February 18, 2013 – Levels of Competitions

Posted: February 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

I read recently about the International Olympic Committee dropping wrestling from future Olympic competitions beginning in 2020 and it made me sad.  It’s wrestling season here in the Pacific NW and sports pages are awash in images of hardened, wiry high school lads dressed in their tights, boots and headgear.  The photos range from headshots of competitors to full-on competition action.  I feel deep sympathy for those kids because with the IOC’s decision, their passion and effort and glory will likely not carry past their high school years.  The IOC has effectively taken all opportunity for future competition away from them.

 I’m sure they gave it due consideration, but there are a lot of reasons the IOC should not have dropped Olympic wrestling.  For one, wrestling could very well be the most basic form of human competition, the ultimate measure of domination.  There’s no proof of it because the media hadn’t been invented yet, but I imagine it harkens back to before Neanderthal times.  For another, where else would someone who doesn’t have a wrestler teenager get their fill of high-level wrestling except during the Olympics?

 In my mind, the IOC has made the most baffling and egregious error in the nearly 3000-year history of Olympic competitions.  It has been speculated that the IOC was swayed in their decision by the most basic of motivators – money, and that smacks of corruption.  There is plenty of international coverage over this mess they’ve created, and since this is beyond the scope of this blog I’ll just leave it here, let the reader do their own investigations, and move into what I really wanted to say.

 As I look at the sports world in general, I see a lot of issues.  Corruption, performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), money, and so on taint the amateur to professional ranks.  As a result of athletes breaking the rules, records have asterisks next to them, courts are full, entire sports are tarnished, pure competitors are not given the recognition they should enjoy, and grand jury investigations are constant.  So many issues and they all seem to be related to money. 

 Right now, sports are generally divided into two categories:  amateur and professional.  But the lines between them are either blurry or non-existent, case in point: high profile college sports.  My solution is to stiffen the rules in all levels of all sports to get back to pure competitions based on a level playing field.  Then I’d add one more category to the sporting world called the “Entertainer” level.  My solution falls out like this:

 “Amateurs” can only compete for medals and trophies.  They cannot win money; pure passion is their motivator.  (When I was a kid this used to be the fundamental rule, but this has been abused considerably over the decades.  Amateur organizations need to stiffen their backs and hold competitors to this basic rule again.)  Amateurs can receive sponsorships for their competition efforts only, such as clothing and equipment, but they cannot enjoy any other financial perks.  If there is any violation of these basic laws, they are booted up to the “Professional” level.

 “Professionals” compete for money and trophies, but the money is limited to what might be considered a very good wage for the average family, say no more than $50,000 to $100,000 for first place; no more $10 million dollar payouts.  Love of their sport, respect for their body, and a desire to make a decent living will be their motivators.  They can receive sponsorships from their competition efforts only, again limited to clothing and equipment, but they can wear logos, like PGA players.  They cannot use PEDs or enjoy any other competitive advantage except the skill and discipline they bring to their competitions through training.  If there is any violation of these basic laws or the laws of their competitive ruling organization, they “graduate” up to the “Entertainer” level.

 “Entertainers” get it all, they compete for whatever anyone will offer, and more importantly the lid is off – there are no restrictions.  They can abuse their body, they can use special equipment, they can do anything they want to get the upper edge.  The basic rules of competition are the same as their brethren in the “Professional” ranks, like field of play dimensions and how the game is played, but everything about their individual person or the equipment they use and how they use it is their own business.  Performers cannot get kicked out of this league.  It’s kind of like “Mad Max” for sports.

 There is a healthy portion of the viewing audience that will go for this Entertainer-level of competition to support it because the average population likes to see the grotesque and the unusual.  Purists will tune into the Amateur and Professional competitions, and sponsors will need to choose where to put their money based on the values they hold dear.  But the mass market viewers and sponsors will probably go for the Entertainer levels of play; like their predecessors from a couple millennia back in time at the coliseum to watch gladiators battle or Christians fighting lions or public hangings. 

 The possibilities are interesting to consider.  Imagine Entertainer-level golf where 500-yard drives are the norm.  Or unlimited speeds for NASCAR racing.  Or 7-foot NBA players swishing 30-footers, oh wait – they already have that!  How about giant human specimens bowling using an overhand delivery?  Maybe 200-mph serves in tennis?  Allow a level of play where the restrictions can come off and let science and technology and human greed rule this level of ultra competition.

 Instead of spending so much effort on restrictions and managing competitions, simply allow a place for rule offenders to go, set up a free-for-all competition, and let the people who are willing to spend the money decide how unlimited sports can entertain the world.  (Oh, and these Entertainer-level sports leagues must be international.  There’s no sense in restricting location either.  The USA doesn’t need to own it all.)

Let the games begin!

Above average week last week for “198,” but below average for “220.”

“220” Game:  Old Average – 49.65  New Average – 49.05  Goal Average – 70

“198” Game:  Old Average – 67.11  New Average – 68.10  Goal Average – 90

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