Tonight is the last night of gymnastics competition in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. For the past 10 days the world has been captivated by the feats of strength, agility, and flexibility of these diminutive athletes (both male and female). I am in awe of their abilities. However, I don’t enjoy watching it. In fact, I hate gymnastics.
Many have made the argument that the new scoring system is too complex, heavy on math, and removes the possibility of a “perfect 10”. Whatever. The problem isn’t the NEW scoring system…it’s the fact that a sport of such precision comes down to the subjective opinions of a bunch of old people.
Here in West Des Moines, everyone is complaining that “the judges” have screwed Shawn Johnson out of at least one gold medal. The entire country, spurred on by the eccentric Bela Karolyi, is convinced that Nastia Liukin should have won gold in the uneven bars. I’m sure that there are dozens of similar complaints being expressed throughout the world, on behalf of their rooting interests. Why?
Because it’s all left up to a bunch of judges who all have different definitions of excellence!
I always tell high schoolers not to put too much stock in the judges’ results in music contests. Different judges look for different things. This is difficult to understand as a teenage performer…but the only thing at stake in those situations is a silly number that means next to nothing in the grand scheme of things. In the case of gymnastics (or diving or figure skating or any number of other dumb sports) these scores mean EVERYTHING.
Every time one of these sports holds an Olympic competition there is controversy over judging. (Talk to Paul Hamm about that!) It’s such an unrewarding experience as a sports fan to leave high-stakes competition in the hands of judges. Give me a playing field where goals are scored…or a stretch of pavement or water where competitors can be timed. Just keep the beauty pageant evaluation methods far away from the games.
All that said, I’m pretty pumped about the whole Shawn Johnson thing. Three silver and one gold. Not too shabby…