JayhawkRock's Blog
First off: I currently do not have cable in my studio apartment due to a mistake by the cable company - one of the very first controversies of these Olympic Games for me, as this unfortunately coincided with the start of the Games - and therefore have had to get my Olympic coverage from the internet this week. In doing so, I have been amazed by some of the articles that I have come across. Though there are a lot of topics that have bothered me, three that have really bothered me throughout their coverage are the question of Michael Phelps' greatness, the Spanish picture(s) scandal(s), and the controversy over the age of China's female gymnasts. So, to follow those in a very linear direction, I'll start with my issues with the coverage of Phelps... I cannot believe that media sources (especially American sources) would question whether or not Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympian of all time. I just don't understand how you could look at his accomplishments, which now include a record eleven gold medals in three Olympics, (though he earned all of those golds in two) and say that he has not accomplished more than any Olympian ever. Especially in America, where our culture is so focused on TDs, ERA, Pts., and all sorts of other basic and abstract statistics as arguably the only measure of greatness, the fact that one of our own countrymen has not won all of the media over by becoming the Olympian with the most gold (and, by the end of this Olympics, most likely the most of any color) medals is incredible. It seems that the people of the United States have started to listen to those who say we're too cocky or too dominant and have decided to humble ourselves. It's not our fault that we develop some of the greatest athletes in the world, and we have no reason to apologize for it. At a time when there should be a swelling up of nationalistic pride throughout the US, we instead have to listen to sportswriters who say that swimming is too easy to accumulate medals in, diminishing Phelps' accomplishments as much as possible. This argument amazes me. I, like most of those who have ever wanted to become a sportswriter, would never be able to win a gold medal. In anything. If Sports Illustrated reading became an Olympic contest, I'd probably be beaten by some upstart rookie speedreader, and would be lucky to pull a silver in my best event. So for professional writers to say that professional (after all, the link between the Olympics and amateurism is, for all intents and purposes, forever destroyed) swimmers have an easy go of it is ridiculous. They say there are so many different distances and strokes that can be won. Do they not realize that there are specialists in each of these distances and strokes that Phelps has to compete against? They mention them in the "others to watch" when they write up the race predictions, but as soon as they are blown out of the pool by Phelps it's like the other competitors are suddenly preschoolers doggy paddling while he has the distinct advantage of having had his mom take off his floaties because he mastered the whole floating thing. Phelps is facing serious competition, including many top contenders that train exclusively for one or two events while he spreads his time over all of them. And no offense, but Carl Lewis or Jesse Owens cannot even attempt to claim the title of "greatest Olympian" after Phelps, as he has had to run around from prelim to semifinal to final more than they ever ran in all of their Olympics, and I doubt they swam much between runs. As far as the media aspect, what's wrong with a white, affluent American becoming dominant at the highest level of his sport? Just because the media can't find obstacles he's had to overcome due to his family or racial or monetary situation, they don't get behind him like they would a poor african american kid from a bad town and a broken family. It's time we, as a nation, get behind an athlete who may not be an underdog or a great story, but rather just a hardworking, dedicated American who has taken his natural talents and formed them to the point that he has become a prominent citizen, and really appreciate him as the greatest Olympian of all time. After all, isn't he the physical embodiment of the conceptual "American Dream"? As far as the Spanish photo controversy is concerned, I think we need to get over the "double standard" involved and truly analyze the people involved. Again, the media's decision to pursue this as a "Look at these people get away with this when the US never would" issue is ridiculous. Whereas in the Phelps story we need to embrace our athletic ability and take pride in a fellow American, we need to remove the United States from this discussion entirely. I have no problem with American athletes telling reporters that this photo is classless and racist, but to say that the US wouldn't get off as easily immediately is ignorant. The Spanish team includes NBA players, including Pau Gasol, who was a high-profile NBA figure this year as he took part in the Finals, so to say that there is such a horrible bias against NBA players is ridiculous. Sure, Americans are held to a high standard, but that is in part due to the fact that they are the top athletes, especially in basketball, and known the whole world over. Just as we hold athletes and celebrities to a higher standard within the US, they are held to a higher standard on the world stage. While I do not necessarily agree with this idolization of the athlete and loftier expectations of them as people, I think there are certain lines you do not cross, and when you do then there should definitely be consequences. Racist actions in a national advertisement are absolutely beyond this line, and not only should the Spanish know better and take the blame, (instead of placing it on the photographer as many did, as if they are not grown adults who know that what they are doing is a mocking gesture and entirely racist) but there should be some sort of punishment from the Spanish government and the IOC. This is really a stain on their national image, and they have a long way to go to show that they are not an ignorant nation, but the US should have nothing to do with that process. Now for the issue that really bothers me the most, from both sides. While I, like, it seems, many others on FanNation, was highly disappointed with the article by Selena Roberts about the age of the Chinese gymnasts, it was an article that needed to be written, just not in the way that it was. The article (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/olympics/2008/writers/selena_roberts/08/13/china.gymnasts/index.html?eref=T1 for those who have not read it) is essentially an opinion column, not the type of in-depth, well-researched sports article most of us have come to expect from Sports Illustrated. It levels claims that are not only untimely - they did not come until AFTER the US women's gymnastic team lost to China's, hinting at a little bit of the "sore loser" syndrome - but without any real, factual basis. Yes, there is the video evidence that makes it seem as if there is no way the Chinese gymnasts could be sixteen, and they are not very tall and are quite thin. Yes, China "cheated" on the fireworks show and had a prettier little girl lip sync at the opening ceremony. Yes, the gymnasts didn't look like they knew how to properly apply makeup. But where in the article was the actual evidence that these girls are not sixteen? In the speculation she mentions? In the fact that the American coaches doubted it? Truth is, Selena Roberts did not provide any evidence, and that is unacceptable for a professional journalist at the highest level of sport. If you are going to make a claim, you learn in high school that you must be able to support it. She did not. Still, the topic of her conversation does need to be discussed. I am not of the school that the girls being younger gives them an advantage. In fact, as I have grown older, my nerves have calmed. Again, Roberts' argument is flawed, as she has no idea what kind of nerves those kids have and worked through. Not to mention, the fact that the US gymnasts are older gives them the advantage of years of training. Maybe the Chinese start high-level training earlier. Is that their fault that their gymnasts are better trained than ours by this age if they are in fact underage? I would have to definitely say no. It may be upsetting to know that these girls have been undergoing rigorous training from a very young age, but we as a nation are in no position to attack another nation for that, as we see junior high basketball players commit to colleges and even swimmers such as Michael Phelps entering the Olympics for the first time at age fifteen. The issue is not the actual age of the participants, but rather whether or not they broke the rules. True, you can argue that being younger does not give the competitors any advantage, but neither would the final member of the US men's 4x200 team jumping off the blocks a half second early, seeing as how they won by seconds over the next competitor. Still, the US would have been disqualified for such an error, simply because it is breaking the rules. So if the Chinese did, in fact, break a rule, they must be held accountable. These rules are in place for a reason, and they either need to be changed or enforced. So far, they have been enforced based on current information, but if any solid evidence that the girls are not sixteen comes up, they must be disqualified.


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