So there’s a bit of a to-do today about apparent home-team favoritism in one of the many figure skating competitions in Sochi. The Grand High Masters of World Figure Skating may have made slight adjustments in their Super Double Secret Rules of Scoring to grant a victory to a Russian skater, instead of the perceived audience favorite.
Fans of the sport are all up in arms over this, demanding that Something! Be! Done!
Certainly, there are things that should be done. But nothing that requires the rolling of heads.
First, clarify and publicize the scoring rules. I’m sure that they are available online somewhere, but let people know that if they want to play Judge and score along at home, they are more than welcome and able to do so. Perhaps then people will see just how difficult it is to properly judge a competition. Was that a successful double jump, or a failed triple? How much worse is it to miss a jump and fall on your ass than to miss a jump and just stumble a little? There will still be the “We was robbed!” complaints, but they just might be fewer, and it will be easier to respond to them.
Second, get rid of judging in sports that don’t need it. I happened to catch some of a ski jump competition, and was surprised to see judges’ points displayed in the scoring. Seriously? It seems like the simplest thing to figure out who jumped the farthest. I can see making a small allowance for wind, but are there style points involved? Look, if you want to keep the jumpers from attempting dangerous maneuvers (which apparently is the reason they have judges), just prohibit them outright. Leave the judging for things like snowboarding, where they are needed.
Third, bring the Winter and Summer Games more into balance. The Summer Games have three times as many competitions as the Winter Games. I don’t mean that they should create more events for the Winter, but perhaps some of the Summer competitions could be moved. You may recall the outcry a few years ago when the International Olympic Committee decided to drop wrestling from their program. It took a huge amount of protest and complaint to have this classic Olympic sport put back on the list. If their reason was that the schedule for the Summer Games was getting too crowded, why not move wrestling to the Winter? It’s done indoors, so the weather outside is irrelevant. And it doesn’t require a huge facility – a well-equipped college gym would be sufficient (probably not a luxurious world-class facility, but still sufficient). Moving the indoor martial arts competitions to the Winter would reduce some of the pressure on the host cities for the Summer Games, without really adding much of an undue burden for the Winter hosts.
(I note as an aside that basketball was created with the full intent of it being a winter indoor sport, but it is part of the Summer Games so that it won’t conflict with the NBA or college seasons. Yet the NHL allows its players to take time off for the Winter Olympics…)
Finally, the American Sports Media needs to get with the program, as it were. There are several 24/7 networks devoted exclusively to sports, yet we only hear about any of these Olympic athletes and sports once every four years. There are networks devoted exclusively to showing games that were played years ago…but try and find, for example, the National Bobsleigh Championships. Span the globe, guys, and bring us the constant variety of Sport! Help us get to know these athletes and their sports (and care about them) on a regular basis, and then maybe you won’t have to drown us in artificial schmaltz every four years.