Greed helps wrestling get whacked from OlympicsRICK LUBBERS: Aside from the marathon, wrestling is the most quintessential Olympic sport that Greece ever exported.
By: Rick Lubbers, Duluth News Tribune
Singlets must not be sexy.
Why else would the International Olympic Committee vote to pin wrestling as a Summer Olympic event starting in 2020?
Aside from the marathon, wrestling is the most quintessential Olympic sport that Greece ever exported. But lagging TV ratings and ticket sales hurt its case as the IOC’s executive board revised the Summer Games lineup Tuesday.
Apparently, if wrestling doesn’t include body slams, sleeper holds, atomic drops and flying leaps off turnbuckles, not enough people are watching to justify its place as an Olympic sport.
But you’ll be hard-pressed to find a sport with a richer history or that better combines strength, stamina, balance, flexibility, quickness, knowledge, strategy and mental toughness.
Unfortunately, this shouldn’t come as a big surprise. The IOC began tossing tradition through the Olympic rings years ago, the best example being the so-called “Dream Team.” Allowing professional basketball players to compete at the Olympics was nothing more than a TV ratings and marketing grab. Soon professional hockey and tennis players were joining the mix, ensuring you will never see another true “Miracle on Ice.” This is the same group that concocted beach volleyball and handed out skimpy uniforms for its female athletes to wear — sex sells at the Olympics, too.
For many amateurs, the Olympics used to be the highest step on their sport’s achievement ladder. Now, the IOC is kicking wrestlers down a few rungs.
Joining the Olympics stable in 2016 is golf. Why? Because the sports world must watch Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson add Olympic medals to their ginormous trophy cases.
And, if Major League Baseball has its way, Joe Mauer may be the starting catcher for a future U.S. Olympic baseball team.
The Olympics no longer are about tradition or celebrating amateur athletes. They’re about merchandising, TV ratings and anything else that can pour large amounts of money into the IOC’s coffers.
And wrestling must not further those greedy aims (wrestling shoes, singlets and headgear probably aren’t big sellers at Olympic venues), or else another less-heralded event such as badminton, table tennis, handball, equestrian or synchronized swimming would have gotten the boot.
Full disclosure: I wrestled for six years in junior high and high school, but I also have played lots of badminton and table tennis. Sorry, but they shouldn’t be Olympic sports. Badminton is something people play at picnics or in their backyards, and pingpong’s most famous Olympian is Forrest Gump.
How did modern pentathlon possibly make the cut?
Can anyone name all five events that comprise the modern pentathlon?
Don’t worry, I couldn’t name them either.
For the record, they are: pistol shooting, fencing, 200-meter freestyle swimming, show jumping (yes, with horses) and a 3-kilometer cross-country run. It must be one of Bob Costas’ favorites. The ancient version included discus, javelin, jumping, running and … wrestling.
It gets worse. Just check the list of sports that will be vying for that open spot in 2020: baseball and softball (as a combo), karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu, a martial art.
Wakeboarding? It’s fun to do on a summer day at a local lake, but it shouldn’t replace wrestling. Wushu? That’s how I sound when I sneeze.
Why stop there?
Can’t similar cases be made for croquet, bean bag races, Wii bowling and Jarts?
Why not add stock car racing? Chariot racing was part of the ancient Olympics, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s car would look great with a gold medal hanging from its rearview window.
The IOC stresses that its decision won’t be final until September and that wrestling can possibly be reinstated. But, for now, wrestling is left off the medals stand — watching other sports celebrate victories, flash medals and hum along to Olympic theme music.
All because singlets aren’t sexy.
Contact News Tribune sports editor Rick Lubbers at firstname.lastname@example.org or (218) 723-5317. Follow him @ricklubbersdnt on Twitter.