February 14, 2013
Olympics organizers have long been concerned that the Summer Games are too gigantic, so they've decided to drop wrestling, a sport with a 2,700 year Olympic history, as of 2020. Granted, having two types of wrestling (regular and Greco-Roman) multiplied by the modern imperative of having women's versions of each is unwieldy.
And the action is obscure for the once-ever-four-years spectator. With the sound off on TV, whenever there's a flurry of action, I can never tell whether my guy just scored or got scored upon. I attended wrestling at the 1984 Olympics, but I have fewer memories of it than of, say, weightlifting, which was awesome. (You know what else was dull? Basketball with Michael Jordan v. West Germany. All I remember is that the game started out with Uwe Blab as an unstoppable scoring machine, hitting three hook shots in a row. And then he stopped.)
Still, Olympic historian David Wallechinsky says 29 countries won medals in wrestling in 2012. It's exactly the kind of broad-based sport that deserves some Olympic glamour every four years.
Much of the criticism of this decision has focused on modern pentathlon as a better sport to evict. Personally, I always have high hopes for modern pentathlon because it's exactly the kind of sport I would invent: the idea is that you are a young officer in the Napoleonic Wars and you have to deliver a message first: you swim a river, shoot somebody, ride a horse, swordfight, and run. It would probably be cooler if the competitors shot at each other while riding horses.
Anyway, the sport I would ban from the Olympics is my favorite, golf, which is being added in Brazil in 2016. So few people in Brazil care about golf that they have to build a tournament-quality course from scratch. Gil Hanse is designing a Brazilian version of Rustic Canyon, the Ventura County muni I play more than any other.
But why golf in the Olympics? As far as I can surmise, it was only added because pre-disgrace Tiger Woods was on his patriotic kick when he had been thinking about giving up golf to join the Navy SEALs, and he wanted to hear the national anthem play while he got his gold medal.
Traditionally, professional golfers (other than Tiger) have been unenthused about adding golf to the Olympics. Why? First, because they are professionals and the Olympics is for amateurs. Granted, almost all the rules against professionals in the Olympics were junked long ago, but the Olympics remains amateur in the key sense that they don't pay prize money.
Golf is Scottish, the Olympics, like tennis, are English.
Although the Olympics were revived by a French aristocrat, the Baron de Coubertin was a Jules Verne-like Anglophile who admired the sportingness of the English aristocrats. So amateurism was the founding principle of the Olympics. Similarly, Wimbledon was amateur-only until as recently as 1968.
The Scots, however, worked out 150 years ago a two-track system for golf where the gentlemen could have their own Amateur tournament, while anybody could enter the Open. Hence the history of golf is almost wholly lacking in the hypocrisy and hysteria surrounding shamateurism in the Olympics and tennis.
The modern Olympics, going back to the 1984 L.A. Games, are American, driven by corporate marketing money. And that's fine, but golfers already get more of that than just about any other sport, so big deal.
Second, individual golf tournaments have higher degrees of randomness than most other sporting events. When American wrestler Rulon Gardner defeated that unbeatable Russian known as The Experiment that was great. When the world's 93rd best golfer comes in ahead of the world's #1, that's just standard operating procedure. Thus, the chance that the best golfer in the world will win a single four-round tournament on a glorified muni is not high. Flukish results are expectable enough to be unexciting.
So, ban golf.
By Steve Sailer on 2/14/2013