontal rule
93

Depends on what you mean by "cooperatively" (or coöperatively): just think of how much cooperation is required just to manage to play the same game, together! (She said, (roughly) Griceanly.)

Coöperation is required to play checkers, but you don't play checkers coöperatively, you play competitively. (A partial exception might be granted for the kid gloves games one plays when teaching the game.) In the absence of coöperation, you likely aren't playing checkers at all. The adverb in "playing checkers coöperatively" is either idle or inaccurate.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:10 PM
horizontal rule
94

Coöperation

Still a supreme asshole move.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:13 PM
horizontal rule
95

That's counterintuitive.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:14 PM
horizontal rule
96

The diaeresis, not the cooperation.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:15 PM
horizontal rule
97

My point in every detail, Ben.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:15 PM
horizontal rule
98

97 to an assortment of Ben's recent comments in this thread.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:16 PM
horizontal rule
99

98: That's unusually playing-it-safe for you, Sifu. I'm disappointed.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:17 PM
horizontal rule
100

Kobe is munificent like that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:19 PM
horizontal rule
101

Apparently, Kobe is no Phelps.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:22 PM
horizontal rule
102

What irks me is that there is a ban on demonstrations and political propaganda anywhere at the Olympics (IOC rule 51.3), other than those which support the ruling regimes of the countries participating of course.

So let's say you are a black athlete* from a country where maybe a lying fuckpig author who writes a maybe book with a lot of racist smears about a black presidential candidate is given a lot of time on mainstream cable TV and you choose to stand respectfully on the medal stand with, I don't know, your fist raised in a black glove; you stand a good chance of getting booted out of the games.

*Say you're Kobe, for instance.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:26 PM
horizontal rule
103

102: Say what you will about the Chinese leadership, they're nothing if not politically astute. If someone really want to throw up the black nationalist salute on the medal podium, I think it's unlikely they'll kick them out for it; a few marginal humiliations for the Shrub would serve their interests. If there's a national salute for Taiwanese or Tibetans it would no doubt be a different story.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:31 PM
horizontal rule
104

Ain't the inscrutable ones, it is the all too scrutable IOC that would lay this one down. It was part of their rationale for taking the medal from the Swedish/Armenian wrestler and throwing him out of the games.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:35 PM
horizontal rule
105

Yeah, JP, but that scenario is completely implausible.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:36 PM
horizontal rule
106

If it was a valid Greco-roman throw I don't see the problem.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:37 PM
horizontal rule
107

So, the black nationalist salute is the equivalent of throwing down a medal in a fit of pique over a blown call? That's a stupid comparison.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:42 PM
horizontal rule
108

I consider myself a pique nationalist.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:43 PM
horizontal rule
109

You're a piquant nationalist, Sifu. Close, but different.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:44 PM
horizontal rule
110

I'm a pimento'd kumquatalist.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:47 PM
horizontal rule
111

PIQUE OIL IS COMING


Posted by: OPINIONATED NATIONALIST | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:47 PM
horizontal rule
112

||
Sorry, but this one was just too delicious on several fronts to pass up. (And besides, it's about fair play and the Olympic POW spirit.)

"Despite Assurances, McCain Wasn't in a 'Cone of Silence'". It's about McCain not being sequestered during Obama's Rick Warren interview and then basically lying about it. I know ... what have we become, but the topper was a spokesman saying, "The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous" Atrios nails it with, " A Noun, A Verb, POW".
|>


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:48 PM
horizontal rule
113

111: oh, me too.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:49 PM
horizontal rule
114

107: Jesus Fuck DS. 1968, Tommie Smith, Lee Evans.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:51 PM
horizontal rule
115

114: Yes, Jesus fuck, Tommie Smith and Lee Evans' action bears no comparison whatever to a dude throwing a fit over an adverse call. Don't be a fucking moron.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:57 PM
horizontal rule
116

111 is great.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-17-08 11:58 PM
horizontal rule
117

Thank God we've moved away from the vicarious fantasizing about the sex lives of athletes, and back to the more familiar territory of hostility.

I hear that Tommie Smith and Lee Evan's actions led directly to the Palestinians shooting up the 72 Olympics, which really is a lot worse than throwing a fit over an adverse call.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 12:04 AM
horizontal rule
118

115: Don't be a fucking condescending asshole.

No one was motherfucking comparing the two acts other than that the motherfucking IOC ridiculously used that particular clause against the wrestler. Do you have any doubt that if someone repeated the Tommie Smith salute that they would also use it against the athlete?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 12:05 AM
horizontal rule
119

I hear that Tommie Smith and Lee Evan's actions led directly to the Palestinians shooting up the 72 Olympics

I also hear that Hitler was a vegetarian. Disturbing, if true!


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 12:06 AM
horizontal rule
120

119, because it's a joke, is a worthy reponse to 117, a joke. It is, however, ill-served by this response, for similar reasons.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 12:09 AM
horizontal rule
121

118: No one was motherfucking comparing the two acts other than that the motherfucking IOC ridiculously used that particular clause against the wrestler.

Really? It sort of seemed like you were, in fact, comparing the two acts and saying they were equivalent. If that was not your intent, I humbly apologize.

Do you have any doubt that if someone repeated the Tommie Smith salute that they would also use it against the athlete?

Yes, I do. The action against Smith and Evans did not come from the IOC, to give the most direct possible example. I wouldn't put it past the American team to take action against them, however.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 12:09 AM
horizontal rule
122

120 has brought me one step closer to moksha.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 12:11 AM
horizontal rule
123

I remember reading somewhere in a sports context that what Americans think of as rules for treating national flags are more like rules Americans have for treating American flags that Americans assume everyone else has for everyone's flags too. Which is not to say that only Americans have flag rules, just that Americans' flag rules might be unusually strict.

As far as I know, the US is a total outlier on this one, yeah.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 12:11 AM
horizontal rule
124

121.2 Hmm, I thought it was the IOC, or at least Brundage, who did it, but it may have been Brundage wearing his American Olympic Committee hat. And you are right that maybe the IOC would not do it, I overstated ... but *I* still think they would. The medal ceremony in particular has just grown very, very old for me over the years. So much hypocrisy. Just ask Vince Matthews and Wayne Collett about 1972 (which does seem to have been an IOC action).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 12:23 AM
horizontal rule
125

124: I can't disagree with you about the hypocrisies involved in the medal ceremony -- in particular the fundamental hypocrisies about the Olympics' supposed stands against a) doping and b) professionalism, both of which are punchlines at this point. But the IOC does have pretty specific bailiwicks that it tends to stick to; it's not that they're too noble and upright to stick their faces into political controversies, it's more that unless there are pretty specific guidelines of conventional sportsmanship that are being violated -- and throwing down your medal because you think the ref cheated you out of the gold would apply, here -- they're very unlikely to take any such sort of risk.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 12:30 AM
horizontal rule
126

pretty specific guidelines of conventional sportsmanship that are being violated

(Just sort of casually screwing around during the medal ceremony would presumably apply. Matthews and Collett were not, in fact, suspended for any sort of protest activity.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 12:33 AM
horizontal rule
127

126: The one that got me about that one in 1972 was that it either followed or was right before some US Women's swimming relay team giggled through the medals ceremony and that was treated as "oh so cute", and then Dave Wottle apologized (while crying) because he forgot and left his hat on during the anthem, but of course everyone knew he was basically harmless being so skinny and white and all.

You'd almost think the sports were a mirror of society or something...


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 12:42 AM
horizontal rule
128

... the that sports ...


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 12:46 AM
horizontal rule
129

US Women's swimming relay team giggled through the medals ceremony and that was treated as "oh so cute"

Well, yeah, but what do you expect from chicks?

Obviously some double standards involved there, plain enough. But that's a long way from saying that the present-day IOC would censure someone for throwing up a black nationalist salute, which was the original point.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 12:51 AM
horizontal rule
130

I'll concur with Becks that wrapping one's sweaty body in the national flag is a tad disrespectful, even if it does make for good television. I'm a traditionalist* that way: I also chastised Fleur for buying paper napkins and disposable plates imprinted with a flag motif for our Patriot's Day celebration.

But you know what I find really, truly, disgustingly offensive? This. That's no way to honor the flag, Grandma. If you want to show your love for your country, start voting for someone who will uphold its Constitution.

*Apparently this attitude is not uncommon among the affluent liberals in PDBS: the local Post Office has a collection point for used and worn-out flags. The VFW post collects them and "respectfully disposes" of them (i.e. decorously burns them) on Memorial Day.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 5:26 AM
horizontal rule
131

I think it is every tv show's patriotic duty to put as many flags on their set as possible, just like Lou Dobbs.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 5:44 AM
horizontal rule
132

As far as I know, the US is a total outlier on this one, yeah.

It would be interesting to know how recent this phenomenon is. The Flag Code is, IIRC, a 20th century piece of legislation. It's possible that it formalizes some older practices. Several other elements of "traditional" patriotic observance emerged around the same time: the adoption of The Star Spangled Banner as the national anthem, the composition of well-known patriotic songs (e.g. "God Bless America"), widespread recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, etc.

It wouldn't surprise me if the emergence of punctilious flag etiquette were related to either (1) immigration hysteria; (2) Post-Civil War concern with elevating the Union over the states (much of the flag code is concerned with rules about how the national flag is to be displayed in relation to other flags; (3) the emergence of veterans organizations as a significant social/political movement. This is all conjecture, though.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 5:51 AM
horizontal rule
133

123. ttaM is wrong to the extent that when displaying the British union flag you have to take note of the counterchange of saltires. But that would occur to anybody, obviously. OTOH, you can wipe your arse with the thing after you take it down, with the government's good will.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 5:56 AM
horizontal rule
134

132. Knecht, I'm old enough to recall that in the mid 1960s, when British designers started using the Union Jack as a motif on clothing like miniskirts, a lot of Americans were shocked, shocked!, I say, at how we were abusing it. And it wasn't even their damn flag.

Whereas nowadays, any American right winger wanders around with a cut up US flag on their torso, and nobody seems to think it problematic. So perhaps the whole flagolatry thing is past its peak, even though you might not think so.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 6:04 AM
horizontal rule
135

I once stood in an upper floor conference room in a Montreal skyscraper and looked out over all the rooftops with their flags flying. A montréalaise explained to me that you could identify the buildings by the flags: Maple leaf flag + fleur de lis flag = headquarters of a Canadian corporation; fleur de lis flag alone = ministry of the provincial government.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 6:34 AM
horizontal rule
136

I just can't put myself in the mindset of someone who thinks that the fact that the athlete is a bit sweaty when carrying the flag is somehow disrespectful (to the flag?! to the USA?).

Sorry Knecht, but ... wtf?!


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 6:54 AM
horizontal rule
137

It's more the wrapping around the body part than the sweaty part. Especially if the flag drags the ground, an outcome which all good Boy Scouts were taught to avoid.

I recognize that the culture no longer takes much note of this kind of thing, and I'm close to veering off into "Get offa my lawn!" territory with this opinion, but I wanted to let Becks know that she's not the only anachronistic traditionalist among the unfoggedariat.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 7:04 AM
horizontal rule
138

Let's bear in mind that there are not actually any universal "rules" for dealing with the U.S. flag. That is, there are rules within certain institutions -- the Army, the VFW -- and then there are norms. The Flag Code is advisory and unenforceable.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 7:27 AM
horizontal rule
139

What I'd love to see is an athlete wrapping him/herself in either a rainbow flag or a peace flag.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 7:31 AM
horizontal rule
140

American athletes wrap themselves in the flag in memory of our greatest sports hero, Apollo Creed, who died defending the honor of our country.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 7:34 AM
horizontal rule
141

I'd love to see a delicious scallop wrapped in bacon.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 7:35 AM
horizontal rule
142

I'm on the side of the old coots here, at least mostly. It's easy to substitute flag worship for actually giving a damn about the best interests of the nation, but is it really so hard to not drag it on the ground? One time I saw an ad for "patriotic" stuff that included American flag thong underwear and nearly blew a gasket. Flag butt floss. Words fail.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 7:44 AM
horizontal rule
143

The often overlooked shark exception.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 7:45 AM
horizontal rule
144

So if it's insulting to the flag and what it stands for to have the runners wrap it around their sweaty body and let it touch the ground and so on, why don't they do their victory lap with the confederate flag instead?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 7:48 AM
horizontal rule
145

Thing big, Sifu. They should use the Nazi flag.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 7:49 AM
horizontal rule
146

American flags should be disposed of in a dignified manner by burning, preferably on a streetcorner or other public place, while shouting "Death to America", "Ho! Ho! Ho Chi Minh!", "The South Shall Rise Again!", "Fight the Power", "No Justice, No Peace", or some other appropriate slogan.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 7:49 AM
horizontal rule
147

We were taught in Boy Scouts that red white and blue bunting was appropriate for patriotic decorations, but that flags should not be used except as flags. I believe that this even extended to use in advertising, though I believe that companies which actually sold flags were exempted.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 7:53 AM
horizontal rule
148

139: What I'd love to see is an athlete wrapping him/herself in either a rainbow flag or a peace flag.

Not to re-ignite my little spat with DS. But clearly some Olympic organization(s) and the media and public in the US would view that very negatively. However, I will say that the 200 meters + medals ceremony in 1968 remains as the Olympic moment which is most memorable for me. (Why I got a little hot above). It was kind of the capstone for a WTF? Spring and Summer for a young teenager shedding illusions at a very rapid rate.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 7:57 AM
horizontal rule
149

If the athletes wanted to be dignified, they could use a simple bedsheet, in luxurious high-threadcount Egyptian cotton.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 7:58 AM
horizontal rule
150

Or if they wanted to intimidate the opposition, they could wrap themselves in a Jolly Roger.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:02 AM
horizontal rule
151

149: Chocolate-covered Egyptian cotton?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:04 AM
horizontal rule
152

Yeah, using the flag for a towel squicks me out too, although this place is again revealing my provincialism. For me it's a combination of the Boy Scout past and the gimme my flag back you Constitution Rapers present.


Posted by: Mo MacArbie | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:04 AM
horizontal rule
153

We were taught in Boy Scouts to hate queers that red white and blue bunting was appropriate for patriotic decorations, but that flags should not be used except as flags.

Big typo there, J.E.

Yesterday, M/ & I politely declined to buy popcorn from a Boy Scout. It always feels bad to turn down kids who are forced into street hawking, but, as M/ pointed out, it was magnimous of us to not scream "homophobe!" at him.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:05 AM
horizontal rule
154

In second grade I won a Draw-a-Bug contest sponsored by the local Volkswagen dealership with a wholly unoriginal drawing of a Beetle done in an American flag motif, like the shark in 143. I currently have a Soviet flag made (in America!) of sturdy cotton; I'm thinking it would make a nice comforter cover. The American flag wouldn't work as well with our decor, but it's just good taste, and not any silly code, that keeps me from making a Cold War set.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:07 AM
horizontal rule
155

148: Yeah, I know they'd view it negatively, as would the audience, potential sponsors, and hysterical sportscasters. It's recommended only for independently wealthy athletes on the verge of retirement who've brought bodyguards to get them out of the stadium in one piece.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:08 AM
horizontal rule
156

All this concern for a dignified treatment of the flag, but where's the concern for a dignified treatment of the English language? The use of medal as a verb (as in: "I think he's going to medal!") is now widespread, and for this I blame American sportscasters.

I love watching track. The Jamaican sprinters are amazing.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:09 AM
horizontal rule
157

153: I know someone who was very active in scouting and whose kids all did scouting, and his family is about as unhomophobic as you can get. At some point the Unitarian church which was hosting them wanted to kick them out because of the Boy Scouts record on sexuality issues, but this had only come up years after they had been active. (Actually, they sent a letter to all of the parents asking them to send their sons in for an interview to determine whether their views were appropriately tolerant. The Troop leaders told the parents that they did not have to submit to it.) For years, nobody in MA even knew the Boy Scouts stance until it came up on the national stage, and I don't think it was written into the bylaws or anything.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:13 AM
horizontal rule
158

There was no queer doctrine in Boy Scouts in my day. Boys were not supposed to be sexual in any way. We were taught that masturbation was unmanly, and that's all I remember. In fact, I was cruised by an unmarried scoutmaster who had all the signs, IYKWIM.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:13 AM
horizontal rule
159

156: Oh god, yes. "Will she medal?" "He's medaled [medalled?] twice in these Olympic Games."

Had I a medal, I would throw it at my T.V. screen.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:15 AM
horizontal rule
160

The Jamaican woman who won the 100 meters had a tremendously fun victory celebration.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:15 AM
horizontal rule
161

153: Just because the national organization says and does prick things doesn't mean that your local troop gives a crap. It really comes down to the individual adults involved. We had a great scoutmaster, and Boy Scouts was a great experience for me. Then he left at was replaced by a control freak, and many of us older boys left. I don't know if that troop even exists anymore.


Posted by: Mo MacArbie | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:17 AM
horizontal rule
162

Also, MC is a prescriptivist crone and I'm sending Language Hat after her her. There's no escape, MC. He'll track you to your quaint wilderness homeland, if need be.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:17 AM
horizontal rule
163

I always assumed the boy scouts were homophobic because otherwise they'd have to admit that all the best eagle
scouts are gay. From what I understand the national jamborees are quite the eye-opener for gay scouts with a budding sense of their own sexuality.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:18 AM
horizontal rule
164

156: "I think he's going to medal!"

Totally. That is worse than watching someone throw the shot put. Verbing nouns has been happening for so long now that I've gotten pretty worn down about it though.

For the flags - like most things, it is a matter of degree and attitude. It is pretty unrealistic that the exhausted winner of a race will properly hold a flagpole and make a dignified victory lap. On the other hand when a spectator tosses the flag to the athlete and it falls on the floor of the stadium I do cringe a bit. I blame the added security which keeps the spectators far back from the athletes.

If the athlete carries the flag upside down by own corner around the arena, OK, but if the athlete collapses to the floor from either exhaustion or elation and then crumples the flag and mops her face - uhh, not a good choice in my opinion.

But we know they mean well, they have the proper attitude, so we give them a pass.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:20 AM
horizontal rule
165

163: Come to think of it...


Posted by: Mo MacArbie | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:22 AM
horizontal rule
166

Lots of local Boy Scout troops have chosen to ignore the policy, but both leaders and kids have had their memberships officially revoked for being gay and also for being atheists. (Don't know if any of the latter have happened in recent decades.)

I think that entire troops have been thrown out by BSA, but I'm not positive.

The Girl Scouts, on the other hand, are OK with lesbian troop leaders and with not saying "god" in the G.S. pledge, though I do wish they would drop it entirely.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:23 AM
horizontal rule
167

Yelena Isinbayeva didn't drag her flag in the dirt just now, but then they gave her a smallish one, so it was easier. I have no idea what the Russian position on flag worship is. I'm quite happy to worship Isinbayeva, though.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:24 AM
horizontal rule
168

163: And also that Baden-Powell was queer as a three-dollar bill.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:25 AM
horizontal rule
169

"Medal" as a verb doesn't bother me.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:25 AM
horizontal rule
170

"Octomedalian" as a noun doesn't bother me.


Posted by: Mo MacArbie | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:29 AM
horizontal rule
171

Verbing nouns has been happening for so long now....

Probably since Hengist and Horsa. Come on, guys!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:29 AM
horizontal rule
172

"Medal" as a verb doesn't bother me.

No it's not bad in the way that "impact" as a transitive verb meaning "affect" is. [Shudder]


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:30 AM
horizontal rule
173

So if a track athlete wins a gold in show jumping, has she medalled in things that shouldn't concern her?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:32 AM
horizontal rule
174

re: 171

Heh. Source of my favourite 'English' word ever: ofslog


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:47 AM
horizontal rule
175

Hearing "Will Tweddle medal?" this morning made me wince slightly, though I think they were doing it rather self-consciously. (Hmm, must find out actually.)

The flag stuff though ... like ttaM, I just don't get it.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:47 AM
horizontal rule
176

I still cringe at "quality" used as a shorthand for "high quality". For example, "we provide a quality product" . . . yuck.

Since I compete at shot put I know that one 'puts the shot' rather than "throws the shotput." For one thing anyone trying to throw the shot would probably ruin his/her arm instead. Yowsa. But I give people a pass because it really is a little known event and who has time to learn the proper terminology for everything?

Well, I make an exception here of course. I expect perfection from every single one of you. That goes without saying.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:50 AM
horizontal rule
177

173 - bit like Rebecca Romero? Condemning her rowing team-mates to yet another silver, and pissing off to get herself a gold riding a bike? Medalling cow.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:50 AM
horizontal rule
178

The flag stuff though ... like ttaM, I just don't get it.

We can safely dismiss it as part of that whole 'The US is weird' thing though, I think.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:51 AM
horizontal rule
179

asilon,

"Will Tweddle medal?"

I'm no poet but even I can tell that phrase has a nice rhythm to it. Who could resist saying it?

It reminds me of the poem "Fleas."

Adam had'em.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:52 AM
horizontal rule
180

(Sorry, I don't actually have a problem with Romero, that was just for the fun of it.)


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:54 AM
horizontal rule
181

I think "medal" as a verb really doesn't annoy me because win, place, and show have been verbs in horse-racing for ages. In general, if finishing a competition within a certain number of top ranks is particularly significant in some way, we're going to create an economical term for such a finish. Seeing as how "to show" doesn't carry its specific definition outside horse-racing, the meaning of "to place" is ambiguous due to varying meanings in different competitions, and the particular significance of finishing within the top three spots in an olympic competition is that you get a medal, the verb "to medal" seems a natural neologism to fill the need.

Shorter: Our language lives! Embrace it!


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:58 AM
horizontal rule
182

We can safely dismiss it as part of that whole 'The US is weird' thing though, I think.

Be that as it may, I am all in favor of inculcating young people with enthusiastic patriotism and love of the symbols of their country, even if this requires sugar-coating some of the relevant aspects of their history lessons.

Why? Because the natural tendency of teenagers is to revolt against whatever propaganda their parents / elders fed them. If you wait to start teaching critical history in the 10th or 11th grade, you harness the power of adolescent rebellion to fuel skepticism of nationalism and historical mythology. By contrast, in places like Germany, where primary and secondary education is fastidious about *not* whitewashing history or promoting a nationalist perspective, the rebellious teenagers become right-wing nationalist skinheads.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 9:00 AM
horizontal rule
183

I agree with 181.

Also, I looked at the Guardian website and it said that the UK had won something like 16 amazing medals over the weekend!! Apparently every single one of these are in sports that the US media not only doesn't broadcast, it doesn't even cover. (mostly cycling and various boat things)

The UK team (or, apparently, the Great Britain team, according to the Guardian) has won 27 medals, and 21 are in either cycling or various boat things.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 9:02 AM
horizontal rule
184

Olympic women's wrestling would be a promotional challenge. Participants are not given cuteness points. (The TV people praised one floor-exercise gymnast for her eyeboraws).

Canada triumphs


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 9:09 AM
horizontal rule
185

both leaders and kids have had their memberships officially revoked for being gay and also for being atheists.

Yeah, just about everyone I know who's affiliated with the organization is pretty embarrassed by all that. For what it's worth, the national organization that sets the policy doesn't really have any ability to enforce the policy beyond what the local troops are willing to do (which in my case involved electing a gay friend of mine as senior patrol leader), but it is rather ridiculous.

Despite it all, I do think it's still a worthwhile organization. And the money they raise pretty much all goes towards tents and camp stoves, not bigoted leaflets or anything.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 9:10 AM
horizontal rule
186

Pretty good eyebrows


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 9:11 AM
horizontal rule
187

Participants are not given cuteness points.

The triumphant Canadian is pretty hot.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 9:13 AM
horizontal rule
188

No mention of sex with bears, but it would seem to be useful training.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 9:27 AM
horizontal rule
189

re: 183

Yeah, Britain is having a pretty good Olympics. They are absurdly dominant in track cycling at the moment, and pretty good in various boaty things. We'll get at least one medal in the boxing, too, and probably in a couple of track and field events.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 9:30 AM
horizontal rule
190

183 - the USA sail and row don't they? And cycle a bit? Was there no coverage of the Ainslie-Railey race? (Ben Ainslie had to come within 6 places of Railey to get the gold - and was keeping Railey at the back, making Railey plead with Ainslie because he still needed to get a decent place to get his silver. Anyway, the race was abandoned, and when they redid it the next day, Ainslie won.)

This was why I was asking about the red button earlier. But perhaps we're more used to not doing brilliantly, so we're happier than Americans if we have to watch events without Britons in.

I don't understand why Team GB though.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 9:35 AM
horizontal rule
191

I think it's historical. It's always been GB.

Googling, it seems that the IOC designated the UK as GB in 1905 and it's stuck.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 9:42 AM
horizontal rule
192

Further to 190, it is particularly odd because in ordinary usage GB is normally taken to exclude Northern Ireland but Northern Ireland does compete as part of the GB olympic team.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 9:43 AM
horizontal rule
193

I've never seen sailing coverage. Rowing was on, but it's usually delayed and not live. The U.S. women's eight won the gold medal after a very disappointing result in Athens, so that got broadcast yesterday evening.

The "minor" sports events get better broadcasters than the major ones--usually people who competed at an elite level but now have regular jobs most of the year.

I sort of hoped that more stuff would be on MSNBC, but all of the "less important" stuff has been on CNBC (the financial network?), and they've been showing the same old political crap on MSNBC.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 9:45 AM
horizontal rule
194

I'll explode with excitement if Amantle Montsho wins the Women's 400m. By the power vested in me by nobody at all, I declare the entire Unfoggedtariat honorary Botswanans for the duration of the womens 400m. Represent, people.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 9:52 AM
horizontal rule
195

I know I'm the only person who watched online, but the commentary on the men's sabre semifinals was hilarious. I'm not sure who was doing it, but whoever it was was probably American, definitely a fencer, and extraordinarily partisan. And the commentary was done by an instant message feed next to the video of the action.

The Russian dude called time because his hand hurt, and they ran out with the 'cold spray' like the soccer drama queens use when the dive. This is the literal commentary from the official NBC page:

# Look out.
# Here comes the magic spray employed by fencers all over europe.

Later, when the guy stops play again (He's pretty obviously just playing a head game with the American fencer):

# Its ingredients are mysterious.
# more spray, it does the body good

When the U.S. won, the comment was: yeeeeeeees.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 9:53 AM
horizontal rule
196

Because the natural tendency of teenagers is to revolt against whatever propaganda their parents / elders fed them.

Cleaning out CA's childhood bedroom when his parents downsized, we found a semi-shredded US flag, on which "NO WAR! NO KKK! NO FASCIST USA!*" had been written in black Sharpie.

(*Woo! MDC!)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 9:54 AM
horizontal rule
197

I know I'm the only person who watched online, but the commentary on the men's sabre semifinals was hilarious.

What I don't understand is that the women's individual saber finals don't seem to be online. I don't normally watch fencing, but we swept so I figured I would watch some of it, but I can't find it.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 10:00 AM
horizontal rule
198

Currently the red button gives me the choice of sailing, track cycling, canoeing, day 10 news, Phelps' golds, Team BG golds, or synchronised flag desecration.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 10:02 AM
horizontal rule
199

synchronised flag desecration

This is where the Middle Eastern countries really shine.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 10:04 AM
horizontal rule
200

Team BG

erm, yes, Team GB. Though I'm sure Bostoniangirl is doing really well too.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 10:04 AM
horizontal rule
201

Montsho apparently is the world record holder (se in July).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 10:05 AM
horizontal rule
202

197: They were only showing them live. For some reason, NBC doesn't seem to get that they can put the videos up and let people watch them whenever, in addition to streaming the content live.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 10:09 AM
horizontal rule
203

185: Yeah, and 166 wasn't meant as a response to Mo in 161 -- I hadn't seen that when I posted. I'm all for teaching boys the kind of skills they'll need to succeed on reality shows. I hope they've started integrating equipment used on Japanese game shows.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 10:13 AM
horizontal rule
204

They were only showing them live

Bastards, I was hoping I was just dumb and couldn't find them.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 10:13 AM
horizontal rule
205

I'm all for teaching boys the kind of skills they'll need to succeed on reality shows.

I don't care for or about the Boy Scouts, but don't diss the value of getting children outdoors in a semi-natural environment. Among other things, it lets the kids know that there is more to the world that the constructed realm of reality TV.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 10:27 AM
horizontal rule
206

The highlights on nbcolympics.com are mostly without commentary- in some cases this is interesting because you can hear the "sounds of the game". Best example I've found- China vs. USA baseball, the China manager was ejected for arguing after the USA runner buried the China catcher on a sac fly. You can actually hear what's said in a baseball argument, it's not pretty. You can also hear the thump when the catcher gets knocked on his ass. (About 2:29:00 into the game video.)


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 10:33 AM
horizontal rule
207

Am I correct that the 'red button' only works during the day? For me I think it does, but maybe there was a different option I needed to pay for.

On the Boy Scouts, and this is totally just my own observations as a child and a parent, so soup biscuit I am NOT saying this applies to everyone, OK? This is just what I have seen.

The Boy Scouts seemed to attract some creepy adults and very needy boys - like boys without fathers.

The Girl Scouts seemed to attract feminists, meaning really cool Mothers who wanted to teach their daughters empowerment and were grateful for help from Fathers who supported their ideas.

For those reasons my daughters stuck with Girl Scouts through middle-school and my eldest son tried one year of Boy Scouts and that was it.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 10:35 AM
horizontal rule
208

My memory of Boy Scouts is that it mostly taught competition for conventional success. I remember one of my friends spending $10 and two afternoons getting the easy "pottery" merit badge on his way to Eagle Scout -- he was budgeting his time efficiently rather than wasting time on a more difficult merit badge. It seemed like a waste of time to me, but it wasn't, objectively speaking. An Eagle Scout is Eagle Scout.

Scouts does give an avenue to success for non-athletes. Determination and effort are mostly what's needed.

I vied with Garrison Keillor to be the worst Scout in Minnesota. I now realize that I was in the troop because we needed to meet a quorum, and without the quorum the ambitious scouts couldn't get their Eagles.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 10:36 AM
horizontal rule
209

HAIL HAIL BOTSWANAAAAAAAAA
CHAMPIONS OF THE SOUTH


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 10:40 AM
horizontal rule
210

I sort of hoped that more stuff would be on MSNBC, but all of the "less important" stuff has been on CNBC (the financial network?), and they've been showing the same old political crap on MSNBC.

That's good, since MSNBC was removed from my cable system about a month ago for unknown reasons. I've been wondering whether that's where the fencing/cycling/boat stuff is.


Posted by: CN | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 10:42 AM
horizontal rule
211

OT: Update on the union contract in Shelbyville, TN, giving workers Eid off as a holiday.

Both Tyson Foods and RWDSU seemed a bit surprised by the vitriolic community response to a negotiated contract that addressed both worker and employer concerns. In past years it had been difficult to operate the plant because so many of the plant's Muslim workers took off on Eid, so the contract appeared to be a win-win approach.
* * * *
Soon after the article and [racist] comments like the one above appeared, political leaders of Shelbyville asked Tyson Foods and the RWDSU to reconsider their contract. They did so quickly and the union members voted on a new agreement that gives workers both Eid and Labor Day in 2008 and then in 2009 allows workers a choice of either Eid or another paid personal day.

Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 10:43 AM
horizontal rule
212

Merit badges include art, music, pottery, sculpture, theater, basketry, textiles, cinematography, photography, cooking, home repair, reading, scholarship, disability awareness, graphic arts, and painting -- but no dance. (But people are actually proposing a sewing merit badge).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 10:44 AM
horizontal rule
213

Why not? Sewing is a useful skill, at least as useful as basketry or scholarship, and is a natural mate for whatever it is one does to get the textile badge (I assume).


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 10:46 AM
horizontal rule
214

Perhaps they could add a dance and a sewing merit badge, institute a "don't ask, don't tell" policy, and a "fingers crossed" option on the religious belief.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 10:48 AM
horizontal rule
215

re: 207

No, it works all of the time however I think the amount of material you can access depends on time of day and day of the week, etc. The red button is used to access any digital interactive services. I'm only familiar with the BBC, but it lets you access textual content, interactive content and additional streaming media that's not on the main channels.

For the video material, it seems, as far as I can tell, to make use of other digital channels further up the range. So, at the moment, the one hour Olympic highlights program gets looped hourly after 8pm. If you actually look at an electronic programme guide you can see that the looped media is actually running on the BBC Parliament channel [301 or 302? I can't remember]. Same with the various sports that you can flip to interactively. They are being shown further up the channel range on 'unused' channels.

So, at times of the day/week/month/year when more of those channels are in use, there's less space for the BBC to use them to stream other stuff.

I use a freeview box [free to air digital received over a normal household aerial] and don't have a subscription, cable or satellite service, so maybe it's different for them.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 10:49 AM
horizontal rule
216

205: That's part of what I loved about Girl Scouts. My family camped and sailed, so I got outdoor time (and can tie a bowline with my eyes closed -- great party trick!), but I loved orienteering and camping and canoeing and cooking over open fires and all that with Girl Scouts, too.

A school in Brooklyn has a very cool program where the kids basically use the Hudson as their classroom.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 10:57 AM
horizontal rule
217

And the lesbian initiation, of course, we assume, modeled on Boy Scout homoeroticism.

See, the rule against homosexuality is a cover story.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 10:58 AM
horizontal rule
218

I...can tie a bowline with my eyes closed

...with her tongue! Fellahz.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 11:06 AM
horizontal rule
219

The Boy Scouts seemed to attract some creepy adults and very needy boys - like boys without fathers.

Tripp, the guy I know who used to be a troop leader said that he thought that the leaders who stuck with it after their kids had grown up were a bit odd and even creepy, but I think that that only applies to the lifers.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 11:11 AM
horizontal rule
220

"Creepy" -- or gay?

"Oh, no. That sort of thing is strictly forbidden here. Heh. How could you think such a thing?"


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 11:14 AM
horizontal rule
221

184: Isn't that a photo of Carol Huynh? I think she could win major cuteness points (not that I'm advocating cuteness points for female athletes, of course).


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 11:23 AM
horizontal rule
222

Huynh, pr. "Quinn".

Huynh could get cuteness points, but it's hard to score wrestling that way.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 11:44 AM
horizontal rule
223

Cuteness points should not assessed as a part of the Olympic competition. They should be judged independently, on blogs. Which is exactly how things are done now.

I'm giving the photo in 221 a 9.5. Simply adorable.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 11:52 AM
horizontal rule
224

213: I meant the "actually", literally, = "seriously, in actual fact".

Not the "actually" of incredulity.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 12:01 PM
horizontal rule
225

Tripp, the guy I know who used to be a troop leader said that he thought that the leaders who stuck with it after their kids had grown up were a bit odd and even creepy, but I think that that only applies to the lifers.

I wonder if there's some of the used-car/lemon thing going on there, where any older man who helps with the boy scouts is assumed to be creepy so you only get the ones for whom being perceived as creepy is no big deal.

Which is too bad, because for all the bullshit that their national organization promotes, the organization does a lot of good on the ground.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 12:14 PM
horizontal rule
226

YMMV of course. By 'creepy' I meant pedophilia and also somebody at the official overnight camp had some wacky tobacky, not 'bad' but very strange at a campout with 3rd and 4th graders. Somebody was being naughty and it wasn't a kid.

Also, they made it very clear, VERY clear, that the 'counselors' should never ever be alone with a boy. This was sensible, of course, but they stressed it so hard I was positive they'd had problems in the past, or maybe they were even warning someone that night.

Also, at the overnight camp, the head guy made it a point to bring up the Columbine shooting, which had just happened, so it was topical, but the thing is the campers were like 3rd and 4th graders and most of them hadn't even heard about it so why bring it up when their parents were not present? I really didn't like that.

So all in all my gut feeling was bad and I had my son stop going.

Again, YMMV. Personally it wasn't worth it, but maybe I was simply full of it. I dunno.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 12:45 PM
horizontal rule
227

3rd & 4th grader are technically Cub Scouts. I think you don't become a Boy Scout until 5th grade. Got to be at least ten , no older than 18 (duh).


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 3:02 PM
horizontal rule
228

MSNBC has been broadcasting 12 hours continuously from 2 AM to 2 PM pacific time. I haven't seen any sailing, but there's been fencing and cycling. USA has also shown cycling. Paul Sherwen, the NBC/MSNBC/USA color commentator (he also does Tour de France and assorted other races), is British and they've certainly showed a lot (by American Olympic coverage standards) of the British rides.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 3:57 PM
horizontal rule
229

I just can't put myself in the mindset of someone who thinks that the fact that the athlete is a bit sweaty when carrying the flag is somehow disrespectful (to the flag?! to the USA?).

Agree totally. Think it as *making love to the flag*. Surely a victorious Olympian has earned the right to consumate his/her patriotic relationship.

Also, Becks, ever actually been to a track meet? It´s great -- turns out it´s surprisingly exciting to watch people try to run faster than other people.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 5:26 PM
horizontal rule
230

Think it as *making love to the flag*.

Ew.

Well, I was with ttaM and Asilon in being mystified by the flag fetish, but once you put it that way, ... well, I'm still with ttaM and Asilon, of course, but had no idea of the true kinkiness that lay behind the flag fetish.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:09 PM
horizontal rule
231

Update --- another Guardian writer points out that the British have proven themselves superior in sports that involve "sitting down" and "being mildly posh".

Upon inspecting the medal count again, here's the breakdown:

Sports that are performed while sitting down:
Rowing (6 medals)
Canoeing (1 medal)
Cycling (11 medals)
Equestrian (2 medals)

Sports that may be performed while sitting down, or maybe standing up, I'm not sure:
Sailing (3 medals)

Sports that cannot be performed while sitting down:
Swimming (3 medals)
Men's pommel horse (1 medal)


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:26 PM
horizontal rule
232

The pommel horse is definitely as close as gymnasts come to sitting down, though. Maybe that should be counted too.

Does anyone know the specifics of "Finn", "Yngling", and "470" sailing types? It's possible that 24 out or 27 of Britain's medals were won while sitting down.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:29 PM
horizontal rule
233

MC, you have to realize that the flag is important and meaningful and should be desecrated. Canadians are so weenie.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:30 PM
horizontal rule
234

Sewing is extremely useful. I wish I had a better grasp of how to do it.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 8:55 PM
horizontal rule
235

Canadians are so weenie.

Ever since hydro-electric power, we've gone all soft, for certain. Used to be, if someone had lived to be 90 or so, you could be reasonably certain that he or she had lived through some real hardship: the shantyboys coming down from the woods in the spring with their packets of pay (50 pounds, even! a small fortune...), the lack of running water, the wolves quite actually howling at the door. Nowadays, all of Canada is a luxury health spa, really. It's embarrassing, almost.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 08-18-08 9:26 PM
horizontal rule
236

I really hate NBC.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 1:31 AM
horizontal rule
237

Also, the constant complaining about judging (especially when Americans don't win) is really detracting from the gymnastics coverage. I don't think they should break ties, but some of the "controversy" is like the Clinton campaign not understanding the Texas primary/caucuses rules, despite their having been written down and available for a long time. Anyway, most of the complaining has simply been about the scores in general. They might have a point pn occasion, but I'd rather watch the gymnasts land on chalk-covered national flags than hear more of it.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 1:47 AM
horizontal rule
238

pn s/b on


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 1:47 AM
horizontal rule
239

The Episcopal church definitely had problems with this. I was doing a altar guild training, and there were two kids there. The girl's father was late coming to pick her up, and the deacon doing the training (a man) asked me to stay until her father came. I guess that it's part of the terms of their contract.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 5:13 AM
horizontal rule
240

232: All those classes are small enough boats that there's a fair amount of sitting.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 5:26 AM
horizontal rule
241

237: (especially when Americans don't win)

Yes, at work yesterday that I was judged to be insufficiently outraged by some Chinese gymnast hitting her knee, yet still getting a high score.

Oh, NBC. Stras was right!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 5:34 AM
horizontal rule
242

That thing on the vaults? I happened to see that (I've watched maybe an hour of Olympics total), and I do have to say that either the judging was peculiar, or I don't have any real understanding of how the judging works (which is, of course, the answer). That looked like a real fall to me, which I'd assume would wreck your score in a big way, but it didn't turn into much of a penalty.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 5:45 AM
horizontal rule
243

I think so. I actually had not seen it nor heard about, which was deemed a problem in itself, compounded when I did not just take other people's word for it and join in a xenophobic recitation of Chinese trickery.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 5:54 AM
horizontal rule
244

(I save that for Unfogged.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 5:55 AM
horizontal rule
245

After reading the link in OFE's 133, I looked at the big display of Nato flags at work. They are hung vertically against a wall. They had displayed Slovakia's and Slovenia's flags upside down for months before fixing them, so I had high hopes. YES! The US DoD has the Union Jack displayed upside down. This is a Special Relationship.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 6:11 AM
horizontal rule
246

In our monopolar world, the other members of NATO should be grateful for whatever they get. Slovenia, Britain, little countries like that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 6:29 AM
horizontal rule
247

245. Woo!!!!


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 6:38 AM
horizontal rule
248

md., you cannot imagine how happy that has made me. All my life's assumptions stand firm.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 6:41 AM
horizontal rule
249

OFE, I am also greatly amused by this. Hell, I got months of chuckles from the very obviously mishung flags of the two new members. (They are next to Spain's flag, which also has a crest in it, and it was hung properly—nice going guys.) I wonder if I can get an extremely minor diplomatic incident out of this? Maybe a call to the British military attaché? I'm sure Emerson would approve.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 7:01 AM
horizontal rule
250

or I don't have any real understanding of how the judging works (which is, of course, the answer)

Which is why gymnastics should be considered a competition but not a sport. You shouldn't need special training to know who wins a sport.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 7:07 AM
horizontal rule
251

250: You know, people say this all the time, and I'm only sympathetic up to a point. I think the problem with gymnastics is taking something out to thousandths of a decimal place when it's that subjective. I don't find 'you need to know how the rules work to know who won all that convincing. I spent a lot of time explaining how right-of-way worked in fencing when we were watching it the other night, and it's hard to judge the action at the Olympic level, but I don't think it's suddenly not a sport because shivbunny had never seen it before.

And 'you shouldn't need special training?' Eh. Football, basketball, baseball. All sports. All things where knowing the minutiae of the rules and stats are important. (Watching the Superbowl with international grad students is an education. "What's holding?") I suspect gymnastics is easier to judge at the lower levels, and part of the problem is that the average person's exposure to gymnastics is only a) the elite level, where the differences aren't all that great and b) once every four years.


That looked like a real fall to me, which I'd assume would wreck your score in a big way, but it didn't turn into much of a penalty.

It incurred a huge penalty, but her vault started off so difficult that she had enough of a cushion. The real problem is with the announcers talking as if every American has a realistic shot at gold in every event, instead of saying 'with her start value, she needs to land perfectly and have other people screw up in order to have a shot at the bronze.' The Chinese gymnast was penalized, which took her from an easy win to a close call for bronze.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 7:24 AM
horizontal rule
252

Considering the enormous amount of slop in basketball refereeing, so much so that a referee was taking payoffs for years and only got caught when off-court evidence surfaced, Tim's 250 is null and void. As of right now, we don't know whether other referees are on the take or not, but in fact Donaghy's conviction wasn't a bombshell at all. A lot of fans already suspected something like that, or something even worse: maybe Donaghy's crime was punished only because it interfered with the central office's own system of crooked refereeing.

Women's gymnastics and ice-skating are contaminated by the cuteness factor, and all international sports are subject to horsetrading and national bias, but that's hardly worse than pro basketball.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 7:44 AM
horizontal rule
253

Eh. Football, basketball, baseball. All sports. All things where knowing the minutiae of the rules and stats are important.

I thought about that, but in all three, the basic goal is very simple to explain--"put the ball in the end zone and get six points"--and all other knowledge is secondary in some way. I don't know anything about fencing, but I'd guess that it's the same: "stab the other person three times before they stab you three times," or something. That's not the same as gymnastics, in which a complete novice wouldn't be able to hazard a guess at scores, or for whom things are going right, right off the bat. Judging removes, or at least makes much harder, the ability for independent evaluation.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 7:46 AM
horizontal rule
254

And the commentary has been atrocious, even when it's not in gymnastics. The discussion of Liu Xiang, the hurdler who pulled out because of his bad Achilles, was unbelievable. Did this inscrutable Oriental inscrutable hurdler inscrutably decide to take the blocks even though he was in obvious pain because of Chinese values of solidarity and communitarianism? Surely there is no reason one would go out to start the race with an injury unless one came from such an inscrutable culture! No competitive spirit! No thought, 'maybe I can just squeak into the finals and have two days to rest up this ankle.' Surely there was no American sprinter who did essentially the same thing just two days before in the 100m dash.

I am surprised I haven't thrown something at my TV.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 7:46 AM
horizontal rule
255

Level of difficulty of gymnastic performance is easily learnable, even if only by memorization the way you learn the value of poker hands. It's also not that hard to figure out what the fluffs are. The only difficult thing is the exact point value to charge for various fluffs in specific cases. That's pretty much like the judgment calls in basketball -- Was that travelling? Was that charging? Ind given the insanity of basketball refereeing, the advantage is, if anything, with gymnastics.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 7:54 AM
horizontal rule
256

at work yesterday that I was judged to be insufficiently outraged by some Chinese gymnast hitting her knee, yet still getting a high score.

I haven't paid much attention to the Olympics this time, so I only learned about this dispute when I overheard a guy complaining about it at the coffee shop this morning. I still don't know the details. Serendipitously, I happened to be reading "China: Humiliation & the Olympics" while I listened to him.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 7:55 AM
horizontal rule
257

253: It's not hard: get on the apparatus and do a flip. Harder flips get more points, and it matters how well you do it. Don't fall off. Don't take a step when you land.

That's as least as clear as 'get the ball in the end zone for six points', and at least as accurate. Does the ball need to touch the ground or break the plane? I think if we only saw the Superbowl once every four years, we'd think it just made no sense. Look, the guys are supposed to block each other, yet they have this weird thing called holding-on-the-offense that takes back touchdowns!

Fencing is usually to five or fifteen points, which you get by stabbing the other person. But fencing has a concept called 'right-of-way', that applies in two of the weapons, which basically means that once someone initiates an attack, they will get a point if they finish it, unless the person who is on defense does something to take away their right-of-way, like parrying the blade. So if someone attacks you, you can't just attack back. Sounds pretty simple, except that if the other person is attacking slowly, or misses, or beats your blade too low so it looks like a parry, or you beat their blade in the upper third, you can steal right-of-way from them. And, if you're the only one to hit, you get the point whether you had the attack or not.

In sabre this means a lot of attacks where both fencers hit each other, both lights signifying a touch go off, one is faster than the other, and the ref awards the point to the slower guy because he snuck in a parry or the other guy pumped his arm and lost right-of-way.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 7:58 AM
horizontal rule
258

Fencing is inscrutable. It originated in the Orient, right?


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:04 AM
horizontal rule
259

It's nice to see Lu Gang getting the fame he deserves. Unfortunately, however, Theodore Streleski and Valerie Fabrikant remain in the shadows. Perhaps these oversights will be corrected in the fullness of time.

">After only 22 years Streleski has become a nameless legend at Stanford, rather than the campus hero he should have been.

Only when grad students, adjuncts, and junior faculty realize that stern measures are required will they finally begin to receive their due.


Posted by:
John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:09 AM
horizontal rule
260

I was in a rehearsal for a play where two of the actors had a fencing scene. In the rehearsals, they had the bright idea of using real foils. One of them managed to cut the other.

I don't know much about gymnastics, but I used to be a figure skating fan, and it certainly seemed to me that the judging was sufficiently arbitrary that they could basically pick the winner.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:12 AM
horizontal rule
261

Link


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:12 AM
horizontal rule
262

At base, I disagree that "Put the ball in the end zone" is anywhere near as complicated as "Get on the apparatus and do a flip. Harder flips get more points, and it matters how well you do it. Don't fall off. Don't take a step when you land."

Assume no fouls or mistakes in either case. In football, the novice is going to know what happened, who is winning, and why. Not so in gymnastics.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:12 AM
horizontal rule
263

John, this is for you.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:13 AM
horizontal rule
264

That's stupid, Tim. Gymnastics is judged by level of difficulty and perfection of performance, which aren't hard to understand. Someone who walks into a football game with no background will almost certainly be more baffled by football than by gymnastics. It's true that scoring is more mechanical in football than in gymnastics, but all that means is that a box score is cut and dried. It doesn't mean that gymnastics is more subjective, and it doesn't mean that football is easier to understand for a novice.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:18 AM
horizontal rule
265

262: IME the novices get very confused by football. The goal of put it in the end zone is pretty easy, but everything about getting to the end zone requires a lot of explanation.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:21 AM
horizontal rule
266

Thanks!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:22 AM
horizontal rule
267

I'd agree that Tim is wrong generally -- the lesser transparency of gymnastics doesn't make it necessarily subjective or not a sport -- but it really does seem less transparent to me. I can watch football without knowing much beyond which direction the goal line is in. On gymnastics, I can't distinguish, e.g., a difficult vault from an easy one. I'd need to invest a bunch more time and attention to have a hope of understanding why the scores come out the way they do.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:24 AM
horizontal rule
268

I was hoping that Ari found me a Ted Streleski Tshirt, but "Natalie Raps" is good enough.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:25 AM
horizontal rule
269

Gymnastics is way easier to understand than football, yes. And you certainly hear much less from the "it's not a sport if there are judges" crowd about boxing, wrestling, martial arts, etc.

The gymnastics judging has not seemed great, but the announcers only complain about it when Americans are affected. The tiebreak rule is really, really stupid, but they barely bothered mentioning it when it determined one of the men's medalists the night before the uneven bars final. etc. etc.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:26 AM
horizontal rule
270

Gymnastics is way easier to understand than football, yes.

Maybe I've put in more lifetime football watching than I think I have. But seriously, can anyone else spot the hard, highscoring aspects of a gymnastics routine or vault on their own, without relying on the announcer saying "this is a very difficult whatever it is"? I kind of like watching it, but my judgment is limited to "Man, that all looks absolutely impossible" and the landings, because I can tell pretty easily the difference between staggering on the landing and not.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:30 AM
horizontal rule
271

Someone who walks into a football game with no background will almost certainly be more baffled by football than by gymnastics.

Prove it.

It's true that scoring is more mechanical in football than in gymnastics

That's precisely what I'm talking about.

And you certainly hear much less from the "it's not a sport if there are judges" crowd about boxing, wrestling, martial arts, etc.

Because nobody watches those things at the Olympics anymore. You don't hear many arguments about curling, either.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:35 AM
horizontal rule
272

I didn't get football until college--gymnastics managed from when I was six. This was obviously biased by my girly girl preferences--I got baseball just fine even though that seems to baffle foreign-born relatives more, because I liked baseball--but so is "oh, gymnastics is so incomprehensible." In football, unlike every other ball sport, there are multiple means of scoring different numbers of points, some of which look exactly the same if you don't know the rules (i.e. a field goal & an extra point); the same players do not play offense and defense so there are more positions; there are often multiple names for a position used interchangeably; there's an arcane set of penalties, and the whole thing makes no sense if you don't understand what a first down is (the imaginary first down line on TV really helps a lot). If you want an intuitive sport, try soccer, or swimming, or track. Football's as bad as gymnastics, and in practice I found it harder.

As far as gymnastics, I'm not claiming to be able to guess the start value by watching, but the harder routines involve faster, higher, flips & spins & twists with more rotations; the main thing I find difficult to discern is that they're moving very quickly and it's hard to count flips in mid-air.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:42 AM
horizontal rule
273

As a novice watching gymnastics I understand some rules very well - falling off is bad, doing the required elements (whatever they are) is good.

Past that, though, I have only a vague idea what is hard and what is easy and I am sure sometimes I'll think that something very hard is actually easy and vice versa.

If they kept a running tally during the performance and actually deducted the points in real-time that would help educate me. Something like - add 3.5 for this triple thing, but ding ding minus 0.1 for legs apart and minus 0.3 for a curved back.

They don't do that so I am left having an announcer partially telling me that after the event, and then when the announcer disagrees with the judging how am I supposed to sort it all out?


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:43 AM
horizontal rule
274

271. But calling a foul in football may not directly affect the score, but it's just as important, because it'll sure as hell affect the score 5 seconds later. The fact that you get points by getting the ball into the end zone is almost irrelevant to the fact that there are some ways you can do it and some ways you can't, and the officials have to judge, very carefully, whether you're still in the rules. If it was as simplistic as you make it out to be both sides would just line up with semi-automatic weaponry and the survivors would win.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:43 AM
horizontal rule
275

Are you serious, Tim? "Prove it"? You want me to do a doubleblind study just because you said something stupid on the internet? Right away boss, I'll write the grant application this afternoon!

As I said, mechanical scoring doesn't make it possible to understand the game or appreciate it, and it doesn't mean that the game is more athletic and less subjective. It just means that the arguments aren't about scoring, but about refereeing.

We're aware, Time, that you're a generic American dude with generic American sports interests and have been one all your life, but for that very reason you probably shouldn't try to use your intuitions as evidence in argument.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:44 AM
horizontal rule
276

And you certainly hear much less from the "it's not a sport if there are judges" crowd about boxing, wrestling, martial arts, etc.

Those are all excellent examples.

Because nobody watches those things at the Olympics anymore.

Oh please. Not to get all humorless on you, but I think that half the reason people say 'gymnastics isn't a sport' is mingled in with a little bit more of 'god, girls do it in pigtails, so it can't be a real sport.' Boxing isn't popular? martial arts?

270: No, not really. Little things like 'if you can't spot it, it's harder' or 'one twist is less difficult than two.' But I'm not sure why that would make it not a sport. Once we get away from 'ball goes in the net', there's plenty of sports that are hard to understand why they are hard or what counts for a point.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:44 AM
horizontal rule
277

You don't hear many arguments about curling, either.

You think you can bait the Canadians that easily, Tim? Think again, my friend, we're too busy celebrating our "medal haul."


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:45 AM
horizontal rule
278

"Because nobody watches those things at the Olympics anymore."

No--it's because they involve men beating each other up & not girls twirling. I'm pretty sure there's more audience for boxing than gymnastics overall.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:45 AM
horizontal rule
279

Women's gymnastics and ice-skating are contaminated by the cuteness factor

Oh man. Just had this discussion with Rory last night.

"I like women's gymnastics best because they're so cute!"

"Cute?!! These are elite athletes! They are not 'cute.'"

"But that's part of what makes them so cute, because they're so talented."

"You don't call the men's gymnastics 'cute.'"

"Because they're not as cute as the women."

"But the Olympics isn't about 'cute.' You can't just write women off as 'cute.' Seriously, would you refer to any of the male Olympians as 'cute'?"

[Long moment of contemplation.] "Maybe Michael Phelps." [a mischievous twinkle and shift in tone] "Phelps is pretty cute."

"Somehow I don't think you mean 'cute' the same way in Phelps' case."

You can see, I suppose, why the kid hates watching TV with me.

Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:47 AM
horizontal rule
280

277: Wow, you guys finally passed Phelps in the medal count!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:48 AM
horizontal rule
281

My naturlized Canadian brother has gone native, and one of the things he does is second-guess the curling commentators. He's usually able to anticipate what they'll say, except when they're wrong.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:48 AM
horizontal rule
282

It just means that the arguments aren't about scoring, but about refereeing.

Maybe this is the way to get at the difference. In ideal circumstances, refereeing doesn't enter into football. Or, for that matter, boxing. I can't speak to martial arts or wrestling. But, as far as I can tell, you cannot remove the refereeing from gymnastics.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:48 AM
horizontal rule
283

Only when grad students, adjuncts, and junior faculty realize that stern measures are required will they finally begin to receive their due.

Emerson is the old anarchist from Slacker.

"Just look at that shit. I've always dreamed of pulling a Guy Fawkes on the Texas Legislature. Just blow the damn thing sky high. I've got maps in my room and I'll do it some day. Texas is so full of these so-called modern-day libertarians... with all their goddamn selfish individualism. Just the opposite of real anarchism. They don't give a damn about improving the world."

Or maybe that's McManus' job.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:50 AM
horizontal rule
284

Gymnastics gets more complicated very quickly, whereas football gets complicated fairly gradually. They both have lots of arcane rules, but I get the sense it's easier to feel like you're acquiring them at a decent pace watching football.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:50 AM
horizontal rule
285

272:

This sounds like people saying "the first text editor I leaned is the most intuitive to use" mostly because it is the first they learned and learning the second involved partly un-learning the first.

As someone who has taught baseball and football I can tell you the complete set of rules are very complicated but we start with the basics and over years go up from there.

Both baseball and football have elements of subjectively called rules (what is holding, what is the strike zone), but they try to minimize the affect of those rules. Gymnastic scoring probably has a bigger percentage of subjective rules but I don't know enough to prove it.

And I'm not about to get into to the 'what constitutes a sport' debate. I've already wasted too much of my life on that topic.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:51 AM
horizontal rule
286

In ideal circumstances, refereeing doesn't enter into football.

"Imagine each football team as a perfect sphere with the radius n and the mass m....."

Not really true about football, but egregiously not true about basketball. But basketball is still a sport, even when women play it.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:52 AM
horizontal rule
287

282:

In ideal circumstances, refereeing doesn't enter into football.

I dunno. What constitutes offensive holding? What constitutes defensive/offensive pass interference?

Those calls are big in nearly every single game.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:53 AM
horizontal rule
288

280: When Phelps gets good enough at trampoline to compete at an elite level, give me a call.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:53 AM
horizontal rule
289

282: I'm not buying it if ideal circumstances rules out all of the usual penalty calls. How often do penalties decide a game by keeping a drive alive?

Gymnastics is a sport where the goal has an explicit execution component, and so you need the judges. On the other hand, reading news reports of the women's floor exercise has an interview with Shawn Johnson where she knew before the scores were posted that the Romanian girl had beat her score, so....I have to conclude that to the extent I don't understand it, it's because I haven't watched a lot of it.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:54 AM
horizontal rule
290

But calling a foul in football may not directly affect the score, but it's just as important, because it'll sure as hell affect the score 5 seconds later.

And sometimes immediately. Guy leaps into the air to catch a pass in the end zone. Ball in hand, he tumbles out of bounds. Refs waves off the point -- no TD. What? Why? Fifteen minutes of slow mo instant replay and elaborate discussion of which foot touched where and at which point the ball was "under control."

What might be fun would be having Bela Karolyi sportscast some NFL this year. "It is outrageous! That boy worked very hard to get there to catch the ball and this ref has no experience to be saying his feet landed out of bounds. To take away that boy's dreams like that is just not acceptable."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:56 AM
horizontal rule
291

Yeah... I gotta say that judged boxing and martial arts competitions seem a bit bullshit to me as well. In any martial art, the entire point is to kinda fuck the other person up (which is why an actual competition in these sports, such as tends to happen in pro boxing, is barbaric). If the opponent isn't fucked up, that's not really a win.

Wrestling gets by a little more since the entire point is to "pin" the other person, for whatever body part definition of "pin" the sport uses. That's closer to "did the gymnast stick the landing or not" in my mind, and thus far more intuitive.

As for ball sports, just wait until they add 20/20 cricket to the games. Then y'all will think football is cake to understand.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:57 AM
horizontal rule
292

But they try to minimize the affect of those rules....

I don't see that.

OK, imagine the same argument including a Romanian who's been watching gymnastics (as a spectator) all his life and is watching his first football game. Teams take turns moving the ball downfield to score. The scoring is cut and dried: touchdown, extra point, two-point conversion, field goal, safety. (Not exactly simple, though). Who wins is easy: most points.

Even that isn't comepletely transparent or quick to learn, but it also doesn't tell you what's interesting about the game or (in most cases) how it's won.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:58 AM
horizontal rule
293

It's not just that I watched football when I was in college & gymnastics when I was six--it was that it took a lot more explaining to understand it. I understood hockey, soccer, basketball, & baseball fine as a kid, and I was less interested in football partly because I didn't get what was going on. And everyone making the contrary claim was probably exposed to football quite a lot younger than Olympic gymnastics. Of course it's biased anecdata, but what the hell am I supposed to do, run double blind studies?

My leading contender for "not a sport" may be dressage, where you are judged on the grace, artistry, & choreography of your horse's pirouettes--it seems alarmingly close to an Olympic dog show.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:58 AM
horizontal rule
294

Lady show goats need to have a feminine walk. They can be champions in every other way, but if they swagger down the run way they lose points.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:02 AM
horizontal rule
295

re: 282

Boxing is all about judging. Think about how many controversial fight results we see. Not every fight is settled by knockout. I'd be suprised if even the majority of them were these days. At the Olympic level there'll be very few knockouts indeed.

In the martial art I compete in, there are three judges and the judges are awarding marks both for contact and for technique. The technique marks are exactly analogous to the marks in gymnastics: more marks for doing more technically difficult moves, for perfect execution of simple moves, demonstrating clever use of timing, distance and footwork, and for generally looking like a s avateur rather than a karate or kickboxing guy. Even the contact marks aren't entirely objective, not every judge is going to see every hit, and only some hits count. You don't score with illegal techniques, for example. One judge might think that the spinning kick to the head scores, the other one might think there's something illegal about how it was performed. One scores, one doesn't.

There just isn't that big a discrepancy between gymnastics and lots of other sports.

And American Football is completely incomprehensible. I've watched it on and off for years and to this day have no clue about half of what's going on.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:02 AM
horizontal rule
296

My leading contender for "not a sport" may be dressage, where you are judged on the grace, artistry, & choreography of your horse's pirouettes--it seems alarmingly close to an Olympic dog show.

I have horsey friends who could explain quite emphatically how significant the role of the rider is in dressage. It is beautiful and difficult. Of course, in a just world the horse would get a medal, too -- like pairs figure skating.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:02 AM
horizontal rule
297

Mine would be table tennis, mostly because the thought of a stern Chinese sports school where the children trained for years and years before being told they didn't have the right body type and should try checkers cracks me up.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:03 AM
horizontal rule
298

where the goal has an explicit execution component, and so you need the judges.

This is to what I'm objecting. There are at least two possible things going on/at issue/that are curious here. The first is whether you should all simply accept my rules and sensibilities as part of the One True Path. You should, of course, but I'm less than certain that such will happen. Perhaps when you can snatch the pebble from my hand.

The other is whether the distinction I'm pointing at is as unclear to you as it seems clear to me. That befuddles me. Track seems like the Ur-Sport to me: first one to pass the finish line wins. Simple. I think football is more like track than gymnastics. My sense is that you don't think that's true. I'm not even sure that you'd grant track as straightforward in a way that gymnastics is not.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:03 AM
horizontal rule
299

I get the feeling that a lot of the argument is due to gymnastics effectively awarding partial credit in the execution score, which requires a degree of subjective judging. An event like weightlifting isn't really so different--the weight is like the difficulty score, and in the execution you have to lift it using a specified form and hold it for a specified amount of time, and this is determined by a panel of three judges (who don't always agree). The only distinction is that the scoring is a binary pass/fail.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:05 AM
horizontal rule
300

Katherine,

Of course it's biased anecdata, but what the hell am I supposed to do, run double blind studies?

No. I value your insight. The thing is that around here much of what drives these comment sections is picking apart each other's arguments. It is a sport. Or maybe entertainment.

So don't take it personally. I think it is generally good-spirited and I think we all know it is easier to rip someone else's argument rather than making one of our own so if someone is only criticizing then in my book that someone is losing.

So keep your chin up and always remember "Tripp is the likable one."


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:06 AM
horizontal rule
301

296: For that matter, the role of the handler is pretty crucial in a dog show.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:07 AM
horizontal rule
302

I'm objecting to 'not a sport' as determined by 'not measured by a stopwatch and/or a set of rules I as an American male find intuitive.' (And as far as that goes, well, there were people protesting Phelps' 0.01 win, on the grounds that the touchpad could be wrong.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:07 AM
horizontal rule
303

I believe the rules for gymnastics is also fairly mechanistic. You start with a base difficulty for your routine and an execution score that I believe starts at ten. The deductions are subtracted from the execution score and the resulting base and execution scores are added together. How much is taken off for each mistake is predetermined the subjective part is whether the mistake was big enough to gain the penalty which is the subjective part in most sports.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:08 AM
horizontal rule
304

I'm with you, Tim, so long as you'll acknowledge this as the true Ur sport. It meets all your criteria, right?


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:09 AM
horizontal rule
305

Remember, ladies like Tripp, for some value of "lady".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:10 AM
horizontal rule
306

298: I get the distinction with track. Some ball sports do seem close to track in their simplicity--field hockey, soccer: get the ball in the net. Ice hockey is the same thing with a puck. Basketball is close but the dribbling, fouls, & different value shots change things a bit. Tennis, volleyball, & badminton also all follow the same basic formula of: don't let the ball fall on your side of the court & don't hit it out of bounds. Baseball and football are a completely different story, & people from overseas often seem totally perplexed by those two. Baseball, I watched & played & obsessed over as a kid, so I don't have that trouble, but football I ignored until I started going to games in college.

Cricket, I really don't get.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:10 AM
horizontal rule
307

For that matter, the role of the handler is pretty crucial in a dog show.

My guilty pleasure is that I enjoy watching the handler perform more than watching the dog. I love watching the non-athletic people in evening wear trotting around the arena. I find it visually humorous. Granted nobody slips on a banana peel but still.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:10 AM
horizontal rule
308

Generally speaking, "not a sport" sentiment can be valid insofar as it looks as "sport" as a continuum from less to more dependence on subjective scoring-by-judge. There is no sport that does not require some degree of refereeing and subjective calls, even track sports, but it will not do to pretend that dressage, rhythmic gymnastics and 100m sprints don't occupy different spaces on that continuum.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:11 AM
horizontal rule
309

(And as far as that goes, well, there were people protesting Phelps' 0.01 win, on the grounds that the touchpad could be wrong.)

Watching that replay over and over and over, I could see a real possibility that there could be a different winner based on "finger made contact with touchpad first" and "finger made contact with touchpad with sufficient pressure to trigger the timing device first." It does sort of seem nuts to distinguish winners from losers based on such a miniscule fraction of time. But Phelps is cute, so.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:11 AM
horizontal rule
310

(And as far as that goes, well, there were people protesting Phelps' 0.01 win, on the grounds that the touchpad could be wrong.)

But that would be a mechanical error. Given sufficient super slow-mo, anyone could look at the tape and know, independent of any other person or organization, who won. Perhaps, in time, when we get sufficiently sophisticated computer and imaging technology, and they're able to draw on the screen various body lines of form that should be followed for a perfect score, I'll change my mind on gymnastics.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:12 AM
horizontal rule
311

304: It is, with the caveat that whether one gets the start value sometimes depends on the execution, e.g., you might get points for doing one hard move into another hard move, so if you fall on the first, you get credit for doing the first hard move (minus the fall) plus the second hard move, but no points for the transition.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:13 AM
horizontal rule
312

305 is awesome.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:14 AM
horizontal rule
313

Cricket, I really don't get.

Many years ago I had the best time with a penpal of mine from England. We met through our jobs at Globalcorp and agreed that though email he would teach me cricket and I would teach him baseball.

It was a great time that took a couple months. One of our biggest difficulties is that some of the terms were the same but meant different things. Also, we each discovered the assumptions we had been making. Plus some things, like the 'balk' rule, are incredibly hard to describe with words. During research I found out how huge the official baseball rulebook is too.

As I say, it was a great time, and eventually I got to go to England and try Cricket, and he came here and tried slowpitch softball.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:14 AM
horizontal rule
314

300: Though in weightlifting, it's once again something that most people can grasp pretty easily. Anyone who's ever lifted something heavy has some idea of what it looks like when they have control of the weight and when they don't. The judges are just looking for someone to have control of the weight (and to have moved it to the right part of the body depending on the lift, but that's super easy to pick up). There's only a very occasional case where it's ambiguous.

In gymnastics, the entire sport is deliberately ambiguous. You can tell a really difficult routine from a really easy routine, but at the elite levels there are a lot of difficult routines and the differences between say the top 4 or 5 are nearly impossible to discern.

In things like football and basketball, I'd say the bigger issue is fouls either not being seen or not being called. The rules for the fouls themselves are pretty cut and dried, but there's a lot of action going on and it's hard for the refs to see. The closest to a judgement call in those ball sports tends to happen (and this is especially the case in soccer) when a foul occurs and is seen, but isn't called because the judge decides that it would not affect play. Now, that means a lot of luck is involved for each team, and they can mostly hope that their fouls aren't seen or that the refs won't call them for a foul they weren't really committing, but at least no one's trying to figure out if a super-twisty spin is more difficult than a semi-twisty double spin.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:15 AM
horizontal rule
315

311: People were arguing that because there was no picture, the touchpad should be automatically considered suspect. I mean, look, no one's seriously saying that because it could have come down to someone's fingernails not being filed, that swimming is ridiculous because who the hell can tell the difference between someone going 0.01 and someone going 0.02 and that it's really not a sport when they're awarding different medals for what the eye sees as a tie.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:16 AM
horizontal rule
316

Remember, ladies like Tripp, for some value of "lady".

Why John, you make me blush. I never thought of you as a lady, but I will accept your definition if you insist. Now come give big daddy a hug.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:17 AM
horizontal rule
317

But Phelps is cute, so.

This is totally wrong. What he is, is the best example you'll find of why it's very weird that men have nipples.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:18 AM
horizontal rule
318

but at least no one's trying to figure out if a super-twisty spin is more difficult than a semi-twisty double spin.

But that isn't part of the judging in gymnastics. Those are part of the base score that is predetermined. The judging with the caveat of 312 is all about fouls.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:18 AM
horizontal rule
319

In gymnastics, the entire sport is deliberately ambiguous. You can tell a really difficult routine from a really easy routine, but at the elite levels there are a lot of difficult routines and the differences between say the top 4 or 5 are nearly impossible to discern.

I'm arguing about this more than I care, but this smacks of 'well, I didn't understand it, so there must be no there there.' Gymnastics changed its scoring recently. So the coach of the all around champion looked at the new system, and designed a routine that would maximize points under the new system and said 'you need to learn how to execute this perfectly if you want to win.' They didn't just say 'well, we'll do whatever, and they'll assign points and we have no idea how it works.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:19 AM
horizontal rule
320

Also, as long as the swimming touch pads are designed by Diebold, I think they need to provide the athletes with receipts.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:21 AM
horizontal rule
321

Cala,

People were arguing that because there was no picture, the touchpad should be automatically considered suspect.

Actually I think people were arguing that the picture they saw made it look very much like Phelps had not won and had no chance of being the winner.

As a baseball umpire the hardest call to make is when the runner's foot steps on the base and the ball enters the firstbaseman's mitt some distance away.

I'm pretty sure modern physics has shown that it is completely impossible to determine if two events distant from each other are simultaneous.

Not the same as the Phelp's case but interesting nonetheless.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:22 AM
horizontal rule
322

Ur-Sport.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:23 AM
horizontal rule
323

303: Actually, they have a super-speed camera that catches all those finishes at something like 1000-5000 frames per second. FINA officials went to the footage to review the race after the Czech team filed a protest and said that it supported Phelps' last instant win.

305: I'll hand that ur-sport status, sure. Obstacle courses, too.

319: But that difficulty score still seems dodgy to me. And I was also referring to Ttam's account of Savate scoring, which depends on the difficulty of the strike as well as contact. That stuff just seems like an enormous source of estimate error/noise, which makes it almost impossible to really sort the top people in the world from one another in any sort of definitive way (excepting Phelps-style freaks who destroy everyone else, but then you just run into the problem of sorting 2nd from 3rd from 4th, etc.)


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:25 AM
horizontal rule
324

316: And yet it's still mistaken, surely, to argue that the races Phelps participated in are as dependent on the decisions of judges as, say, the outcomes in diving or synchronized swimming or floor routines in gymnastics. It's a non-trivial issue, because corruption of judges in scored sports like diving (or figure skating, in the winter games) is arguably increasingly denting spectator confidence. For those reasons the whole "is it really a sport" thing can't just be brushed off as blunt chauvinism. Along with the issue of the increasingly obvious hypocrisy surrounding doping policy, it really is one of the two major issues of the Games going forward.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:25 AM
horizontal rule
325

Tripp, I didn't say that I liked you. I was just refreshing people's memories about your self-reported status with the laydeez.

Tim, why are you continuing to argue? As far as I know, your root argument is nothing more than "I find gymnastics hard to understand".

The stunts are well defined and the difficulty scores uncontroversial, regardless of whether you know or care. The style points are pretty well defined too, ROWYKOC. Only the exact number of points deducted is subjective, and they use five judges and average the middle three to minimize that problem.

There's equal subjectivity in football, and if anything more in basketball. Your only point is that, even though judging can swing a game, it doesn't swing the game by assigning final scores.

Your further argument that gymnastics is not really a sport, on the basis of what you've said, would also apply to boxing, wrestling, and martial arts, which I don't think that you've acknowledged.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:32 AM
horizontal rule
326

325: I'm not arguing that it's identically dependent on judging. Just that if people exclude gymnastics on being inscrutable and subjective, one would expect they'd do this in other sports, and they don't, and I think that's largely due to lack of exposure to gymnastics.

Gymnastics is more subjective than timed sports. Arguably equivalent in terms of complexity of the rules with football. And certainly equivalent with boxing or martial arts or wrestling or fencing, and yet you don't hear much about how wrestling isn't a real sport because the guys compete in spandex and something called 'penetration' is an important component.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:34 AM
horizontal rule
327

So the coach of the all around champion looked at the new system, and designed a routine that would maximize points under the new system and said 'you need to learn how to execute this perfectly if you want to win.'

So no one can ever invent a new move in any competition? Or is the scoring flexible enough to accomodate any new combination or twist invented by the gymnasts and their coach? Do you need to file a move application with the international committee if you want to incorporate something that doesn't have an explicit score into your routine?

I guess it just strikes me as kind of crazy because, well, the human body can move in infinite ways. That's why there were a fascinating series of arguments about who was the best running back on Ta-Nehisi Coates's blog, since everyone was discussing the different styles, whether they prized the fluidity, the juking, the power, or what not... That's what happens in ball sports when people argue on difficulty and style instead of raw points scored, it becomes a never ending argument with a top 10 or 20 that can never be separated. I'm amazed that gymnastics claims to have figured it out without ambiguity.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:36 AM
horizontal rule
328

I'm pretty sure modern physics has shown that it is completely impossible to determine if two events distant from each other are simultaneous.

Not applicable at these velocities and distances.

Corruption of judges / referees / umpires can be a problem with any sport. In one case the US claimed that the referees stole a basketball game against the USSR. I don't think that gymnastics is much different.

Remember, too, that not only can the judges be biased and crooked, so can the people protesting the judge's decisions. I ertainly wouldn't accept Bela Karolyi's accusations about anyone at face value. My guess is that in 95% of the cases the losers accept that they've lost, and that most of the protests are of very close contests. Same as any other sport.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:38 AM
horizontal rule
329

this smacks of 'well, I didn't understand it, so there must be no there there.'

I think it has to do with how important the judges are to determining the winner of a competition in an ideal case of the sport. It's pretty easy for me to imagine a closely competed track race in which the referees never enter into it. It's easy to imagine, if unlikely to happen, a closely competed basketball game in which the referees never enter into it. That's what makes pick-up games possible. It's very hard for me to imagine a closely competed gymnastics competition in which people can do without the judges.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:39 AM
horizontal rule
330

So no one can ever invent a new move in any competition?

I am not sure how it works, but the difficulty scores are assigned before the gymnast competes, so I imagine it's either a) flips and twists are worth points, so your new move might be adding a new twist where one has not been done before, which means it already falls into a pre-established pattern or b) since the start values are approved ahead of time, a decision on the difficulty of a new element is decided by a panel.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:39 AM
horizontal rule
331

Gymnastics judges people on specific standardized forms. I could imagine someone developing a new gymnastics with additional, different standardized forms. Obviously to judge, though you have to have standardization.

I doubt that there are a lot of killer moves that people can do but which aren't allowed or judged in competition. My guess is that if a competitor succeeded in adding a level of difficulty to a stunt that they'd get credit for it.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:42 AM
horizontal rule
332

JE states also that gymnastics is equivalent in subjectivity with boxing, martial arts, wrestling or fencing, but I don't think this case has been made. Wrestling and judo events are judged on pins, which are hardly a particularly ambiguous standard. Fencing has worked harder than perhaps any other sport to eliminate doubt from the outcome, what with the elaborate electronic rigging to identify touches. Olympic boxing is scored on strikes in a specific scoring zone, and less ambiguous thereby than professional boxing (albeit more poncey owing to that ridiculous headgear).

In any case, I would say it rather depends on which gymnastics events we're talking about; gymnastics is a cluster of disciplines, not a single sport. Whether someone executed all their elements and stuck the landing off the pommel horse is not equivalent to who got the higher score for handling in their rhythmic routine, and it's easy to make a case that the former is more unambiguously "sporting" than the latter.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:42 AM
horizontal rule
333

Not applicable at these velocities and distances.

I differ. Sure, at these velocities and distances it can be determined close enough for all practical purposes, but not close enough for an avid sports fan. You know how absolutist those people are.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:42 AM
horizontal rule
334

It's easy to imagine, if unlikely to happen, a closely competed basketball game in which the referees never enter into it.

Yeah, if you're an analytic philosopher who's never seen a basketball game. Get real, Tim. In every basketball game the teams have to figure out how the refs are calling the game. If the two coaches and the refs are all pretty much in harmony, the refs will not visibly affect the game, but that's pretty much a special case. And it only means that the refs didn't influence the game because both coaches wanted the same thing that the refs did.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:46 AM
horizontal rule
335

The Phelps thing was pretty interesting. My swimming career (and I did some refereeing as well) spanned the time when touchpads became common. I have no doubt that without the touchpad, that the Serbian (not Czech) guy would have been declared the winner. It was crazy trying to sort out the winners in a short sprint race, there was a famous picture in Swimmer's World around then which showed the finish of the Small College (before Div II & Div III split) 50 Free finals with all 6 contestants finishing for all intents and purposes absolutely simultaneously. I note that they only seem to go to the hundredth of a second these days; I know the equipment records more finely than that and they used to go to thousandths to break ties, but I think now they just declare it a tie. Would that have been the case in the 100 Fly does anyone know?

In the early days, the pads were not that reliable and sometimes would not register.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:46 AM
horizontal rule
336

Whether someone executed all their elements and stuck the landing off the pommel horse is not equivalent to who got the higher score for handling in their rhythmic routine

Is that what this is all about? I don't think anyone is arguing about rhythmic gymnastics with the ribbons and whatnot; it's been limited to artistic gymnastics.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:47 AM
horizontal rule
337

335: Relativity is what's not relevant. It doesn't affect the things we're talking about. Relativity is about clocks orbiting the earth at high velocities for periods of years.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:47 AM
horizontal rule
338

No, wrestlers and boxers often win on points.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:49 AM
horizontal rule
339

It's easy to imagine, if unlikely to happen, a closely competed basketball game in which the referees never enter into it.

I find this, actually, quite difficult to imagine.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:49 AM
horizontal rule
340

I know the equipment records more finely than that and they used to go to thousandths to break ties, but I think now they just declare it a tie. Would that have been the case in the 100 Fly does anyone know?

There were several ties in various swimming events that I saw, at least two for medals. They only measured to hundredths of a second.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:50 AM
horizontal rule
341

re: 324

And I was also referring to Ttam's account of Savate scoring, which depends on the difficulty of the strike as well as contact. That stuff just seems like an enormous source of estimate error/noise, which makes it almost impossible to really sort the top people in the world from one another in any sort of definitive way

I'm a judge. I've judged at two of the recent national level 'assaut' [controlled-contact*] competitions in the UK [there are four a year]. The scoring really isn't that complicated, and, while there's a subject element it doesn't really confuse the final result.

The contact points are easy: 4 for a head-kick, 2 for a body-kick, 1 for a leg-kick or sweep. 1 for a punch, 2 for any combination of punches. That's it. The judge keeps a running total and then scores each round as a clear win, narrow win or draw based contact points. They then assign a clear win, narrow win or draw based on technical execution.

If one guy consistently batters the other guy, he wins, as no-one would score a round as a clear win on technique to the person being battered even if the other guy is throwing every flashy technique in the book. If you know the sport it's usually** obvious who's best.

The technique points are really there to act as an incentive to the fighters to try to fight with good technique and with a bit of panache. They function much like some of the rules in fencing -- they make the fight look like a fencing match or a savate match rather than just two guys waving swords about or two guys slugging each other. As I said, you'd pretty much never ever find a fight where one person outscored the other on (legal) contacts and didn't win.

* there is no full-contact savate competition in the UK.

** although I've been surprised by scores once or twice. The last fight I was in, one of the three judges scored the fight for me and from my perspective I'd just had my ass kicked.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:51 AM
horizontal rule
342

I don't think anyone is arguing about rhythmic gymnastics with the ribbons and whatnot

Well, they ought to be; of all the forms of gymnastics accredited as sports at the Olympic, they're the most vulnerable to Tim's criticism and to the "is it really a sport" objection. It is, in fact, possible for a novice to tell who's doing well and who isn't on the uneven bars or the rings.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:52 AM
horizontal rule
343

Fencing has worked harder than perhaps any other sport to eliminate doubt from the outcome, what with the elaborate electronic rigging to identify touches.

Which all means shit when both lights go off and the ref has to call the touch. (Epee excepted.) I love the sport, but fencers bitch about questionable calls all the time. The commentator for NBC was going on about how one of the American fencers, Keeth Smart has troubles with certain international judges because they don't like how he moves his arm when he attacks.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:53 AM
horizontal rule
344

I note that they only seem to go to the hundredth of a second these days; I know the equipment records more finely than that and they used to go to thousandths to break ties, but I think now they just declare it a tie. Would that have been the case in the 100 Fly does anyone know?

According to what I read, the equipment records to the thousandth of a second, but for a person to be declared a winner, they have to be ahead by a hundredth of a second. So if Phelps had beat out Cavic by 0.005, they would have tied.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:56 AM
horizontal rule
345

fencers bitch about questionable calls all the time.

Uh, I thought we had established already that everyone in every sport bitches about questionable calls all the time, but that this does not in fact make referee involvement equivalent in every sport.

Referees in fencing, for example, are not being called upon to judge aesthetics. Judges in diving are. Judges in some of the gymnastics disciplines are. That is a qualitative difference which "oh there's questionable calls in X too" does not address.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:56 AM
horizontal rule
346

Wrestling and judo events are judged on pins

There is a decent amount of judging in judo. In order to get ippon a throw must be done with sufficient control and force and the opponent must land primarily on their back which are all decided by the judges. Also contestants are stood back up if they are on the ground and not making "progress" which as far as I can tell is fairly subjective as well.

That isn't even getting into the minor point system.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:59 AM
horizontal rule
347

re: 347

Referees in fencing, for example, are not being called upon to judge aesthetics.

But they are. They might not call it that, but they often are. See Cala's comment about the guy's arm movement. The referee is judging the score based on how the movement looks to him/her and whether that movement looks 'good' in a technical sense. It's not a pure aesthetic judgment but it's not that far off it on the same continuum.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:01 AM
horizontal rule
348

Uh, I thought we had established already that everyone in every sport bitches about questionable calls all the time, but that this does not in fact make referee involvement equivalent in every sport.

And once again, I'm not arguing for equivalence, but just pointing out that saying 'well, fencing has electronic scoring' means shit. Fencing has a system in which whether contact has been made is recorded electronically. Gymnastics has instant replays that the judges can use to score. And in fencing, whether the referee likes how you attack might mean the difference between a point and no point at all. It's a lot closer to non-ribbon gymnastics, wrestling, or boxing than it is basketball or football.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:02 AM
horizontal rule
349

John,

Relativity is what's not relevant. It doesn't affect the things we're talking about. Relativity is about clocks orbiting the earth at high velocities for periods of years.

Oh, my mistake. Do you recall at what velocities or amount of time relativity 'starts to affect things.' I'm trying to recall that. Is that what they call the 'relativity barrier?'


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:02 AM
horizontal rule
350

everyone in every sport bitches about questionable calls all the time

Ah, a challenge. Hmmm. I think that in shot put and bowling questionable calls are very rare. Are there any others? Pole vault and high-jump, perhaps.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:04 AM
horizontal rule
351

Or to put it another way, if we make the category "refs assign the score based on execution", which I think Tim was going for, that includes a lot of sports that aren't usually whined about as being subjective.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:04 AM
horizontal rule
352

Well, they ought to be; of all the forms of gymnastics accredited as sports at the Olympic, they're the most vulnerable to Tim's criticism and to the "is it really a sport" objection.

Right, which is why we aren't arguing about it. Arguing that rhythmic gymnastics isn't a sport is like beating a crippled child. Also, I'm pretty sure Tim is saying that even artistic gymnastics doesn't really count, and this less defensible claim is the one that gets the attention.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:05 AM
horizontal rule
353

Are we talking about gymnastics generally or only women's gymnastics? Women's floor exercise does have music, and I saw one Chinese gymnast praised for her presentation and personal projection (and in one case, eyebrows). That part of women's sports (cuteness) does strike me as unathletic and I'd like to see it gone.

Back to basketball: the NBA is one of the world's top handful of sports leagues, and their referees take bribes, favor or disfavor certain players and teams (both as individual refs and, reportedly, systematically throughout the league), call inconsistently from one to the next, and only call travelling and contact when they have a certain special feeling that they should. A lot of games are decided that way, even though the score on the board is unambiguous (balls through the hoop).

So in short, I can't believe that we're having this argument.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:05 AM
horizontal rule
354

348: Yes, the whole Swedish/Armenian wrestler medal brouhaha stemmed from some serious questions about jusdging and the awarding of points. (And from the articles that I read there is a lot of reason to thinki twas pretty biased.) At the top level, any little edge is liable to be the deciding factor.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:08 AM
horizontal rule
355

343: Thanks, ttaM, that's interesting to get more detail. I knew you'd judged bouts, but I didn't know it was at such a high level. How often are draws or narrow wins declared? I suppose the savate scoring you described seems more appropriate to me since it allows for someone who obviously got their ass kicked to always lose, and it allows judges to basically say "they were the same" without trying to drill down to an arbitrary hundredth of a point.

Also, I just realized. Ultimate Frisbee's totally an ur-sport. We handle all our fouls without refs (observers are present at the higher levels of play, but I'm not sure how their decisions are actually incorporated into calls) and the system for declaring fouls is pretty fair and unambiguous, with penalties determined by fixed rules depending on the judgement calls of the players involved in any potential violation.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:13 AM
horizontal rule
356

if we make the category "refs assign the score based on execution", which I think Tim was going for, that includes a lot of sports that aren't usually whined about as being subjective.

I think people actually whine about it all the time, usually in the form "They're destroying the sport." That is, robbing it of its "sport-ness." To some extent, professional boxing has been destroyed in just this way, and gets, at its worst, likened to professional wrestling.

Also, I'm pretty sure Tim is saying that even artistic gymnastics doesn't really count

"Doesn't count" is probably too strong. Perhaps, instead, it's better to think of it as a continuum. My argument is that gymnastics is further from the track ideal than the other events under discussion.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:14 AM
horizontal rule
357

351:

Best I could find:
The clock on board [a satellite] was operated for about 20 days without turning on the synthesizer and the frequency measure during that interval was 442.5 parts in 10 to the 12th [1,000,000,000,000] faster then the clocks on the ground.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:15 AM
horizontal rule
358

"Doesn't count" is probably too strong. Perhaps, instead, it's better to think of it as a continuum. My argument is that gymnastics is further from the track ideal than the other events under discussion

I think the heart of the dispute is in declaring the track end of the paradigm the "ideal."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:17 AM
horizontal rule
359

One of the things we're also missing is the incredible athletic difficulty of the things that gymnasts do. It's a whole-body sport that require strength, endurance, flexibility, balance, quickness, coordination, courage, and god knows what else. I dabbled very briefly in two or three of the simplest moves, and they were hard.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:19 AM
horizontal rule
360

Ultimate Frisbee sounds like Richard Rorty's dream sport.

Tim will place gymnastics on the true path of science.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:20 AM
horizontal rule
361

One of the things we're also missing is the incredible athletic difficulty of the things that gymnasts do.

Exactly. It's where this whole "cuteness" aspect is so insulting -- it's not just about who can do prettier little routines, it's about who can successfully perform maneuvers that require ridiculous levels of strength, flexibility, and coordination.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:22 AM
horizontal rule
362

The heart of the dispute is the collective mistake of assigning the concept of "sport" a positive value.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:26 AM
horizontal rule
363

Also, I just realized. Ultimate Frisbee's totally an ur-sport. We handle all our fouls without refs (observers are present at the higher levels of play, but I'm not sure how their decisions are actually incorporated into calls) and the system for declaring fouls is pretty fair and unambiguous, with penalties determined by fixed rules depending on the judgement calls of the players involved in any potential violation.

Hilarious.

I watched the rings final in the gymnastics, and it was very obvious that the guy who won was much better than everyone else, but I couldn't see much in it between the rest.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:26 AM
horizontal rule
364

The French dude that the did 'Victorian'? Which is, like, impossible? I hope he gets laid. That was so cool.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:32 AM
horizontal rule
365

350: Olympics judges specifically do not have access to instant replays in many sports -- AFAIK fencing is actually an exception to this rule since 2004, and gymnastics isn't -- so they can't necessarily be adduced as the equivalent of the conductive scoring system. And the supposed judging of points alleged by ttaM based on form is a new wrinkle to me; I thought fencing judges mostly adjudicated "right of way," which is not about form per se. Basically I think some are, in defending against Tim, getting sucked into trying too hard to play up supposed "amibiguities" in certain sports where they don't actually play that large a role.

354: Right, which is why we aren't arguing about it. Arguing that rhythmic gymnastics isn't a sport is like beating a crippled child.

And yet, there it is, a sport at the Olympics. Along with dressage. Basically what I'm getting at is that while Tim is wrong about assailing "gymnastics" generally, the sentiment he expresses is perfectly valid once you add some caveats to it, like "an Olympic sport should not depend heavily on judges' scoring of intangibles." This leads to some unpalatable conclusions, like for instance that diving, while indubitably athletically impressive, would probably have to go under any such rule. But it's a question that should be asked.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:33 AM
horizontal rule
366

re: 357

It's not really that high a level. There's just not a huge depth of participation in the UK, so, pretty much by default, the only regular competition is in the national league. So, while I'm judging at 'national' level, that doesn't mean what it means in a sport with a higher level of participation. There are only about 60 or 70 people fighting regularly in the UK*, so you can pretty much get everyone fighting at 'national' league events that happen every three or four months. There's no need for regional or club level competition.

The win, narrow win, draw or loss score is on a per round basis. They then get totaled to produce a score for the whole fight. Draws aren't that uncommon. In the competitions I participate in, draws are settled by weight. Smaller fighter wins.

* participation is higher, naturally. Quite a few people train but don't fight.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:33 AM
horizontal rule
367

One of the things we're also missing is the incredible athletic difficulty of the things that gymnasts do.

No, we're not. The same can, and should, be said of ballet. Those fuckers are unreal, and athletic as all hell. But ballet isn't a sport.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:33 AM
horizontal rule
368

I think that what we're describing as "subjective" is what makes individual contests like gymnastics interesting sports. A trained mind is able to pick out not only what the mistakes are in a routine but also what a perfect routine for a particular individual mind might have looked like. A judge is able to do this evaluation for individuals of vastly differing body types and performative styles and then relate the scores vis-a-vis one another to determine who got closer to the perfect. I love this aspect of sports. The mind of the armchair quarterback is beautiful in motion.

Balance beam, the rings—sure, they are not like visually objective track races but I don't think they are any less credible qua sport.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:35 AM
horizontal rule
369

I'd also casually drop into the conversation that there are at least six different codes of football (association, rugby league, rugby union, Australian Rules, American, Canadian), plus several variants of most of these codes (sevens, five-a-side, futbol de salao, arena football), but only one gymnastics.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:36 AM
horizontal rule
370

And the supposed judging of points alleged by ttaM based on form is a new wrinkle to me

I didn't say the judges were awarding points for form. I said that whether a hit counted as a hit sometimes depended on things other than whether the buzzer went off. And those things depend partly on the form of the fencer.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:36 AM
horizontal rule
371

re: 371

You forgot 'gaelic'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:37 AM
horizontal rule
372

371/373: Also "college".


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:38 AM
horizontal rule
373

Football sucks.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:40 AM
horizontal rule
374

yes, and there's the unified code by which Gaelic and Aussie teams occasionally play each other. These distinctions are all presumably based on objective criteria, because otherwise that would be bad.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:40 AM
horizontal rule
375

Actually I rather like Yngling.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:41 AM
horizontal rule
376

372: As I understand it, whether a hit counts as a hit depends on either the buzzer going off or on who has right-of-way, right? Those are outcomes dependant on form but in neither case is it the form itself that's being directly judged by the official.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:41 AM
horizontal rule
377

371: Plus gaelic and compromise rules (which I believe allows brass knuckles but stops just short of chains and knives).


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:43 AM
horizontal rule
378

No one claims that ballet is a sport. It isn't organized or scored as one.

Tim, I've said this before, but you can really be an idiot at times. It appalls me that an NBA fan can say the bullshit things you've said. We get your point: while basketball games can and often do hinge on a pattern of subjective calls, subjective calls are not constitutive of the final score. But we just don't agree that that should be a decisive point.

You also exaggerate the subjectivity because you aren't very interested. My guess is, as I've said, that 95%+ of the time the loser agrees that they lost, with thmajority of the 5% being genuinely close calls, and I'd also guess that most of the protests are at least as subjective and biased as the original judging.

I'd like to see the femmey parts talken out of women's floor exercise.

As for biased judging, tell it to the NBA.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:44 AM
horizontal rule
379

I thought fencing judges mostly adjudicated "right of way," which is not about form per se.

In one version (the one that comes up most often in sabre), it is all about form. You can steal right-of-way by being much faster (assuming the ref agrees or you only light up one light), or by successfully parrying (assuming the ref agrees you succeeded.) But other than that, the call is 'did the person give up right of way by hesitating or by missing an attack opportunity.' Your arm has to come out first, and whatever little movements you do have to be interpreted by the judge as not giving up the attack. It's wildly subjective. (It also leads to the temptation to fence the ref rather than the opponent, which goes nowhere good.)

The ref won't say 'your attack wasn't pretty, so you don't get a point', but he might say 'y attacks. y halts. x takes over the attack, both land. touche x.' And I'm not sure there's a prettiness score in gymnastics; it seems like things like keeping your toes pointed and landing cleanly are marks of having mastered the routine.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:44 AM
horizontal rule
380

371: Men's gymnastics and women's gymnastics don't count as two?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:45 AM
horizontal rule
381

re: 378

Placing too much weight on the direct/indirect criterion is in danger of shading into sophistry, though. The form is still being judged, just indirectly.

I'm with you that there are differences between sports and gymnastics or diving are different from, say, soccer.
But there are lots of sports that are rather closer to the gymnastics end of the continuum than at first appear.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:45 AM
horizontal rule
382

And then there's that kind of football they play in the Hebrides with a sheep's carcass, hundreds to a side.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:46 AM
horizontal rule
383

Trampolining appears to be a form of gymnastics.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:46 AM
horizontal rule
384

Or is that the Orkneys?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:47 AM
horizontal rule
385

re: 386

Orkney. A friend of mine has family up there. He says it's terrifying.

http://www.bagame.com/main.html


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:49 AM
horizontal rule
386

373, 376: Damn you people.

Though my delay was caused by looking through the wikipedia pages for gaelic sports that led me to caid, which sounds amazing. Basically a full-village, full-contact game somewhere between football and capture the flag. People in the old days knew how to have some fun.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:53 AM
horizontal rule
387

re: 388

See the link in 387. Which is the same basic game, as played in Scotland. There are similar village ball games in England, too.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:54 AM
horizontal rule
388

I thought last time they did do away with the femme grace note stuff for the floor exercise.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:54 AM
horizontal rule
389

387, 389: Pwn me once, shame on you. Pwn me twice, I will cut you.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:57 AM
horizontal rule
390

Aussie rules has the most interesting officals. In the games that I have watched, the field umpire seems to be required to run around as if he has a stick up his butt, and then there are the "How long is your cock?" goal indications by the goal unpires.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:58 AM
horizontal rule
391

But we just don't agree that that should be a decisive point.

I get that. It's just that you're wrong. The relative accessibility of sport is an important part of it.

It would be interesting to see how various people, across various cultures and levels of exposure to sports, grouped events.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:59 AM
horizontal rule
392

387, 389: Still, cool stuff. But rural areas of the UK still seem to me like they're slices of the 1800s that suddenly fell into the modern day. As opposed to rural areas of the US which seem like much less charming slices of the 1930s to 50s, depending.

I'll add those games to the ur-sport list.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:01 AM
horizontal rule
393

392: The officials are definitely the highlight of Aussie rules.

Unless it's the commentators. The first time I ever saw an Aussie rules broadcast, they were laconically chatting about the brawling behind the lines and how the losing team was too focussed on brawling while the winning team was kicking goals. Even in Canadian hockey, a brawl during play is at least an event, not something you note in passing.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:03 AM
horizontal rule
394

The relative accessibility of sport is an important part of it.

Yeah, but you think that American Football is an accessible sport. Whereas everyone else in the world does not. In fact, most of us consider it a textbook example of a sport which is stupidly over-complicated. This ought to be suggesting to you that your intuitions about what counts as accessible don't universalize.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:04 AM
horizontal rule
395

I also disagree that gymnastics is less accessible. Even if you don't understand the fine points, most people watching gymnastics for the first time will say "Oh, wow!" from time to time, and if you're watching with someone who knows their stuff the fine points aren't impossible to explain.

I think that you're comparing a totally naive gym spectators to a football spectator who's been hearing about it all their life. If you watch any TV to speak of you're going to get football.

And remember, only a tiny slice of the world population are positivists who believe that "If it's subjective it's imaginary, if there's an exact number it's real".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:05 AM
horizontal rule
396

I definitely have a hard time with diving. It's clearly a sport, but I have a hard time distinguishing the good ones. The really excellent ones come out (especially in synchronized diving) and the bad ones who splash a lot are reasonably obvious, but they all look pretty good to me.

In some ways I think that certain parts of gymnastic floor routines have gone too far in the direction of being sport rather than art. This is definitely, doubly true of figure skating which used to be like dance on ice. I remember several years ago watching one of the pair routines (maybe in 1992 or 1994) where one was difficult and much more beautiful than the other, but lost out to the team that had done more of a particular kind of jump.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:20 AM
horizontal rule
397

Way up at 257: I think if we only saw the Superbowl once every four years, we'd think it just made no sense.

I must say (since that's more or less my experience and response): tee-hee.

Sorry -- carry on.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:21 AM
horizontal rule
398

398: Someone above said that diving might have to go under his rules. Huh.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:32 AM
horizontal rule
399

A huge number of the X-Games sports - skateboarding, bike jumping, etc. - are like gymnastics and the judging can be just as good or as poor. I've found the X-Games to have become unwatchable, mostly because I don't like ESPN's coverage, which in some ways can be worse than NBC's coverage of the Olympics.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:32 AM
horizontal rule
400

398. Figure skating is one sport that has changed the rules to become more athletic. It is called "figure" skating because one used to have to skate "figures" on the ice, called compulsaries. They chucked that because it wasn't exiting enough on tv. Several sports are changing rules so that they can be broadcast on tv in a more or less regular timeslot.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:35 AM
horizontal rule
401

400: Judging of the entry in diving is notoriously inscrutable and seems often to line up with the preconceived notions some judges have of what the podium should look like, rather than what's happening in the water. It's not clear how the sport would go about fixing this problem, which really is almost as bad as that which afflicts figure skating.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:35 AM
horizontal rule
402

So far of the Olympic Games I have seen two minutes of that event where someone cloppities a horse over fences and ponds and whatnot and about five minutes of Australia vs. Montenegro waterpolo, which gave me such severe flashbacks of nearly drowning that I had to leave the place before I had a total breakdown.

That said, I have some other things to say:

1) American football may be very straightfoward, but I've even played the damn game and I can't figure out what the hell people are doing on the tv. Why are they all standing around like that? Wait, why is the line of scrimmage being moved, and why there? etc. Booo-ring.

2) Fencing would be a much more interesting spectator sport if there were at least ONE event in which competitors got points for doing flips off furniture, swiping candles off candalabras, and proclaiming a loud SA-HA! every so often.

3) If you-all want to boot gymnastics out of the Olympic definition of "sport," that's totally fine. Gymnastics will take its bajillion television viewers and have its own party. (Even I have to admit to being deeply unsettled by rhythm gymnastics.)


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:36 AM
horizontal rule
403

You know, they have wireless fencing electronics now, so people could do flips. Candelabras might be hard to arrange, but fencers already yell.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:39 AM
horizontal rule
404

Naturally, you expect me to attack with cappa ferra.


Posted by: Indigo Montoya | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:40 AM
horizontal rule
405

Figure fencing used to be an Olympic event, but they changed the rules to stop Zorro from winning every four years.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:42 AM
horizontal rule
406

Perhaps it could be arranged to stage the fencing matches in the mast-shrouds of a clipper? First to fall to the safety nets loses.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:43 AM
horizontal rule
407

Fencing: just take the buttons off during the Olympics. More excitement, more intensity, more opportunity for new contestants.

Now is cold steel twixt gut and bladder interposed.....: commentators could make classical allusions and talk about croaked fencers of the past.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:44 AM
horizontal rule
408

True fact- Basil Rathbone was a better fencer than Errol Flynn, but as one played the villain and the other the hero in several swashbucklers, I need not tell you which one died the ignominious death.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:46 AM
horizontal rule
409

International Swashbuckling would be a great event. Participants could be required to dress like pirates (or in the case of the women's game, period ballroom gowns), and fight it out on sets tricked out like the deck of a galleon. Disqualified athletes could be made to walk the plank into a super-sized dunk tank filled with carp. Think of the possibilities.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:46 AM
horizontal rule
410

Bah. Pwned by 408.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:47 AM
horizontal rule
411

Link.

Now is steel twixt gut and bladder interposed is right, and scans better.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:49 AM
horizontal rule
412

International Swashbuckling

WANT.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:52 AM
horizontal rule
413

410: True fact. I remember seeing an interview with Rathbone where he complained that losing to Flynn all the time was acutely painful, given Flynn's minimal actual skills.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:53 AM
horizontal rule
414

ISTR it's not just that Rathbone knew better how to fence than Flynn; Flynn didn't really know how to fence at all, he just knew how to make something like fencing look good on camera.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:59 AM
horizontal rule
415

Of course, Basil Rathbone was fated to villainy when first he was given that name.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:59 AM
horizontal rule
416

413: Hah!
Good steel, thou shalt thyself in himself embowel.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:02 PM
horizontal rule
417

417. Even worse: christened Philip St. John Basil Rathbone http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basil_Rathbone


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:03 PM
horizontal rule
418

Blatant punning like "Saucy Worcester" shouldn't still be funny, but it is.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:04 PM
horizontal rule
419

Blatant punning like "Saucy Worcester" shouldn't still be funny

Moralist.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:13 PM
horizontal rule
420

I was intrigued last night to observe my roommate choosing on the television between a BBC Sherlock Holmes mystery, beach volleyball ("women in their underwear," he said dismissively) and a Star Trek Next Generation episode.

Sherlock Holmes won -- "The Case of the Greek Interpreter" as it turned out. "If those people were smart," my roommate noted, "they'd have had a second interpreter on hand to check the work of the first."


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:15 PM
horizontal rule
421

And a third to check that of the second?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:16 PM
horizontal rule
422

||

What happened to all the political threads here? Have the nomenklatura forbidden them?

Condi:

Russia is a state that is unfortunately using the one tool that it has always used whenever it wishes to deliver a message and that's its military power. That's not the way to deal in the 21st century.

The scariest thing about modern America is that no one really thinks that anyone's words should be checked against their actions, or that some statements are too ridiculous even to bother with.

|>


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:17 PM
horizontal rule
423

Many of the initial 10,400 spectators, more used to the excitement of weekly horse races at the same venue, fell asleep during the dressage events, sometimes referred to as 'horse ballet.'

One of them told the city's Sunday Morning Post newspaper she was 'deeply bored.' 'The horses just walked from one side of the arena to the other and then back again,' she said.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:18 PM
horizontal rule
424

359:

John,
Ah. So it seems you are saying the effects of relativity are immeasurably small at smaller distances or velocities. Am I getting you right?

And you know you like me. Admit it you big lug.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:19 PM
horizontal rule
425

"If those people were smart," my roommate noted, "they'd have had a second interpreter on hand to check the work of the first."

That was the Mongol practice. Two groups of translators would work independently, and there better not be big differences between the translations.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:20 PM
horizontal rule
426

Many of the initial 10,400 spectators, more used to the excitement of weekly horse races at the same venue, fell asleep during the dressage events, sometimes referred to as 'horse ballet.'

How very scrutable of them. Those weird westerners, making horses perform ballet.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:23 PM
horizontal rule
427

Yeah, but you think that American Football is an accessible sport. Whereas everyone else in the world does not.

Think of it in terms of a pickup game. You could get into a football pickup game inside of five minutes and do enough--"run long; if you see the ball near you, catch it"-- to be playing. I'm not sure what pickup gymnastics would look like, but I think it would take longer to set up the rules.

If you-all want to boot gymnastics out of the Olympic definition of "sport," that's totally fine. Gymnastics will take its bajillion television viewers and have its own party.

Nobody wants to boot gymnastics out of the Olympics. Nobody, inc. me, wants to boot gymnastics out of the category of "sport."


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:23 PM
horizontal rule
428

Think of it in terms of a pickup game.

Which is why soccer is the most popular ball game in the world. "Don't use your hands" is pretty simple.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:25 PM
horizontal rule
429

Even worse: christened Philip St. John Basil Rathbone

Not a patch on Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:25 PM
horizontal rule
430

Things white people like: gymnastics.


Posted by: spaz | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:26 PM
horizontal rule
431

429: Gymnastics can hardly be done at a low skill level the way football can. Point: gymnastics!

New people in pickup games would tend to be frustrated by learning the rules one violation at a time.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:29 PM
horizontal rule
432

423: And a third to check that of the second?

I replied that one did have to note that -- look! -- they didn't even have electricity! Much less telephones or the yellow pages, in order to just look up Greek translators* at a whim. That's apparently why they needed to engage in such intrigue just to engage the first one.

(Thinking the whole while: it's so refreshing that you are totally uninterested in the beach volleyball.)

* I've noticed that I've wavered in my spelling of "translator." Not sure what's up with that.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:29 PM
horizontal rule
433

Gymnastics can hardly be done at a low skill level the way football can. Point: gymnastics!

Which itself has not a patch on competitive astrophysics.

In a world in which ESPN televises the national spelling bee, I suppose all things are sports.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:33 PM
horizontal rule
434

432. C'mon Ben- Roxy Music wasn't so bad that you could cast them as the villain in a rock swashbuckler.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:34 PM
horizontal rule
435

People may be a little confused about dressage here. I'm not a horse person, but have heard quite a bit about it, and it's essentially an extension of the extraordinary control called for in other sports to two bodies: the rider and the horse. This is neither easy nor boring if you know the sport. No dressage rider could do what he or she does with their horse with any other horse. As Di said upthread: medals should be awarded to the horses as well. The failure to understand may be a function of our tendency not to grasp what's called for in establishing a two-person (or -being) working relationship of great coordination.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:36 PM
horizontal rule
436

Actually, I rather like Roxy Music.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:39 PM
horizontal rule
437

Jesus, you're a moron, Tim. In 369 you recognized that gymnastic is, in fact, athletically difficult. Unlike spelling bees and astrophysics, I presume, though you didn't make that explicit at the time.

We're at the point now where trying to construe your motivation for your insane fugue has become the most interesting question.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:39 PM
horizontal rule
438

I'm not sure what pickup gymnastics would look like

Oh, I suppose you could do "pickup gymnastics" like a game of HORSE -- trade off performing tricks (cartwheel, backflip, etc.) until one person can't duplicate the trick. Of course, "pickup gymnastics" seems to present a greater risk of requiring emergency medical assistance. (Have I mentioned the year in my childhood when Olympic fever led me to think, "Hey, I wonder if I could do flippy things off of the high dive!" I couldn't. Likewise for the sommersault dismount off the balance beam.)


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:41 PM
horizontal rule
439

427, meet 250: Which is why gymnastics should be considered a competition but not a sport.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:45 PM
horizontal rule
440

Nobody wants to boot gymnastics out of the Olympics. Nobody, inc. me, wants to boot gymnastics out of the category of "sport."

meet

Which is why gymnastics should be considered a competition but not a sport. You shouldn't need special training to know who wins a sport.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:46 PM
horizontal rule
441

Dammit Cala.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:46 PM
horizontal rule
442

I did a drunken 1 1/4 gainer into a pool once. Bystanders were impressed.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:46 PM
horizontal rule
443

In 369 you recognized that gymnastic is, in fact, athletically difficult.

Along with ballet--or, according to Jason Taylor, whatever form of dancing he was doing for Dancing with the Stars--and any number of other things that we don't traditionally label sports, and which we (or many people) would recognize as farther from some central point of "sport" than other competitions.

Unlike spelling bees and astrophysics, I presume, though you didn't make that explicit at the time.

Try to be more inclusive, Emerson. I bet fit spellers perform better. What do you want, an obstacle course?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:48 PM
horizontal rule
444

442. Voluntary- or were you pushed?


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:49 PM
horizontal rule
445

I was pushed: by alcohol!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:49 PM
horizontal rule
446

439: Sorry, I meant my "continuum" remark to MattF (or maybe Smasher) to be a revision.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:50 PM
horizontal rule
447

Tim, the ballet comparison you pulled out of your butt was significantly less stupid than the astrophysics and spelling bee comparisons you found there next. If it's OK to you, I'd like to request that you not reach into that butt of yours again.

But go ahead, if you insist.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:53 PM
horizontal rule
448

You could probably turn ballet into an Olympic sport pretty easily. I could see the unlimited fouté-pirouette (en pointe, of course) event, and that could even be judged completely objectively.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:57 PM
horizontal rule
449

The real hurdle, mind you, is that ballet dancers consider mere sport to be beneath them.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 12:58 PM
horizontal rule
450

Actually, I rather like Roxy Music.

"Virginia Plain" makes me miss having an oboe.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 1:00 PM
horizontal rule
451

Wasn't there some crap about ballroom dancing becoming an Olympic sport? "Gold Medal to the Biggest Has Been" new this fall on ABC


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 1:01 PM
horizontal rule
452

Gymnastic HORSE would be a great, great Olympic spectator sport, with falls as the point scorers. They should totally do it.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 1:04 PM
horizontal rule
453

||

Breaking: Kevin Drum has jumped from the Washington Monthly to Mother Jones. Coming on the heels of Yglesias's jump from The Atlantic to Think Progress, this is HUGE! One can only wonder about the backstory behind these seismic shifts in American blogging.

|>


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 1:06 PM
horizontal rule
454

1. pickup gymnastics, in my experience, looks like: "who can balance on the back rail of the couch the best before our parents catch us"? Scoring disputes were common, alas.

The HORSE rules make more sense, but only one of us could do a cartwheel, so it would have led to angst.

2. the female gold medalists in discus & pole vault both were gymnasts at one point before they got way too tall (I think only the pole vaulter was competitive & serious about it though).

3. How did rhythmic gymnastics get in there? Did some opening ceremonies performers threaten to go on strike if they didn't get a chance at the medals?


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 1:06 PM
horizontal rule
455

448, 449: I was just thinking about that. You could also turn, say, piano-playing into an olympic competition. Also runs into the obstacle mentioned in 449.

While there's obvious truth in the sport - competition - art continuum suggested several times above, what I don't quite understand is why there's something significant at stake in it.

DS in 324 says: And yet it's still mistaken, surely, to argue that the races Phelps participated in are as dependent on the decisions of judges as, say, the outcomes in diving or synchronized swimming or floor routines in gymnastics. It's a non-trivial issue, because corruption of judges in scored sports like diving (or figure skating, in the winter games) is arguably increasingly denting spectator confidence. For those reasons the whole "is it really a sport" thing can't just be brushed off as blunt chauvinism. Along with the issue of the increasingly obvious hypocrisy surrounding doping policy, it really is one of the two major issues of the Games going forward.

It's about spectator confidence? It's about who really won? I imagine that may be a fundamental aspect of activities defined as sports; and it requires closely-defined rules. (I am ignoring DS's use of the phrase "going forward," out of respect for his dignity.)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 1:08 PM
horizontal rule
456

453: Wow! That is surprising! Doesn't Kevin Drum seem a little moderate for Mother Jones?

In a related development Hilzoy will be blogging for the Washington Monthly! That also surprises me as when people suggested she take over for Yglesias at the Atlantic I assumed that she wouldn't be interested in a paid blogging gig given her other job.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 1:10 PM
horizontal rule
457

The wikipedia entry on rhythmic gymnastics suggests that the discipline has its origins in those same Swedish Exercises that P.G. Wodehouse characters occasionally perform.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 1:11 PM
horizontal rule
458

The spectator confidence and spectator appeal things are completely disconnected from the "is judging so subjective that it isn't a sport at all?" question. As far as spectator confidence goes, if I'd ever been interested in NBA basketball or boxing, I wouldn't be any more more now.

And the subjectivity of gymnastics judging is vastly overrated. Don't listen to Bela Karolyi.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 1:13 PM
horizontal rule
459

454. 3. I think it was title IX, or the Soviet Bloc equivalent.

"Comrade, ve haf too many female gymnasts sitting around this winter. What shall we do?"

"All I have left is a ball, a hoop and a piece of ribbon. See what you can do, tovarisch."


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 1:14 PM
horizontal rule
460

454: Pick-up gymnastics leads to broken feet or toes (maybe on the corner of the coffee-table, oof!); or to a heavily bruised tail-bone, or a neck brace. Sure, you pay a price for these things.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 1:14 PM
horizontal rule
461

The spectator confidence ... completely disconnected from the "is judging so subjective that it isn't a sport at all?" question.

This is the point of disagreement. I'm an "accessible to all" kind of guy.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 1:17 PM
horizontal rule
462

--


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 1:18 PM
horizontal rule
463

457: Artistic gymnastics used to include clubs as part of the men's event. I don't know enough about rhythmic gymnastics to get past the 'whaaa?' reaction, but I can see it developing out of weird calisthenics.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 1:20 PM
horizontal rule
464

I think that we've established that American football is not, as a spectator sport, accessible to all. And that gymnastics is more accessible than you claim. And that judging is less subjective than you claim.

But it's true that people who have grown up with American football and have no interest in gymnastics find gymnastics baffling, whereas football is, to them, fascinating.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 1:20 PM
horizontal rule
465

It's amazing how many sports rules you absorb even without playing the game. I only played baseball one year at age 14, didn't enjoy it and wasn't any good. But I got 4 out of 5 on this baseball rules quiz (random questions option).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 1:30 PM
horizontal rule
466

Gymnastics was developed by German, Czech, and Swedish nationalists, essentially as a form of military training. During the early years some track events were included in gymnastics; the two sports separated only gradually.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 1:34 PM
horizontal rule
467

455: It's about spectator confidence? It's about who really won? I imagine that may be a fundamental aspect of activities defined as sports; and it requires closely-defined rules.

I get the feeling that this is meant to be in disagreement with something I've said above, but I don't see how.

(I am ignoring DS's use of the phrase "going forward," out of respect for his dignity.)

That's nothing. I asked a woman the other day if she wanted to come over to my place so we could "leverage our synergies." Worked, too.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 1:40 PM
horizontal rule
468

hasn't DS already explained that he's a poet?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 1:53 PM
horizontal rule
469

The poetry of bullshit corporate lingo is underappreciated. It's the next frontier of verse.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 1:55 PM
horizontal rule
470

William "Deliverance" Dickey's poetry, according to him, grew naturally out of his sweet-talking routine.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 1:58 PM
horizontal rule
471

Flynn didn't really know how to fence at all, he just knew how to make something like fencing look good on camera.

I believe the technical term is "acting".

In related news, I could make gymnastics as simple and objective as you like. There is nothing more objective than "did you do the somersault, or did you fall on your head?". Similarly, if I can do a planche on the rings and you can't, I beat you, and, assuming a cardinal, transitive ordering of the various exercises, we can ensure a result if there is a move that I can do and you can't.

Of course, this way of judging gymnastics would result in a lot of draws, but hey, football has draws. If you want to defend football (any code) on grounds of "simplicity" or the "objective" nature of scoring, you have to come up with some way of ensuring a no-ties result to every game. And if you think that adding on a completely different sport like "Penalty shootouts" is going to make it, dream on.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 2:13 PM
horizontal rule
472

My comment disappeared.

To 467.last: Congratulations. (The corporate lingo is the successor to things like "I'm a cunning linguist" which someone offered me in recent memory. Which got a good-natured chuckle and inward perplexity.)

467.first: Oh, I'm surely arguing cross-wise with Tim. I don't see the need to adjudicate closely between sports and competitions. What it comes down to is that I myself don't really care about who really won (if this is something people become highly exercised about in close cases), so it just doesn't bother me if people performed remarkably well and there's no clear winner.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 2:18 PM
horizontal rule
473

Of course, this way of judging gymnastics would result in a lot of draws, but hey, football has draws. If you want to defend football (any code) on grounds of "simplicity" or the "objective" nature of scoring, you have to come up with some way of ensuring a no-ties result to every game. And if you think that adding on a completely different sport like "Penalty shootouts" is going to make it, dream on.

Even us dumb Americans can come up with a solution to this one after about ten seconds of thought. Play until someone wins.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 2:22 PM
horizontal rule
474

There is nothing more objective than "did you do the somersault, or did you fall on your head?".

I like this. The fact is that we don't all casually practice cartwheels and somersaults and back walkovers (which are easier than front walkovers) as a matter of course in our athletic lives. We could, though, we could!

And if we did, gymnastics could be as intuitive as Tim thinks football is.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 2:28 PM
horizontal rule
475

The poetry of bullshit corporate lingo is underappreciated. It's the next frontier of verse.

You already know the pioneer of that frontier.
http://www.slate.com/id/2081042/


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 2:29 PM
horizontal rule
476

Throughout all of time, the people have debated the difference between a competition and a sport, with the Americans on the side of football and the elderly and the Russians and the women on the side of gymnastics. I can only hope within the confines of this paper to construct a thesis that joins this ongoing conversation, a thesis that would, approximately, decide that the common ground is against shoot-outs and rhythmic streamers and in favor of the use of the prefix "ur."

cross-posted at that kotsko post


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 2:34 PM
horizontal rule
477

There is nothing more objective than "did you do the somersault, or did you fall on your head?".
There's a lot of space between those extremes. While any truly objective scoring will undoubtedly involve motion-capture and some sort of fuzzy algorithm, for the time being we should have judges watch all the action as performed by anonymized cartoon characters.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 2:35 PM
horizontal rule
478

And DS, I don't mean to be mean. Teasing, babe.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 2:36 PM
horizontal rule
479

And if we did, gymnastics could be as intuitive as Tim thinks football is.

Just to piss off Emerson I'll state the obvious - football is 'fight' and gymnastics is 'flight'.

Their commonality is adrenaline. They both are basic or intuitive in that sense.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 2:46 PM
horizontal rule
480

To piss everyone off I'll leave off my name.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 2:46 PM
horizontal rule
481

Just to piss off Emerson I'll state the obvious - football is 'fight' and gymnastics track is "flight".

Fixed. I don't know what gymnastics is.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 2:51 PM
horizontal rule
482

What might be fun would be having Bela Karolyi sportscast some NFL this year. "It is outrageous! That boy worked very hard to get there to catch the ball and this ref has no experience to be saying his feet landed out of bounds. To take away that boy's dreams like that is just not acceptable."

This is excellent.

Also, Di!


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 2:52 PM
horizontal rule
483

I don't know what gymnastics is.

Antelopes do this thing called either pronking or stotting where they do these repeated vertical bounces -- a theory is that it's an attempt to demonstrate vigor and strength to watching predators, so they don't even bother making an attempt ("If that antelope can bounce five feet straight up, I'll never catch it. Why not try this comparatively slow moving Cape Buffalo calf instead?")

I would suggest that gymnasts are stotting.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 2:57 PM
horizontal rule
484

LB has finally joined us here on the veldt, after months and years of futile resistance. With her help we should shortly have all human behavior explained.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 3:01 PM
horizontal rule
485

I'm not sure women's gymnastics discourages predators...


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 3:01 PM
horizontal rule
486

Gymnastics is mostly stylized flight. It is the running away skills with a twist. "Floor exercises" is running and recovering from a fall, "vault" is jumping over obstacles, "balance beam" is getting over a river, and "uneven parallel bars" is negotiating tree branches.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 3:02 PM
horizontal rule
487

||

If Natalie Portman is the Republican VP candidate, I'm voting for McCain. She wouldn't even have to wear a skimpy outfit.

|>


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 3:03 PM
horizontal rule
488

Flynn didn't really know how to fence at all, he just knew how to make something like fencing look good on camera.

I believe the technical term is "acting".

Right. I'm not even sure how much theoretical connection there should be between movie swordfights and fencing. I took theatrical swordplay lessons for a year, and at some point we learned the old-fashioned theatrical style seen in those movies. It was laughable - the basic format was "strike strike strike, block block block," sticking the arm as far out as possible, enough so an actor could learn it rapidly, act throughout, and have it look dramatic without any actual danger. As I understand, the styles of both Flynn and Bob Anderson (Princess Bride) are essentially elaborations on that basic form.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 3:03 PM
horizontal rule
489

2nd paragraph there should be in italics.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 3:05 PM
horizontal rule
490

||

Rachel Maddow has her own MSNBC show, following Olbermann.

|>


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 3:05 PM
horizontal rule
491

490: Whoo! I might actually have to start watching MSNBC now since I loved it whenever she came on the program.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 3:14 PM
horizontal rule
492

I'm not even sure how much theoretical connection there should be between movie swordfights and fencing

Next you'll try telling us that a pistol must be reloaded periodically and that punches really hurt and do damage to the face. Such lies these movies tell us.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 3:16 PM
horizontal rule
493

492: don't even get me started on how unrealistic cinematic actors are when it comes to fucking. It's a whole different ball game (alternatively, a whole different gymnastics routine).


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 3:20 PM
horizontal rule
494

That's not realistic? Damn. We've been doing it wrong.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 3:26 PM
horizontal rule
495

493. Preach it brother. Of course camera angle to spotlight the action and other cinematic necessities are part of the willing suspension of disbelief. We are talking about porn, right?


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 3:26 PM
horizontal rule
496

I took theatrical swordplay lessons for a year, and at some point we learned the old-fashioned theatrical style seen in those movies.

Essentially you have to pretend that the person is one foot wider than they are, or they're in a box, and you're going to beat on that box, but not them.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 3:26 PM
horizontal rule
497

beach volleyball ("women in their underwear," he said dismissively)

Made me laugh. My son told me he prefers women's beach volleyball to men's - "Oh really, why?" I ask, thinking, "Surely not, you're only 7!" - turns out he thinks the women have better rallies.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 3:35 PM
horizontal rule
498

486: And pommel horse is fighting off a faceless horde.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 3:38 PM
horizontal rule
499

475: He really is the Keats of the form, isn't he?

478: It's cool. Just to clarify, I did not in fact use "leveraging synergies" as a pickup line... though now, I think I'm going to.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 3:42 PM
horizontal rule
500

gymnastics pick-up game


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 3:43 PM
horizontal rule
501

500: Kobe says, "Wow!"


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 4:07 PM
horizontal rule
502

Essentially you have to pretend that the person is one foot wider than they are, or they're in a box, and you're going to beat on that box, but not them

we're still talking about fencing here, right?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 4:07 PM
horizontal rule
503

re: 496

Some of the people who do a lot of work on historical unarmed combat -- old-school pugilistic stuff -- work in concert with theatrical fight choreographers, I think, looking at old manuals of stage combat and the like. Or at least that's my vague recollection from an article I read on it somewhere.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 4:09 PM
horizontal rule
504

Just to clarify, I did not in fact use "leveraging synergies" as a pickup line...

Don't destroy our illusions. Let us imagine the ideal, perfect DS.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 4:11 PM
horizontal rule
505

502: Theatrical swordsplay.

503: One of the guys who taught me sabre also worked as a theatre choreographer, and he looked at unarmed stuff as well as 19th century Italian fencing manuals. Pretty cool stuff, really, all about how to use a cape and how to swash your buckle.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 4:27 PM
horizontal rule
506

505.1 to 493.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 4:32 PM
horizontal rule
507

re: 505

When I was fencing I checked out an 18th century fencing manual in the Bodleian. What was cool was, it had a handwritten note on the frontispiece by the author offering his services as a fencing instructor and giving his address in London for gentlemen.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 4:36 PM
horizontal rule
508

What was cool was, it had a handwritten note on the frontispiece by the author offering his services as a fencing instructor and giving his address in London for gentlemen

we're still talking about fucking here, right?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 4:56 PM
horizontal rule
509

497: Made me laugh.

Good! It was supposed to.

499: Just to clarify, I did not in fact use "leveraging synergies" as a pickup line... though now, I think I'm going to.

You know, I had suspicions. It will take a very special woman to take a line like that in stride. I ... think.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 5:00 PM
horizontal rule
510

It might have worked with Ms. Hunter.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 5:05 PM
horizontal rule
511

It will take a very special woman to take a line like that in stride.

That special lady is out there, somewhere. I have faith.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 5:09 PM
horizontal rule
512

re: 508

Heh, I wouldn't be at all surprised.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 5:11 PM
horizontal rule
513

503. History Channel had a great series on medieval and early Renaissance fighting techniques. Lots of chopping, not much fencing.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 5:19 PM
horizontal rule
514

I'm actually musing over the similarity between something like "leveraging synergies" and the new-age speak that got so much flack here recently.

Oh! But I learned (for an hour or two anyway) some swordplay techniques from a Renaissance Faire type friend -- very fun, actually. I'd take those 'lessons' up again. We were just playing with broom handles and such.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 5:26 PM
horizontal rule
515

496: It helps to be able to see the box. I read something about Christopher Lambert not being able to wear contact lenses but being practically blind without correction. He scared his opponents silly during the filming of his various Highlander movies.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 5:32 PM
horizontal rule
516

I learned . . . some swordplay techniques from a Renaissance Faire type friend . . . I'd take those 'lessons' up again. We were just playing with broom handles and such.

I've heard of low-hanging fruit and all, but that's just straight up throwing it on the ground, now.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 5:34 PM
horizontal rule
517

DS is a true gentleman.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 5:44 PM
horizontal rule
518

That's nothing. I asked a woman the other day if she wanted to come over to my place so we could "leverage our synergies."

You know, I'm not sure this makes much sense. Surely you should instead refer to leveraging your potential synergies? Because if you've already got erging synly, then what more is there to do?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 5:47 PM
horizontal rule
519

Adding to the stuff on refs and judges, I would say part of the greatness of track is its purity (ummm, not from drugs, but just in the action in front of you). There really is a primal excitement in watching two people try to outrun each other. Hard to appreciate unless you see it live -- TV coverage tends to be terrible, and less avoidably the TV picture massively distorts perspectives and distances.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 5:51 PM
horizontal rule
520

I think potentiality is usually held to be implicit in the very need to 'leverage.'


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 5:53 PM
horizontal rule
521

I obviously disagree. If you said "I'll leverage my influence with so-and-so [to get Johnny a place at Yale]", there's no suggestion that your influence is only potential, and if someone pointed out that you haven't got any influence, it would do no good to respond that you've hired a PI and are expecting incriminating photographs any day now.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 5:56 PM
horizontal rule
522

516: I humbly acknowledge your point.

521: Ben, I think it's understood that these corporate-speak phrases don't actually mean anything sensible. I could be wrong. Obviously those who use the phrases are better positioned to explain them.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 6:02 PM
horizontal rule
523

Actually (I'm not sure how this usage came about) I'd be leveraging so-and-so, not my influence with so-and-so. If I'm 'leveraging' a 'synergy' between X department and Y department, I'm understood to have perceived a possible synergy between the departments and to be leveraging that possibility into a certainty. Could be it helps to mash some sports interview-ese in there, e.g. give 110% one day at a time to leverage the synergy between X and Y. Luckily I'll probably be out of this job before I have occasion to try that out on anyone.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 6:05 PM
horizontal rule
524

give 110% one day at a time to leverage the synergy between X and Y

Bingo!


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 6:10 PM
horizontal rule
525

No, Ben wants a clear definition of "leveraging synergy" -- or bust.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 6:11 PM
horizontal rule
526

I thought of the original post when I caught the end of this bout this morning. Just a shocking lack of respect for the flag.

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1834038,00.html


Posted by: Gabriel | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 6:14 PM
horizontal rule
527

526: From the link:

I just popped my hips, took him to his back and kept driving.

Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 6:17 PM
horizontal rule
528

523, 524: Yeah, well, frightening lingo, that.

It had to be said. Carry on. Whatever.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 6:25 PM
horizontal rule
529

leveraging synergy

Risking massive respect lossage, I link a relevant Dilbert strip.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 7:27 PM
horizontal rule
530

"leveraging" = take advantage of

"synergy" = something two people could do better together than they could do separately.

So "leveraging synergy" describes "having sex" pretty exactly.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 7:31 PM
horizontal rule
531

That's not what "synergy" means.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 7:39 PM
horizontal rule
532

Yes it does.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:11 PM
horizontal rule
533

You mean "Yes it is", and you're still wrong. "Synergy" basically means "working together" or "coöperation".

On your definition, felling a tree with a saw is synergy. Two people can more easily fell a tree with a saw together than either one could alone. Felling a tree is not synergy. Felling a tree is an activity which benefits from synergy, or is best performed synergistically, or something along those lines.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:14 PM
horizontal rule
534

No businessman has uttered the word "synergistically" ever.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:23 PM
horizontal rule
535

You'd be surprised how little the truth of that claim would make me think that you had defined "synergy" correctly.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:28 PM
horizontal rule
536

I think this paragraph from a self-improvement website indirectly tells you all that you need to know about "leveraging synergy".

The synergistic power of group meditation and joint-prayer has been documented with many anecdotes and we want to take advantage of this accumulated effect. To make our energy force impactful in healing the world, I'm connecting people and leveraging synergy.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:29 PM
horizontal rule
537

535 - And this is why you find communication with your fellow human beings so difficult.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:30 PM
horizontal rule
538

My fellow human beings aren't logical aliens.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 8:33 PM
horizontal rule
539

"Synergy" basically means "working together" or "coöperation".

Ummm, no it doesn't. Walt defined it correctly.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:00 PM
horizontal rule
540

I think synergy means two or more people working together accomplishing more than the combined total of what they could each accomplish alone. Sounds like division of labor, but more in the area of ideas or activities than of economic production. EG my partial idea / practice and your partial idea / practice combine to produce a new idea better tahn the sum of the parts.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:12 PM
horizontal rule
541

DS really needs to cancel his subscription to Cosmopolitan. Or not, maybe. Eh, I don't know what the kids are up to nowadays. Synergy, to my ears, sounds like something out of a Tony Robbins seminar, which makes me think of false smiles and big teeth, which I cannot quite believe that anyone could take seriously.

I watched the women's 400 metres just a while ago. The American coverage (in this case, NBC) is really quite laughable. They focus in on the American favourite as the inevitable champion, and it's only after the fact, when the American doesn't actually come in first, that they bother to mention that the actual gold-medal winner (in this case, from the UK), was first in the event in 2007. I can't help thinking they're not exactly doing a stellar job of 'managing expectations,' though maybe that's just me?


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:24 PM
horizontal rule
542

Scripts are written before the events and can't be changed.

Same as elections.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:27 PM
horizontal rule
543

"Synergy" would probably be more of a Financial Times thing than a Cosmo thing. But it is indeed the sort of bullshit seminar-speak that some suits take vewwy sewwiously.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:28 PM
horizontal rule
544

Whole Earth Catalog hippie philosophy. Maybe the Naropa Institute, bleeding out into the business world. I doubt that the Santa Fe Institute would use the term, but maybe by mistake.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:38 PM
horizontal rule
545

vewwy sewwiously

Is that how that's spelled? I've always wondered.

As for the coverage, MC, it really is disgusting. I've taken to watching what little I watch with the sound off. Seeing Usain Bolt demolish the 100m record was absolutely among the most breathtaking acts of human achievement I've ever seen. I refused to have NBC's idiotic laments and/or over-the-top celebrations of the bronze-medal-winning American ruin the moment for me.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:39 PM
horizontal rule
546

544: "Synergies" seem popular among IT types, probably a Silicone Valley thing. "Leveraging," though, is just a regular normal verb; I hear it used straight-faced at least once a week.

545: The CBC coverage is Canada-centric but much less embarrassing. There's also one minor Canadian network that seems to have gotten a special contract to broadcast all the equestrian stuff, whence comes my hostility to dressage.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:43 PM
horizontal rule
547

The Jamaican woman who won the Woman's 100m had the most charming victory celebration ever.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 9:55 PM
horizontal rule
548

Seeing Usain Bolt demolish the 100m record was absolutely among the most breathtaking acts of human achievement I've ever seen.

For real. But, you know, the Olympics is one of those times when I get all Commonwealth-y. If it's down to the US versus the UK, or the US versus Jamaica, you can bet I'm rooting for the one who comes from the place where they still have Elizabeth II on their currency. The US coverage almost makes me regret all those times in the past when I got all snarky about the CBC.

Montreal is beyond decadent. I still recall once going with my father to a Japanese restaurant there, and later that evening making a comment about another couple who had sat at our table, upon which my dad sort of laughed and said, "Well, I don't think she was really his wife, darlin'", which shocked me for certain and for good. Not the extra-marital relationship in itself, but the fact that my father would even acknowledge it (which he never would have done, had my mother been there...). Montréal: city of quaint cobblestones, and of sexual/romantic experiments in living!


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:02 PM
horizontal rule
549

548: Montreal strip clubs are said to be among the best on the continent; also, Montreal drivers are even more insane than Boston drivers. That spells joie de vivre to me.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:17 PM
horizontal rule
550

And Jesus is from the American strip club capital, quantitatively if not qualitatively.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:18 PM
horizontal rule
551

I watched the women's 400 metres just a while ago. The American coverage (in this case, NBC) is really quite laughable. They focus in on the American favourite as the inevitable champion, and it's only after the fact, when the American doesn't actually come in first, that they bother to mention that the actual gold-medal winner (in this case, from the UK), was first in the event in 2007. I can't help thinking they're not exactly doing a stellar job of 'managing expectations,' though maybe that's just me?

Well, FWIW, Sanya Richards hadn't been beaten this season, had the fastest qualifying time, and according to this link "regularly runs a second faster than [the eventual winner]". So I can't say as I particularly fault NBC for covering it the way you say they did.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:22 PM
horizontal rule
552

Montreal strip clubs are said to be among the best on the continent

Well, there's a real mark of distinction, to be sure. Who's responsible for these rankings, anyway? Do they publish an annual yearbook/guidebook, with the criteria of measurement made more or less transparent, or do you just have to know someone who knows someone in order to be let in on the annual doings of the fleshly emporia?


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:36 PM
horizontal rule
553

As in so many things, MC, let Google be your guide.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 10:50 PM
horizontal rule
554

Or, pace Josh, you ask someone who knows about such things and gauge the enthusiasm in his voice or the faraway look in his eyes. Or you just do your own fieldwork.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:01 PM
horizontal rule
555

They certainly should have emphasized Richards' lack of big-race success and Ohurougu's previous wins, but Richards was the clear favorite based on times. She ran her semifinal faster than her final and looked more relaxed doing it.

The NBC color commentator is from Trinidad and was a very good sprinter just a few years ago; I get the sense that he's being constrained by the NBC scripts* from using all of the knowledge he actually has of the sport. I'm not sure they really did underplay Bolt's win, but I watched it after having recorded it, so I didn't sit through everything.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:54 PM
horizontal rule
556

That * was for a footnote I deleted just before posting.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-19-08 11:55 PM
horizontal rule
557

Just seeing the beam now. I love how the whining about judging goes on and on until Johnson's first place score is announced and then it suddenly stops.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 12:19 AM
horizontal rule
558

I continue to hate NBC. 3 semifinals in the men's 400? We can't spare the 44 seconds to show all of them, so let's just show the two with the U.S. favorites (and a bit of a replay from the one with the U.S. not-favorite). Americans eliminated from the men's 1500? Oh well, let's not televise it on the prime time broadcast. I assume it will show up on the late night, about 16 hours after it happened, but I haven't seen it yet. So far it's been BMX and beach volleyball.

Also, both soccer game broadcasts (on one of the affiliated networks) yesterday managed to be showing commercials while goals were scored. And I don't think they showed one of the trampoline medalists a couple of nights ago. And on and on.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 2:08 AM
horizontal rule
559

Ummm, no it doesn't. Walt defined it correctly.

So, when I'm using a two-person saw—you know the type—by myself, that's synergy? Or rather, I'm doing synergy, because I'm doing "something two people could do better together than they could do separately"?

That definition is obviously incorrect, because "synergy" isn't concrete like that. I mean, there are two ways to take the definition '"synergy" = something two people could do better together than they could do separately.'. On one, it's like '"felling a tree"' = something two people, etc' and you want to know, ok, which thing; in this case, the thing that involves causing a tree to fall down in a controlled manner. But "synergy" obviously doesn't name a particular activity like that. On the other, it's like '"something that requires coöperation" = something two people, etc."; that is, anything that's an instance of the RHS is an instance of the LHS. But that doesn't make sense because with when the LHS is "synergy" you don't have whatever that requirement is that CS people who talk about object orientation like, even at the grammatical (for, you know, concepts of grammar that don't deal in just nouns and verbs) level.

I can do something that two people could do better together than they could do separately.

And I can do something that requires coöperation.

But I can't do synergy. That just doesn't make sense.

Even if that did make sense, you'd be forced, on Walt's definition, to accept occasions on which someone was actually acting in total isolation as synergetic, on the grounds that whatever he's doing could be done better with someone else. Which is nonsense.

You might think that my (manifestly correct; syn + ergon, people! even the OED agrees, and I think it's noteworthy, regarding their definition c, that only one of the illustrative sentences actually serves to illustrate the purported definition, and that sentence is also a definition!) definition is wrong, or doesn't accord with the usage you've encountered, and that's ok. But to think that Walt's definition even makes sense is insanity.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 2:30 AM
horizontal rule
560

A propos of coverage, this from the BBC site:

The IOC's medal table ranks countries by the number of golds won but the North Americans have always ranked by total medals won, hence in their table, the US leads China by one despite having won far fewer golds. Britain are fourth.
Why? It wouldn't always work in favour of one country or another. Did somebody sit down and think, "The official tables work this way, so we'll do it differently, just to be bloody minded"?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 2:54 AM
horizontal rule
561

Maybe it's a simple calculation of what's more likely to favor a country with a large delegation: more athletes mean more chances at medals even if some of those athletes have almost no chance at gold medals. FWIW, total medals makes more sense to me, but that's what I've grown up with. And I don't think the US does particularly well in the winter medals table by either count, unless that's changed recently, so it might not be just about maximizing chances to be at the top.

If the US loses the medal count, I hope one of the gymnastics commentators says that the US would have won if it hadn't been for those medaling kids.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 3:07 AM
horizontal rule
562

Finally, they're going to show the men's 1500. Good thing I'm still awake. I guess.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 3:09 AM
horizontal rule
563

FWIW, total medals makes more sense to me, but that's what I've grown up with.

It would make sense if they were weighted, say 4 points for gold, 2 for silver, 1 for bronze. But failing entirely to differentiate between the champions and the honourable mentions seems daft to me.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 3:30 AM
horizontal rule
564

Yeah, I was thinking that if the medal table was truly serious - meaning countries actually got something for winning - it would have to be weighted.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 3:36 AM
horizontal rule
565

Well, they do get the actual medals, which are worth something, so based on current LME cash buyer prices and the assumption that the bronze in Olympic medals is 80% copper/20% tin, then we can construct an objective weighting system based on the total scrap value of the medals won, if they were melted down.

Taking bronze as the numeraire, this would suggest that a silver medal should be weighted 64 and a gold 1550.

Taking these weightings gives you exactly the same rankings as the IOC table, of course, as the curve is steep enough that it's more or less always going to deliver the same answer as the IOC's lexical ranking.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 3:56 AM
horizontal rule
566

and interestingly, even OFE's proposed 4/2/1 weighting system gives almost exactly the same ranking, the big differences being that France (4g12s14b) goes from 11th to 8th place, Canada (2g6s5b) goes from 18th to 13th and Cuba (1g5s5b) goes from 27th to 18th. And a load of countries with no golds but a stack of silvers make big moves lower down the table.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 4:03 AM
horizontal rule
567

even OFE's proposed 4/2/1 weighting system gives almost exactly the same ranking

Yes, that was indirectly part of the point I was making. If you think about it, the idea of giving prizes to the runners up in this sort of competition would be pretty counterintuitive if we weren't so used to it. There were no bronze medals (privet wreaths?) in the classical Olympics.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 4:17 AM
horizontal rule
568

So I can't say as I particularly fault NBC for covering it the way you say they did.

The problem is that even after the event, they continue to talk about the favorite who lost, if they're an American, rather than about the foreigner who won. I first notice this at least 3 Olympics ago, and it basically ruined the Olympics for me. (Especially because I'd already seen 5 minutes of sentimentalized personal history of the eventual loser and his or her grandparents, beloved dead sibling, childhood poverty, personal problems, religious faith, etc. etc.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 5:34 AM
horizontal rule
569

Come on gang, I am sure we would get a better collective result if everyone chipped in with their unique experiences and insights and seriously helped Ben with the definition of synergy.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 5:44 AM
horizontal rule
570

568: Or as in the 100-meter Women's hurdles they even kinda ignore the non-favorite/non-heartwarming American who won. To be fair in that instance the narrative of pulling away and then hitting the hurdle at the end was of interest, but the interview with the Gold winner seemed like an after thought.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 5:50 AM
horizontal rule
571

Beeb:

Some terrific news from the taekwondo where Rohullan Nikpai has won Afghanistan's first ever Olympic medal with bronze in the -58kg event. He earlier beat Britain's Michael Harvey - but I think we'll let him off now.

So wouldn't the American networks even say something like that?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 5:52 AM
horizontal rule
572

You know what? I think that Dana Torres should be disqualified for having had a baby. She used to pregnancy to pump up her hormone levels. I bet she has an East German scientist on retainer teaching her organic methods of doping.

Don't argue, folks, it's the truth.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 6:47 AM
horizontal rule
573

All commentators, political leaders, and high administration officials should be tested for amphetamine usage. When you have the dosages properly adjusted, all your ideas look good to you and you become incredibly eloquent and persuasive. The planning for the Iraq War was all done in a warm amphetamine glow, and anyone who had any doubts was just administered another pill.

No, I'm not kidding.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 6:55 AM
horizontal rule
574

573: This sounds plausible, but is there any evidence of actual amphetamine use by any of these people? This is not a rhetorical question -- I'm taking your "I'm not kidding" seriously.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 7:26 AM
horizontal rule
575

BOLT!!!!!!!!


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 8:15 AM
horizontal rule
576

Mary Catherine,

Well, there's a real mark of distinction, to be sure. Who's responsible for these rankings, anyway? Do they publish an annual yearbook/guidebook, with the criteria of measurement made more or less transparent, or do you just have to know someone who knows someone in order to be let in on the annual doings of the fleshly emporia?

Do you really want to know? The ratings exist, and google will find them. The last time I checked ISO had not stepped up to the challenge and so a few entrepreneurs have filled the void. Maybe things have changed since then. My info is dated.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 8:26 AM
horizontal rule
577

573: This sounds plausible, but is there any evidence of actual amphetamine use by any of these people? This is not a rhetorical question -- I'm taking your "I'm not kidding" seriously.

Amphetamines?! I'd jump right to suspecting cocaine use, although Limbo had a big liking for the opiates.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 8:27 AM
horizontal rule
578

Usain Bolt!


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 8:35 AM
horizontal rule
579

re: 574

It's certainly well attested to for earlier politicians. Kennedy, etc.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 8:43 AM
horizontal rule
580

578:
I never thought I'd live to see 19.32 get broken. Usain Bolt is absolutely amazing.


Posted by: WillieStyle | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 10:13 AM
horizontal rule
581

I assume someone has, at some point in the past, nicknamed him "Lightning", right?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 10:16 AM
horizontal rule
582

I assume someone has, at some point in the past, nicknamed him "Lightning", right?

Yes


Posted by: WillieStyle | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 10:23 AM
horizontal rule
583

580: That's interesting: I find the 100 much more amazing, because I grew up thinking of it as the test for the fastest man alive. I've since seen it argued that the 200 is a better such test. In any case, I now want Bolt to start running the 400, too. He owes it to his country, if not humanity, to establish Full Speed Spectrum Dominance for Jamaica.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 10:38 AM
horizontal rule
584

Usain Bolt is not the only Olympian with a felicitous name. I give you Olha Korobka, the box-shaped silver medalist whose surname means "Box".


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 10:43 AM
horizontal rule
585

583:
I agree that the 100 is the more amazing race. And the world's fastest man should be the 100m champ if by fastest you mean "greatest top speed". The only reason 200m runners get faster splits is that they don't have to spend half the race accelerating from 0.

But Johnson's record of 19.32 in the 200 was the greatest record in all of track. Up until this morning, no other human had ever run sub 19.60. It was the sort of record that should have stood for decades.


Posted by: WillieStyle | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 10:48 AM
horizontal rule
586

I said this last time, but I don't think that the squat, clean and jerk, and snatch are ladylike.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 10:56 AM
horizontal rule
587

Snatches are very ladylike.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 11:13 AM
horizontal rule
588

Not that kind of lady, Ben.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 11:14 AM
horizontal rule
589

I now want Bolt to start running the 400, too.

Are there sprinters who excel at both short and middle distance? Like, Olympics-level sprinters?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 11:29 AM
horizontal rule
590

There are 400/800 people and 100/400 people. No 100/800 to my knowledge.

Alberto Juantorena was the best ever. That may be the last Olympics I thoroughly enjoyed, because he was a dark horse in both races but TV still interviewed him even though he wasn't an American.

Believe it or not, his full name was apparently Alberto Juantorena Danger. I thought it was a Wiki hoax, but a lot of sites have it.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 11:49 AM
horizontal rule
591

585: But Johnson's record of 19.32 in the 200 was the greatest record in all of track.

I'd say that Florence Griffith-Joyner's Women's 200M was (and is) more untouchable. (Much suspicion of drug enablement, however.)

Historically, I'd say Beamon's Long Jump from 1968 (stood for 23 years, still surprised it was broken then), which remains as 2nd longest jump ever, was the most astonishing (he extended the record by 21 inches). Johnson's 200 was about the equivalent of Tommie Smith's from 1968, which stood for about the same amount of time and was about as far ahead of others at the time. (The last two did have the altitude effect, however.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 11:57 AM
horizontal rule
592

Juantorena is the only Olympic 400/800 double before or since, and I doubt we'll ever see that again. One of the most amazing performances ever. He was fun to watch, too.

I do not remember any announcers making any "Danger" jokes. I surmise that "Danger" was his mother's maiden name, per Spanish custom.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 12:03 PM
horizontal rule
593

589, 590: Here is a "race" I've thought of that might be interesting and that would reward those skills (and would probably be hateful for the competitors). It is 10K in length, but there is a scoring scheme that gives *equal* weight to your place after 100, 200, 400, 800, 1500, 3000, 5000 & 10000 meters. It would probably just turn into a tactical "watch the other person" thing, but the people who became the best at it would need speed and endurance.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 12:06 PM
horizontal rule
594

593. interesting- but it might end up like those bike races on the track where they all go slowly at the start, until one guy decides to sprint and they all go and try to draft off him. Weird looking for a race.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 12:11 PM
horizontal rule
595

Has there ever been a 100/400 winner? I don't think there has.

593:
That would be a wierd event. Each person would just run their best distance and then stop and then the 100/200, 200/400 or 1500/5000 guy would win.
How would you deal with the stagger?


Posted by: WillieStyle | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 12:12 PM
horizontal rule
596

585: The argument made, which I just saw today (in NYT?), is that a bad start can overwhelm great foot speed in the 100, but is much less likely to do the same in the 200. So, I understood, the winner of the 200 will be the fastest person, while the winner of the 100 will be the fastest person who starts well.

I still prefer the 100. In any case, it's Bolt's world now, and we're just slow-poking in it.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 12:14 PM
horizontal rule
597

595: You must complete all distances or be DQed. The first 400 would be staggered just like the 400 and then in to the track. Hard part of that would be knowing who was ahead at the 100 & 200. My assumption would be that they would signal the athletes their "points". It would be kind of odd, and I agree it would probably get very tactical, very dependent on who else is in the race with you.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 12:21 PM
horizontal rule
598

A good 100 meter guys also can medal in the 200 and the 400 relay, so most teams wouldn't risk them on the 400. I believe that 100 runners sometimes run on top-level mile relay teams.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 12:50 PM
horizontal rule
599

Even at the NCAA level, the 100m - 400 m double has never been done. I'd suspect it would be even less likely in the Olympics. Juantorena will probably be in a class by himself forever.

That does surprise me a little.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 12:57 PM
horizontal rule
600

Money quote from 599 link:

LSU sophomore Xavier Carter is attempting to become the first athlete ever to win an NCAA 100 meter/400 meter double. Carter won his 400m heat on Wednesday in 45.51 seconds, and will advance to the semifinals. He also ran on LSU's 4x100m relay team that qualified for the second round in 38.87, the fastest collegiate time this season.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 12:59 PM
horizontal rule
601

598: Flo-Jo did this in the Seoul Olympics. Led to very annoying commentary where the announcers seemed shocked that she did not just blow everyone away at the 400 for the mile-relay, but was merely pretty damn good. The hype was so over the top bty then that they would have probably assumed she was the favorite for the marathon if she had entered.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 1:05 PM
horizontal rule
602

559: So, when I'm using a two-person saw--you know the type--by myself, that's synergy?

I don't know. Would you be using it as well as two people could? Probably not, right? So, no. The basic sense of the word both in normal use and Bizness Jargonese is that you're getting something from a combination (of people, systems, whatever) that the parts could not deliver as well on their own; hence Buckminster Fuller's more expansive definition, which elaborates on that theme. It could have been worded more precisely, but that (basic sense of the word) seems pretty evidently to be what Walt was driving at, and can be understood as having said if we aren't dramatically over-literalizing in an attempt to miss the point.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 7:26 PM
horizontal rule
603

I don't know. Would you be using it as well as two people could? Probably not, right? So, no.

Do you remember Walt's definition, which I quoted multiple times in the comment to which you replied, and which you said was correct?

"something two people could do better together than they could do separately."

Do you see any suggestion that multiple people actually be involved in the execution of anything of which that is true? Because I see a definition which makes it the case that felling trees with a two-man saw, an activity, is an instance of synergy, regardless of the competence with which it is carried out.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 7:31 PM
horizontal rule
604

Do you remember Walt's definition

Come on, guy, at least read through to the fourth line of my post.

On the topic of the thread, sort of, I guess: I wonder how NBC covered this one.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 7:35 PM
horizontal rule
605

Ben, you need years of therapy.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 7:36 PM
horizontal rule
606

Since what Walt actually said and what you say he obviously was saying are really quite different, I'm not sure whence the obviousness is supposed to derive, except from your knowledge of what Walt probably meant, which you are projecting into what he actually said.

The basic sense of the word both in normal use and Bizness Jargonese is that you're getting something from a combination (of people, systems, whatever) that the parts could not deliver as well on their own

As a partial specification of the appropriate circumstances in which one might employ the word ("not unless you're getting something from a combination &c") that may be an adequate first pass, but it will never do as a definition or a description of its "basic sense".

English is, as we know, a language in whose speaking there is none more native than (though several as native as) I, and while I wouldn't use the word "synergy" except were that condition met, I certainly wouldn't use it to refer to, say, the thing which one gets as a result of the combination, but rather to, say, the action-in-combination (one might call this "co-operation", to emphasize that the different agents are acting jointly and reciprocally) exhibited; thus one might say of a sports team that plays both extremely effectively and as if of one mind that, as they gallivanted abotu the field, the synergy was palpable. To my mind, that's a completely vanilla use of the word "synergy".


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 7:38 PM
horizontal rule
607

Come on, guy, at least read through to the fourth line of my post.

I admit that I posted 603 without having read all of your post. I apologize and await your specification of a suitable act of obeisance.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 7:39 PM
horizontal rule
608

Considering that we're parsing a wisecrack this is really quite silly.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 7:42 PM
horizontal rule
609

I'm still looking for an analyst with whom I can synergize.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 7:47 PM
horizontal rule
610

Synergize this, motherfucker.


Posted by: Gregory Bateson | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 7:49 PM
horizontal rule
611

What would the mirror image of synergy look like?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 8:04 PM
horizontal rule
612

Back on the Olympics and Track and Field. Now I'm really annoyed at NBC. It does not appear that they yet have the 200M men's Final available online. I was looking for it now that 2nd & 3rd both got DQed, I found a few youtubes etc. in searches but they all were gone and I swear it is not on the nbcolympics site (certainly not featured). I guess they want me to watch the TV coverage in the hopes that they *might* replay it.

I did find one still up here, at a Mixed Martial Arts video site. It will probably be gone soon. It really does not give a good look at the turn, but one frame does seem to clearly show the 2nd place guy (Netherlands Antilles, who only got DQed way late) stepping on the line. The two Americans who were right next to each other do look to be very close to each other at one point, but cannot see their feet very well.

The triumph of hypertechnicalism comes to Track and Field.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 9:21 PM
horizontal rule
613

First I'd like to make it clear that gymnastics is a sport.
But what the hell is the point of the "gala", and why in heavens name would NBC show it before the men's 200m final?


Posted by: WillieStyle | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 10:08 PM
horizontal rule
614

why in heavens name would NBC show it before the men's 200m final

For the same reason the dairy section is always in the back of the grocery store.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 10:11 PM
horizontal rule
615

That part is furthest from the area where people enter and exit, so it's easier to control the temperature?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 10:16 PM
horizontal rule
616

You're serious? Just in case: dairy products are the most oft-purchased item in grocery stores. Stores thus house the dairy in the back, so as to force the customers to walk through the whole story, twice, in order to get what they need. On their journey, the theory goes, customers may buy some other things as well, thus goosing the store's profits.

It has nothing to do with thermoregulation.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 10:23 PM
horizontal rule
617

If they really wanted people to have to walk through the whole store, they'd stagger the aisles, having alternate aisles flush against alternate walls.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 10:30 PM
horizontal rule
618

And I am never anything less than serious.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 10:31 PM
horizontal rule
619

If they really wanted people to have to walk through the whole store, they'd stagger the aisles, having alternate aisles flush against alternate walls.

Yeah, and they'd also hire Frank Gehry to design the stores. Because grocery conglomerates are fucking progressive, man.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 10:37 PM
horizontal rule
620

They'd also have wind blowing against you as you struggle through the aisles, so you slow down a little on your way past the merchandise.


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 10:39 PM
horizontal rule
621

peter gets it. Why can't you, ben?


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 10:42 PM
horizontal rule
622

Frank Gehry isn't progressive.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 10:42 PM
horizontal rule
623

Depends how you define the term. And regardless of definition, he was. Are you saying he sold out?


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 10:44 PM
horizontal rule
624

623: This is not going to end well, ari. But don't let that stop you.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 10:47 PM
horizontal rule
625

I think ben realized I was just trolling him, but we'll see. I'm ready for anything.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 10:52 PM
horizontal rule
626

617: The Whole Foods in my neighborhood was designed (three corporate entities ago) along those lines. Aisles don't run right up to walls, but they're oriented diagonally, and the overall layout was obviously intended to route customers through the entire store. It's a horrid place, but a fascinating example of manipulative architecture.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 10:53 PM
horizontal rule
627

Target also employs all kinds of routing gimmicks. That's one of many reasons I find shopping there unbelievably painful.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 08-20-08 10:56 PM
horizontal rule