U.S. Gymnasts Are In the Pink

fencing maskI love the Olympics.  I love almost everything about them.  As I get older, I don’t just watch the sports I play (tennis), or wish I played (competitive soccer).  I appreciate ALL the athletes’ tremendous talent and dedication, and am now more likely to take the smorgasbord, all-you-can-eat approach to the games.  I watch everything.

So, I may not know the difference between a sabre and an épée… but I have decided that fencing is cool.  I especially like it when competitors trick out their face shields with their national flags.  And when their helmets are electric, and light up when touched by opponents’ weapons – that’s even better.

But what of those fencers who don’t have flag masks, and just wear… WHITE?  I mean, clearly that is some kind of subversive statement, no?  It IS!  Just ask our friends at Fox News.

It truly is a slow news day when, in a quest to say something – ANYTHING – to rile up viewers, pundits at Fox News criticize America’s gymnasts because of what they are wearing.

That’s right, Fox’s America Live host Alisyn Camerota has taken the U.S. Women’s gymnastics squad – comprised of girls averaging 16 years of age – to task because, in the process of winning gold medals last week, they wore leotards that were (*gasp*) hot pink.

“Gabby had that great moment, everybody was so excited… and she’s in hot pink.”

You won’t see a better set up than that in Olympic beach volleyball. Camerota then asked her guest, radio host David Webb (co-founder of advocacy group Tea Party 365) to weigh in.  Webb lamented that the team’s dress is an example of a slight “anti-American feeling.”

“The Chinese are wearing red predominantly as that’s their national color, if you will. So why not us, with the red white and blue?…  There’s a meaning behind the red white and blue that’s been lost in time. The field of stars. You know, the blood that’s been shed… that’s what we need to focus on and get that out in our country.”

See this is where I get confused.  I had assumed that the choice of leotard color was — for these teenage girls who have devoted their lives to the DREAM of representing the USA in the Olympics — a matter of looking pretty.  Of making their families, friends and America proud.  Of matching their attire with their copious amounts of hair glitter.

Turns out, leotards are supposed to conjure up bloody battlefields?  Sorry, I just don’t follow.

Don’t get me wrong, I love our flag. I wave it with the best of them. I get choked up every, single time an Olympic champion takes the top spot on the podium for the playing of the Star Spangled Banner.  But to those who laud our “stars and stripes” as a unique representation of the United States… I did about 90 seconds of internet research today, and discovered something shocking.  SHOCKING!

Red, white and blue.  The stars and stripes.  We don’t own them!

There are at least 30 flags in the world that are red, white and blue.  Twenty of them, including the flag of those lefty French, have stripes. (Mon Dieu!)  Two have one or more stars.  Eight feature both stars and stripes, including North Korea and… CUBA!  (How did this happen?  Quick, can we find a way to blame Bill Clinton?)

So get over yourselves, you sanctimonious rabble-rousers at Fox News who just CAN’T LET AMERICANS FEEL GOOD for once.  We get it, you made your fortune and built your viewership by scaring the bejesus out of people.  Look out, it’s a Muslim!  It’s Planned Parenthood!  It’s a high school science teacher with a fossil, talking about Darwinism!

Picking on dedicated, talented teenaged girls who are bringing home a gold medal?  That’s beneath even you.

Gabby, McKayla, Aly, Kyla and Jordyn.  You know it’s coming ladies.  Fox News will come a knocking, wanting an interview.  Don’t say no.  Do it… but be sure to wear hot pink!

Badminton: You Can’t Win For Losing

shuttlecockOne of my favorite sports bloggers, Joe Posnanski, has written a really funny piece about the Olympic badminton scandal involving eight players from three countries, who intentionally tanked their doubles matches.  Joe does a great job explaining the round robin system that incents players to lose.

I don’t know much about badminton, beyond the backyard version most of us played when we were about 12 years old.  Earlier in the week, an NBC sportscaster provided a quick remedial education on what makes Olympic badminton a demanding sport, including the fact that the shuttlecock can travel at speeds topping 100 mph.  (If you are asking yourself whether I’m referring to an African or European shuttlecock right now, you watch too much Monty Python.)

When I think of an athlete taking a dive, it’s usually for money, like the Black Sox Scandal of 1919.  Or Marlon Brando’s character in On the Waterfront.

“I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been SOMEbody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.”

The athlete has to be subtle, so that his sabotage goes undetected.  So how, I wondered when I first heard the story, would one know if an Olympic-level badminton player was throwing a match?

Turns out it’s not difficult, when everyone on the court is trying to lose.  It’s also hysterical… unless you traveled to London for the Olympics and paid a tidy sum for your ticket to watch badminton, of course.

If both you and your opponent desperately want to lose, you can’t do anything but play your absolute, humiliating worst.  If you try to up your game even a little, to look more convincing – say, because everyone in the building is booing you – your opponent can put forth just slightly less effort and win.  Er, I mean… lose.

The only solution is, everyone puts forth as little effort as possible.  I’m surprised these players even bothered to take the covers off their racquets.

I second Joe’s recommendation; you have to watch the video.

What do you think the Chinese players were saying between points?  Given how angry the spectators were, perhaps they were planning their escape route for after the match.

“Wait, you remembered to leave the keys in the ignition right?”

Anyone else want to caption this?

Chinese badminton players