The US team beat this year’s goal of 100 medals but there was still room for concern. Some medals that should have been locks were either missed or not the preferred color. The first week of the competition, NBC had a poll question on what you want most from the US team. The most medals, good sportsmanship, or no hint of scandal. Something generic like that. In my world, I want a combination. I want the most medals possible, since we have the best combination of population, athletic training for kids, and financial backing. However, I don’t want domination to come at the cost of ‘roid ravaged athletes. Also, I want athletes who perform with honor, style, and class. I want them to win and lose gracefully. I can’t say I was terribly disappointed this year in any of those areas.
With the 2008 games being held in Beijing, you know the Chinese “sports medicine” machine is already working on ways to ensure they can dominate every sport in four years. In terms of simple population, the Chinese should be our biggest threat in the medal count, so if they pass us, I’m not worried. What worries me is we’re being beat down by smaller challenges, making it easier for China to catch us. Here’s my threat scale, and how I think we can deal with them.
Russia: Under the old Soviet sports machine, they routinely beat us. Losing all the former republics has eaten into their medal count, but it’s still impressive. Despite their lack of funding (at least compared to the bad old days) they had an excellent performance in Athens. Still a formidable, if weakening, opponent.
Germany: What happened here? West Germany used to have pretty insane medal numbers per their population. East Germany, of course, was the cheatingest pack of cheaters the games has ever seen. Unification, even with clean athletes, should have created a juggernaut. I think Germans are too busy trying to convince the rest of Europe they don’t ever intend to invade again, and thus have lost some of their killer instinct. No threat.
Jamaica: Our biggest threat on the track as they’re legitimate challengers in every sprint event. Ben Johnson and Donovan Bailey were native Jamaicans, proving how deep the threat is. The population is less than three million. It’s an island in the Caribbean. We’ve got a Republican in the White House. The answer is obvious: invade!!! Bring back the days of gunboat diplomacy, this time in the name of track and field dominance rather than United Fruit! We’ve done it before, we can do it again.
Australia: Truly my biggest concern. They’ve become our equals in the pool. They out-medaled us 6-0 in diving. They challenged our women’s basketball, soccer, and softball teams. They played for the baseball gold medal while our team didn’t even make the games. Their performance on the track had gotten much better, are the leaders in the triathlon, and impressed in beach volleyball. Yet you can’t hate the Aussies. With almost 20 million fun loving people, not to mention a powerful military, they’re too big and strong to invade. Anheiser-Busch is the largest brewer of beer in the world, though. Aussies love beer. Rather than make more shitty commercials, perhaps the geniuses in St. Louis can come up with a plan of inebriating the entire island just before the ’08 games to free up about 40 medals.
As sports changes, what should we expect for overall US performance? Here’s my plan:
1- We should dominate all sprint events in every sport. We’re Americans. We do everything fast. There’s no excuse for losing a sprint whether it’s to close a business deal, cure cancer, or win a foot race.
2- Anything involving guns or archery equipment should be a clean sweep. I saw Bowling for Columbine; I know we shoot things better than any other nation.
3- Any sport we invented or perfected, we should be playing for the gold medal every four years. That means basketball, volleyball (indoor and beach), baseball, and softball are ours. Any sports that are featured at 75% of high schools we should be in medal contention for. That includes all field events, wrestling, soccer, all swimming events not included in the sprints, tennis, and so on.
4- Any strange sport that can only be played professionally in Europe we should not concern ourselves with. Team handball will always be the ultimate example of this. Let the Euros too soft to play Continental hoops satisfy themselves here.
Finally, some clean up of the Games’ roster is in order. I propose the following eliminations:
1- Race walking. Walking is a fine way for regular people to maintain fitness and lose weight. Not everyone is interested in running, or perhaps they have physical problems that prohibit moving faster than 12:00/mile pace. That’s fine; I applaud people who make an effort to keep themselves in shape. But walking should not be an Olympic sport. These are finely tuned athletes. They need to move their asses or stay home. This seems like another sport made up for people who aren’t quite good enough to make the cut in a real event.
2- Trampoline. See above and last week’s comments.
3- Rhythmic gymnastics. Arguably the dumbest sport ever. There’s actually a team event now, and one part of it is called “Hoops and Balls”. That’s right, Hoops and balls. Why don’t we make Jacks an Olympic sport while we’re at it? How can a sport in which five girls run different directions be scored fairly? They can’t even judge one guy on a high bar correctly, there’s no way they can tell whether five tiny girls from Siberia are in synch.
4- Baseball. Any sport only played at a world-class level in half a dozen countries doesn’t deserve inclusion. Thankfully, it sounds like the IOC may be eliminating baseball for the ’08 games. Get the World Cup in place so we can watch Pedro pitch to Barry and forget about trying this in the Olympics ever again. I really don’t need to see the Dutch and Italians booting the ball around the infield while the US is sitting at home.
5- Boxing. It was once one of the Games’ glamour events. Now, outside Cuba, no one really cares. A nice way to further isolate Fidel and his cronies. As Roy Jones, Jr will testify, the scoring is even worse than in professional boxing.
Synchronized swimming was on the list, but the rather striking faux-lesbian imagery that’s been added to the program has forced me to change my tune.