Thursday, November 23, 2017

Gary Shelton: Wrestling with a terrible Olympic decision


Race walking is in.

Field hockey is in.

Trampoline is in.

On the other hand, wrestling is out of the Olympics. You try to make sense of it. Personally, I want to see Rulon Gardner get Jacques Rogge in a full nelson and hold him in it until the next Games begin.

Modern pentathlon is in.

Rhythmic gymnastics is in.

Badminton is in.

And, despite all of the picnic sports and silly events, wrestling is out after 2016. An ancient sport, a pure sport, an honored sport, has been tossed aside by an Olympic Committee that would rather see guns, swords and horses on parade. Also, ribbons.

Sometimes, a decision made inside a room in Switzerland can be so fundamentally stupid that it leaves the people on the outside stunned. No, wrestling is not the most glamorous sport of the Olympics. It rarely creates stars, and it doesn't dominate the television screen. It isn't swimming and it isn't track and it isn't basketball. To be honest, a lot of matches are kind of dull to watch.

Still, wrestling is a sport with a basic integrity to it. No one questions whether the participants are athletes. No one questions whether the events are legit competition. When it comes to wrestling, no one questions anything but the sanity of the IOC members who have given it a thumbs-down.

By now, wouldn't you think wrestling would have tenure? Olympic sports come and go all the time. They no longer hold the tug-of-war, and they gave up polo long ago, and no one shoots at live pigeons anymore.

But wrestling? What? Does the IOC realize that this isn't the fake kind of wrestling? Were they disappointed that the United States never sent a Dream Team of Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Roddy Piper?

Come on. If you have to eliminate sports from the Olympics — and I'm not sure you do — then there are plenty of other options.

Race walking? That's not a sport. That's a Monty Python skit.

Field hockey? Just wondering, but is there any such thing as "grassing the puck"?

Rhythmic gymnastics? Hey, I'm all for having fun with ribbons. But in the Olympics?

Modern pentathlon? I dare anyone, including IOC president Rogge, to even name the five events without using Google. For the record, they're laser pistol, show jumping, fencing, a 3-kilometer run and a 200-meter swim. Sounds like an arcade.

Why hang on to badminton? There was a massive scandal in the sport in London, remember? If any sport is going to get the ejector seat, it should be badminton. Why continue with taekwondo and judo? Not to mention that karate and wushu want in, too? And if you are going to have trampoline, why not have a team event in a bouncy castle?

That's the thing about the Olympics. It's an international festival of sports, and some of them can be silly.

Here's my fear. I suspect that wrestling died because of a lack of competition in the oldest of Olympic events: sucking up. Evidently, the aristocrats who represent wrestling didn't argue loud enough with the aristocrats who represent the Olympics. That's what is important? Debate? Adjectives? Filibusters?

So golf is in, and wrestling is out.

Perhaps all of this is a closest-to-the-pin competition.

Nothing against golf, but when it comes to which sports are in the Olympics, I fall back on this. If the Games are the pinnacle of your sport, they should stay. If they are not, they should go.

I know, I know. This would eliminate some popular sports, basketball and hockey and tennis, because to those athletes, a gold medal is never going to mean as much as an NBA title or a Stanley Cup or winning Wimbledon. Nor should it. Pretty much, those sports are in the Olympics to drive television ratings, so they are here to stay.

Ah, but to a hammer thrower, or a bobsledder, or a gymnast, nothing will ever be finer than an Olympic gold. It is that way for wrestlers, too.

That's the essence of the Olympics: The unknown athlete sacrificing on his way to the unforgettable moment. Without wrestling, the Olympics have less of that.

Remember this about the Olympics. Everyone wants in. Squash wants to be an Olympic sport. And rock climbing. And inline skating. Soon, you can expect lobbying by chess and dodgeball and international NASCAR.

So here's a question: Why cut anything? Why not grow the way the world has? Why not expand from 25 to 30 sports? Why not bring back softball and baseball and, if you want, hot-air ballooning?

Yeah, it would cost more. On the other hand, have you seen the television fees? There are always a lot of countries bidding for the Games. Just demand more scoreboards.

In the meantime, dressage is in.

Table tennis is in.

Shooting is in.

Wrestling? For now, it has lost the fight.

Listen to Gary Shelton weekdays from 9 a.m. until noon on 98.7-FM the Fan.


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