Sunday, August 15, 2004

Blaine Wilson, Grow The Hell Up

OK, to be fair, Andrea Joyce baited him, and maybe he was still a little woozy from the fall, but that's no excuse.  In case you missed it, here's what I'm talking about...

Perhaps in recognition of the fact that everyone got all excited about the Salt Lake City Games because of the ice dance judging controversy, NBC found itself a judging controversy in Men's Gymnastics.  Specifically, during practices, the head High Bar judge informed the U.S. team that a move (or combination) used in the High Bar routines of two of our gymnasts will not, in fact, be scored as highly as we thought it would.  In other words, the routines won't have the high "start value" that we thought they had.

Pause for a short digression into what little I know about this subject.  Seems that the Powers That Be in gymnastics got all bummed about the proliferation of 10's some years ago, so they came up with this new and convoluted judging system.  Under the system, different moves and combinations are worth different points -- and you need a certain amount of "bonus points" to have your routine be scored out of a total of 10.0.  AND, in order to keep things tough, every four years, the Powers That Be get together and rewrite the lists of bonus points -- so that the "perfect 10" routine always remains just out of reach of all but the most freakin' amazing of gymnasts.  Got all that?

The other thing I know is that gymnastics coaches go out of their way to find quasi-loopholes in the system.  Which is to say, to find the easiest possible way there is to get the necessary bonus points -- I mean, why work harder if you don't have to, right?

OK, so, the U.S. team had routines that were scored high enough (out of a 10, I assume) at last year's Worlds.  But the Olympic head judge said, "Dudes," -- well, I paraphrase; I don't think he actually said "Dudes" -- he said, "Dudes, I've double checked with the magic code of points, and your routines aren't ACTUALLY worth what you think they're worth.  They are in fact worth two-tenths less."

(Important point here:  NBC never showed us the skill in question or told us how the points had changed.  We haven't been given an opportunity to judge for ourselves whether the judgewas being unfair or if the Americans had simply been playing fast and loose with the code of points.)

So.  The NBC commentators (Tim Daggett and Elfie Whatsherface) explain to us how absolutely HORRIBLE this is for the U.S. team -- because now these two gymnasts have to CHANGE THEIR PROGRAMS at the very last minute (OK, two days before) in order to be eligible for the full point score. 

As if to prove their point, the first American affected by the change gets up on the high bar -- and although he gets through his new and improved routine unscathed, Tim points out all these "form breaks" that he clearly wouldn't have had if he'd practiced this routine for the past year.  (And I ask myself, if each form break loses you one-tenth of a point, and you're going to make all these form breaks because you hadn't practiced this routine, wouldn't you be better off just doing the old routine with the lower start value?)

Blaine Wilson gets up there.  He does a release move which he had decided to insert in order to make up for the lost points from the rule change.  He misses the bar and falls down.  He doesn't appear hurt, but apparently is -- and gets all woozy after competing in the next apparatus and decides to sit the next one out (which, Tim is quick to point out, TOTALLY messes with the heads of the U.S. team, because someone who hadn't planned to compete that event at all has to get up there and compete).

So, after the Americans finish the competition (and end up qualifying second anyway), Andrea Joyce sits down with Tim and asks him how the rule change affected him.  And, first, Tim is a good guy and comes up with the right answers -- saying things like, "Well, you have to deal with whatever they throw at you," and "We're just focussed on doing well in the finals."  And Andrea Joyce keeps pushing him and says, "Are you angry?"

Yes, Blaine Wilson is angry.  He thinks it's unfair.  He says, "If they can't beat us fairly..."  He's referring, no doubt, to the fact that the head High Bar judge is Japanese, and the Japanese team is going to be in the gold medal hunt with the Americans.  And, in case his statement on NBC wasn't clear enough, I found this here article where Blaine is quoted as saying, "It's cheating."

Way to show that Olympic Spirit, Blaine. 

Funny that you don't see anyone else complaining.  Were the two U.S. gymnasts the only athletes in the Games who had this particular move that won't be scored as high as expected?  If not, why wasn't anyone else raising the hue and cry against this call by the head judge?  And I'm sure there's some sort of International Governing Body for Gymnastics.  Why aren't any of them standing up for Blaine?  For that matter, if the U.S. Gymnastics team feels screwed by this ruling, why aren't they taking this up with the governing body rather than throwing around accusations against the judge?  Could it possibly be because they know the judge is within his rights to make this call?

And there are also practical implications here.  Is it a really good idea to accuse the head judge of cheating when the competition is still going on?  And if changing your program is so amazingly difficult, why not just do the routine you've practiced for the past year and take the freakin' two-tenths deduction? 

Here's what it looks like to me, Blaine:  A judge made a ruling he was totally allowed to make, which could've cost you up to two-tenths of a point.  In response to that, you thought you could change your program to make back those two-tenths.  You fell.  It was disastrous for you -- it dropped you out of the all-around, hurt the team's score way more than the two-tenths would have, and you even had to sit out an event due to injury.  Rather than be a man about it and accept that you made a bad call in response to an unfortunate situation, you get all whiny and accuse a judge of cheating and favoritism.

Way to represent America.


coletterochelle said...

Although yes, I agree that maybe it wasn't the best thing to say, and maybe he was wrong even, but everyone is entitled to their opinion.  He may think it's cheating, but that's fine, its his opinion, and I would have to say, NZFORME BACK THE HELL OFF! hmmmm what does that sound like ... anyway ... I'm not sure if you are a serious athlete, say year round (maybe more than one sport) or how old you are, but these athletes work very hard, and when they have all the adrenaline pumping, they may not say everything the way it should be - so that no one gets "offended" by their opinion.  But, seeing that those athletes have worked hard enough, not only to play in high school or college, minor or major league, but have competed against everyone (and beaten them) who has made it as far as they have, that they have gotten a spot in the olympics, and are working their butts off for their country, so after the big meet, if they aren't at their "peak social performance", I think we should leave them alone and give them some space.  Plus, once again, why can't he be angry? - everyones entitled to their own opintions, so why do they have to conform to yours? but, to be realistic, it was rather crude, but still, give him a break.

nzforme said...

Hey Colette, Thanks for dropping by.
Yes, he has a right to be angry.  But, no, I will not back off.  At least, not until he apologizes.  He accused an OLYMPIC JUDGE of CHEATING.  Consider for a minute -- you're talking about how hard an athlete works to get where he is.  And that's true.  But also think about this judge -- how he's just trying to do his damn JOB, in the center of the world stage, in an Olympic Games immediately following an Olympic Games that had a huge controversy centered around judges who were ACTUALLY CHEATING (fixing scores, perhaps taking bribes, that sort of thing).  You don't impugn the integrity of a judge with no basis just because you're peeved at the result.
And no, I'm not an athlete.  I'm a lawyer and I work for the judicial system.  I'm not going to pretend that isn't coloring my opinion here -- but there are certain lines you shouldn't cross, and he crossed one.  And, given his experience on the world stage, he should know better.