Sports look weird from the outside. This is a simple and unavoidable truth. Listen to conversations about the Olympics, and you’ll inevitably hear things like: “Why is THAT in the Olympics?” or “Does anyone even care about -insert sport here-?” I know this. I embrace this. I figure that each question I have about an unfamiliar sport has its counterpart somewhere around the world…when I ask, “Why doesn’t one of those sprint bike guys just take off? Why do they both go sooooo slow on the first lap? Just fly, man, fly!” someone else may be wondering, “Is it really necessary to have all those events on the track? It’s all the same thing, isn’t it? Just running around in circles…” From one perspective or another, every athletic endeavor is a little silly.
But in the interest of cataloging my own ignorance, I suppose, here are some things I don’t understand about other sports:
- Fencing. What is with the screaming? There’s a fairly hilarious video on the NBC Olympics website that has the best “reactions” in fencing. As far as I can tell, you’re supposed to scream after every point. And perhaps “scream” is too mild a term…tennis players and shot putters have nothing on the sounds fencers can produce. It seems very unsportsmanlike to me, but then the fact that EVERYONE seems to do it contradicts that perception. Maybe it’s just what they do.
- Fencing again. Isn’t there more to it than that? I watched the women’s final (the one where it was USA vs. USA), and it was a whole lot less “en garde” than I thought it would be. There didn’t seem to be enough…finesse, enough…swoosh-swoosh-swoosh. Just run and stab. One point every 5 seconds. Am I expecting something that only appears on Hollywood?
- Gymnastics. I have watched the team competition, the all-around, and the event finals. I like gymnastics, I really do. It amazes me. I really have no problem watching the same routines over, and over, and over. It’s different each time, as the athletes deal with nerves and fatigue. But what is the deal with the gymnastics gala? I mean, really. What other sport gets that kind of coverage? “Yes, the competition is over, the medals are handed out, but could you please come back and…run another marathon? …take one last dive? …you’re probably tired, but just swim a few more laps? Just so people can look at you?” Show me something where someone is competing, please. Let the gymnasts get a break—they’ve been through enough.
- Sprint bike. I may not even have the name of this sport right, but it’s the one where two riders go head-to-head on an indoor, wooden track. They race three laps, but only two are timed. The first lap, the riders test who can ride the slowest. It’s all about jockeying for position, apparently, and it’s better to be second so you can watch what the other rider is doing. My question is…why doesn’t someone just take off on the first lap? Has anyone ever tried it? It seems like you could just ride off and leave your competitor in your figurative dust.
- Synchronized diving. How come you can twist different ways without it affecting your score? Doesn’t synchronized mean, “doing the same thing at the same time?”
- Track & Field. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I didn’t know that only one step on the lane line was enough to disqualify a person. I’ve always been told that it’s “three consecutive steps” and/or impeding the progress of another runner. Perhaps it’s different for distance running? Poor Spearmon. Poor other 200m runner guy. Getting DQ’d for one wrong step seems a little harsh.