Coated with hairspray, they get 10's for popularity, but are they sports?

August 25, 2004|By PETER SCHMUCK

THE LATEST round of embarrassing Olympic scoring decisions has sparked another huge debate over what might be done about sports like gymnastics and figure skating that are subject to arbitrary human judgment.

Here's a thought. Stop calling them sports, because they aren't, and I can prove it with a few simple rules that were chiseled into a column of the Parthenon in the second millennium B.C. (or should have been):

If you have to put on makeup and hairspray to perform your routine, it's not a sport.

If the next level of competition after the Olympics is the circus or the Ice Capades, it's not a sport.

If you don't know who's ahead in the competition until some high-strung Frenchwoman finishes punching numbers into a calculator and stuffing 100 euro notes into her purse, it's not a sport.

If it doesn't require a projectile, a stopwatch, a measuring tape or some form of personal combat, it's not a sport.

If these rules were enforced, there would be no Olympic gymnastics, figure skating, diving or synchronized swimming - which would be fine with me - though there probably also would not be any spectators or television revenue because gymnastics and figure skating are two of the most popular Olympic attractions.

During a history that dates back nearly 3,000 years, the Olympics have gone from one extreme to another. The original Games featured three basic activities - running around naked, throwing stuff and fighting to the death. The 2004 version features 32 sports and includes horses, sailboats, rifles and Allen Iverson.

I guess that's what they call progress.

While we're on the subject of hairspray, I think that Fox 45's Bruce Cunningham is one of the most underrated sports anchors in the country.

Maybe we should count our blessings. There is some talk that ballroom dancing is again a candidate to be an Olympic demonstration sport in 2008. Olympic officials also are considering a long list of new X-sports, as well as games such as billiards and chess. Can Texas Hold 'Em be far behind? The next thing you know, local Scrabble pro Louis Berney will be prancing around the Orioles press box - where he also does some feature writing for Outside Pitch - waving his bronze medal in our faces.

While the rest of the softball world (and, to be honest, I didn't know there was one) agonizes about the American domination of the sport, this might be a nice time to remind my countrymen and countrywomen not to get too full of themselves.

Some of us are old enough to remember when the rest of the basketball world felt the same way. I think it was four years ago.

Some of us also are old enough to remember when you could play softball all afternoon, drink a keg of beer and not need a full spinal series the next morning, but that's a midlife crisis story for another day.

If you were up after midnight yesterday, you probably watched Orioles relievers Buddy Groom and Jason Grimsley throw away a strong performance by starter Rodrigo Lopez.

During the early weeks of the season, Lopez was the one coming into the game in the sixth inning and holding things together until the late-inning cavalry arrived.

I bet he misses himself.

Ravens coach Brian Billick seemed a little cranky the other day, and who could blame him? He lost starting center Mike Flynn to a broken collarbone on Monday, and linebacker Terrell Suggs made more hard contact in his car after practice than he did during the Eagles game.

Final thought: Don't know about you, but I find Russian gymnast Svetlana Khorkina very attractive. She's tough, unforgiving, rude and self-absorbed - all qualities I look for in a 25-year-old Russian hardbody. She also looks a little bit like Uma Thurman, who completely overreacted with that restraining order.

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