I have a love/hate relationship with gymnastics and figure skating. I love what they’re able to do. They’re definitely in the “shut your mouth, you can’t do anything like this business, okay?” category. With both those sports, you pretty much have to dedicate your entire life to that one thing and just decide you want nothing more than to be a freak of nature. Normal people, even extraordinary people, can’t jump up in the air, spin around three times, and pick which edge of a metal blade they want to land on. Humans can’t balance on a wooden beam, do a flip, and land on one foot without so much as a wobble. So anytime somebody enters that “nobody else in the history of time could ever do this” stratosphere in something other than, say, Dungeons & Dragons: the Animated Series trivia knowledge, you have to at least respect the accomplishment. I’m not ashamed to say that I love watching it.
I hate the commentary so much that I almost love it again. If Ed Wood’s movies could be turned into sportscasting, they would get behind the microphones of a gymnastics event and the result would be pretty much exactly what we have here except Bela Lugosi would be Bela Karolyi. It is so bad it’s good. If this telecast isn’t produced by Christopher Guest, I’d be a little surprised.
And it’s hard to know where the commentary ends and the judging begins. I mean, any sport that is determined exclusively by judges is ridiculous. You catch a touchdown, six points. They don’t let the ref deduct a tenth of a point because your legs came apart or you didn’t stick the landing. The Australian judge can’t award anybody seven tenths of a run for not being completely vertical when rounding third base. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous that someone’s whole life can be dedicated to a competition decided by incompetents and less than arbitrary arbiters.
Maybe I’m being unfair to the judges. I don’t know them. The only thing I know about gymnastics scoring is that there are five levels of deductions: Huge, not huge, not good, wow, and disastrous. But I don’t understand how someone can land on their knees (prompting a “wow” and a “disastrous”) on half of their vaults and still win a medal . . . in vaulting.
Part of it is that the new gymnastics scoring has turned into the new NBA All Star Game Dunk Contest. You know, it used to be that if you missed a dunk in the dunk contest, your score got cut in half and you lost all chance of winning. Now they’ll let you try the same nearly impossible dunk for five minutes until you finally prove it is semi-possible. What used to be a spectacle has become a lame parade of extremely difficult mediocrity. It’s the same thing in gymnastics. They fall. They step. They waver. They fail. They medal. Woo hoo. It’s still difficult, but it’s not pretty anymore.
Back to the love. I love the fact that the whole thing boils down to drama . . . that shockingly talented people who aren’t satisfied with being the best until they’re validated by people they think are idiots and awarded medals of the appropriate metal and podiums of the appropriate height can be reduced to tears by a hundredth of a point. I love the disdain, the chastising, the anguish, the incensed cries against international injustice. All sporting respect aside, it’s just so darn fitting.
So, no, sports should never be judged. But I like standing in judgment over the ones that are.