Everyone knows that the best team or athlete doesn’t always win. So why should we continue rewarding the inferior competitor?
Did you see this? The US Olympic Committee has given the third women’s figure skating slot to the fourth place finisher instead of, you know, the third place finisher. And it’s all legal!
…U.S. Figure Skating officials chose to look beyond Wagner’s two falls in a nerve-seized fourth-place finish at the U.S. Championships Saturday and name the West Potomac graduate to one of the three women’s spots on the Sochi-bound team.
The decision was made by an Olympic-selection committee behind closed doors Sunday morning, announced at a noon press conference at Boston’s TD Garden, and fell most bitterly on Mirai Nagasu , who had exulted just 12 hours earlier in her bronze-medal winning performance that in any normal circumstance would have guaranteed her a spot on the Olympic team.
Here at S&R, we applaud the committee. All too often in American sport we allow our competitions to be marred by a fastidious obsession with who won, as though actually winning has anything to do with who’s best.
Hopefully the USOC process can bet extended to its logical conclusion in the actual Olympics. It would make sense to begin with skating, which has the longest and most well-defined tradition of subjectivity. Once the competitions have been held and judged there wold be an über-committee, as it were, that would take other factors into account before deciding who deserves the medals based on the big picture. This would eliminate from the Games the injustice associated with the best performers losing out when they fail under the harsh lights.
When we get to this point, we could go back and retroactively award Debi Thomas the gold medal she so richly deserved. Also, maybe Nancy Kerrigan, because ultimately the guiding philosophy would suggest that you don’t actually have to compete to be the best.
Once we have perfected the system in the subjective sports (skating, diving, snowboard half-pipe) then we can begin exploring how it might best be applied to sports that currently rely on so-called “objective” measures of evaluation, such as fastest times (100m dash), longest distances (triple jump) and most points scored (basketball).
Eventually the sort of advanced subjective metrics employed by the USOC in the skating trials would be the rule across all sports, and we’ll be the better for it.The NBA has been experimenting with the concept for years, granting its officials broad latitude to shape individual game results in favor of the best players and teams, and we welcome the day when all competition finally focuses on reward the best teams and athletes, not those who merely win the games.