Thursday, August 21, 2008

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

One of the big stories of the Olympic games is the fact that this may be the last time that baseball and softball are contested. The irony is that they are being removed for opposite reasons.

Softball has been in the Olympics only since the 1996 games in Atlanta. The US has won gold every time. So the IOC says that we are too dominate and it isn't a competitive sport for the rest of the world...therefore not worth continuing.

Isn't that the point? Shouldn't we be trying to win every year? What is stopping the other countries from putting teams together and working hard to beat us? Have we ever won a medal in badminton or handball (which by the way looks nothing like the handball I've seen looks more like soccer played with your hands instead of your feet)? Should those sports be eliminated because they are dominated by the Asian countries?

Now baseball is in a different boat. The IOC says the competitors are not good enough. They want professionals, MLB players, big name stars, similar to the Basketball and Hockey teams which are usually a NBA and NHL all star team. The problem of course is that the Summer Olympics take place during the MLB season and no pros can come compete. (I doubt MLB is going to take a break like the NHL does for the Olympics.)

Personally I'm thrilled that pros can't play in Olympic baseball. I think the acceptance of professional athletes into the Olympic games was one of the worst things to ever happen to events like basketball and hockey. To me the Olympics are about "average" people. Working people. Not professional atletes. It is about guys that work at Home Depot during the day and then train for 6 hours at night because they love the sport...not because they are being paid millions of dollars. Baseball is one of those sports where the US has a tryout and anybody can make it. Guys who have never been able to break through to the majors or even guys that have never been able to break in to the minors can make the team. Which makes for pretty even competition with the rest of the world. If we allowed MLB players in wouldn't baseball be dominated by the US and then eliminated anyway.

It makes no sense to remove one of the most popular sports in the world from the Olympic games. Sure soccer has more fans world wide but baseball is big in America, Canada, Japan, China, Central America and the Carribean. The decision to eliminate the sports will be appealed next year. We'll have to wait until then to see what happens.

My vote is to keep them both and wait for the competition to catch up.

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