Archive for Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Eephus Pitch

July 3, 2008

Listening to sports talk radio the other night, one host - and I can't remember who, but it's not important anyways - was taking calls and emails about the Olympics.

His whole perspective, and many of his callers' perspectives, was that no true American sports fan cares about the outcome of the Games.

His main two arguments were that the Games award losers, since they give second and third place medals, and that the Games have no real significance anyways.

The first argument, I really don't think I need to even address. American sports at most any level reward second place teams.

High school and college sports alike award runners-up trophies and medals in nearly every sport. Players on losing teams of the major three American sports - the NFL, MLB and NBA - receive bonus checks for playing in title games regardless of the outcome.

Second and third place teams are rewarded all the time.

With the second part of the equation, he asked callers which they'd rather watch between the Olympic Games and a preseason NFL game.

Surprisingly to me, most callers, at least those who were calling in, were in favor of watching the preseason NFL game.

Of course, there could be a lot of variables, as far as which event is being watched or which preseason game is being discussed and between which teams.

But I think that's beside the point.

This year, with the Beijing Games, the circumstances are such that it's like that train wreck that the person sees could potentially occur, and they can't divert their eyes.

First, there is the doping scandal. It's the first set of Games where the entire world has been exposed to the magnitude of just how widespread doping has been in the past.

Justin Gatlin and Floyd Landis both recently lost appeals that showed this, and those are just two of the Americans who've been busted. Sydney Games golden child Marion Jones still sits in jail.

Doping has obviously been a huge problem in the past, and curiosity as to just how many more athletes will get busted is one reason to watch.

Another is the individual performances of athletes such as Michael Phelps. You can't tell me a real American sports fan would watch preseason football over Phelps' quest to obtain eight gold medals. He has a legitimate shot at doing so, which would make him the most decorated Olympian ever, with 14 golds in his career.

That's incredible, and every time he races, I'll bet the majority of Americans are tuned in, as well as other people from across the globe. It's a chance to witness history. Baseball is my favorite sport at the professional level, and I absolutely think NFL football is awesome, but given the chance to watch Phelps' pursuit of something like this outweighs anything else. If he accomplishes what he has set out to accomplish, people will be talking about it for a long time. History isn't usually made in NFL preseason games or even in MLB regular season games.

And finally, more reason to watch than any, it's the true world cup, of everything. There are world cups in baseball, soccer, cricket, rugby, you name it, but this is the all-encompassing test of nation versus nation competing against one another.

Furthermore, it's the one time when most nations of the world can gather on a single stage and compete with some civility. I say that with some reluctance thinking back to the Atlanta Games and the attempted bombing, but history has shown that even in times of war the Games can remain civil.

These are all reasons why sports fans everywhere should tune in for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games.

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