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August 7, 2012 3:30 PM

Column Awards of the Week (7/31-8/6)

By updating RealClearSports I read hundreds of articles every week but sometimes there are particular passages that need highlighting. And to make these passages more palatable I'm doing them in award form! The awards are completely random and will change weekly.

Column Awards for slide.jpgEarlier this week some badminton teams were kicked out for trying to throw a game. It was a pretty stupid controversy, largely because this type of stuff happens all the time. It's already happened a few times this year in basketball in which heavily favored teams have lost to try and avoid facing the United States. It's also happened in women's soccer where Japan played a defensive game that resulted in a tie vs. South Africa so they wouldn't have to travel as far for their next game. This type of strategic losing (or tying) happens all the time and that's the fault of the format, not of the teams. 

But that's not what got my really upset over this story. What angered me was how American journalists treated badminton. Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports: If badminton took itself any more seriously, it might invade table tennis. Thomas Lund is that secretary general. He hails from Denmark and seems like a thoughtful guy. He was there to announce the final verdict on one of the scandals of these Olympics.
No, not that badminton is an Olympic sport in the first place - although Lund was later asked to defend that, too. And, no, the scandal isn't that the United States never won a medal in this sport even though most Americans have smacked a birdie ("shuttlecock" in official parlance) over a backyard net a few times in their life - at least against their niece, sometimes even when they were sober.

And here's Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune: This raised many important questions about the sanctity of athletic competition and the future of all picnic-based Olympic sports, among them:
•They play badminton in the Olympics?
•Tanking a badminton game -- does that mean you played with a beer in both hands? ... The Badminton World Federation, which must office out of the same fake-wood-paneled basement rec room as the Dungeons & Dragons Hall of Justice, accused the players of "not using one's best efforts to win a match.''

I'm using these two writers as examples even though there were plenty more I could've chosen from. Just because badminton isn't big in the U.S. doesn't mean we should denigrate the sport. These athletes have worked their entire lives to get to the Olympics and just like that they were kicked out. Their dreams shattered. And yet we make fun of the sport they play. Have a little respect. On to the awards!

Exploiting Patriotism
Earlier this week there was a big commotion when people learned Olympic athletes have to pay taxes for winning medals. David Whitley of the Sporting News was outraged: Allison Schmitt swam a sizzling final leg to lead the U.S. to a gold medal in the 4x200 freestyle relay Wednesday.

Congratulations, Allison. You now owe the IRS $26,679. That's what she gets for winning two golds, a silver and a bronze medal at the Olympics. It takes years of training and sacrifice to get to win one for your country, and this is how your country thanks you?

Doesn't exactly make you proud to be an American.

Yeah! That's crazy! She's representing America, wins gold and has to PAY? That seems insane...until you realize she was given $75K for winning those medals from the USOC. Why are people up in arms? When you win something on the Price Is Right you have to pay taxes on it. When you get paid for doing your job you get taxed on it. Aren't these athletes just doing their job? Of course they should be taxed on their income. Everyone else is.

Article That Made Sense in 2008
Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports writes that WR Steve Smith's reputation as a jerk is unfounded: Steve Smith, wide receiver of the Panthers? He's a typical trash-talker with an atypical mean streak, having clocked two Carolina teammates at practice -- one in 2002, another in 2008 -- breaking both their noses and sending one to the hospital for two days. Steve Smith is bad.

He then mentions how Steve Smith donated money to the victims of the Aurora shootings. A real act of kindness. But was anyone saying Steve Smith is a bad guy? I haven't heard that since he clocked that teammate in 2008. Ever since then he's been a consummate professional and I really haven't heard a bad word about him. Seems like Doyel is stirring up controversy where there isn't any.

Paper With a Sense of Humor
The Australian paper "The Mx" has fun with their medal count graphic:
Naughty Nice Korea.jpg
I like a country that doesn't take their news that seriously.

The Real Reason Phelps Is Best Swimmer Ever
David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune has cracked the code. He knows exactly why Phelps is the best swimmer ever: This was Phelps, on the brink of retirement, using sheer will to increase his medal total to 20 and enhance his legacy by becoming the first male swimmer to win an individual event in three straight Olympics.

This was a proud champion refusing to go out anywhere but on top, humble beating Hollywood.

This was Phelps wanting it more.

He WANTED it more. Ohhh. That makes sense now. It's not that he's genetically gifted or the fastest swimmer. Nope. He just wanted it more than Lochte. The first time they raced in these Olympics? He didn't really want that one. Totally get it.

More Phelps Nonsense
Mike Lupica of New York Daily News takes on Phelps' fake critics: Oh, you know Phelps was supposed to be too old, you heard it as recently as last Saturday night, written off because he finished fourth to Ryan Lochte in his first big race in London. And then Phelps got back in the water and showed everybody differently, reminded everybody in London and everybody watching around the world just exactly who it was they were watching.

Phelps was supposed to be too old to win? And that's why Lochte beat him? Hmm. Let me do a quick search on wikipedia...Ryan Lochte...born August 3, 1984. That would make him 28 years old now. Ok...Now Phelps...born June 30, 1985. That would make him 27. And yet Phelps was too old for the young and spry Lochte. Makes sense.

Overthinking America's Love for Gymnastics
Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times can't quite figure out why America loves women's gymnastics: Why does the United States stop what it's doing to watch these kids? What is it about seeing little girls with big-girl makeup and freakish musculature?

Is it about national pride? Is it about watching dolls come to life? Or is it about seeing how these young pixies deal with pressure? Maybe you like international ruthlessness in your female gymnastic competition. Maybe you simply see it as a soap opera. Or are you just in it for the spills and thrills?

I'm not a huge fan of women's gymnastics but I don't find it too difficult to answer why people love it. Isn't it because of the insane athleticism? The fact that they can do like 10 flips in a row and land on a 4 inch beam? Maybe that has something to do with it? Why are you trying to make America sound so creepy? How about using a little Occam's Razor on this one, huh?

Stupidest Outrage of the Week
Arguing over whether Olympic athletes should pay taxes is pretty dumb but Reid Forgrave of Fox Sports takes the cake with his criticism of Serena Williams' celebration. After winning gold, Williams did a dance called the Crip Walk. It was made up by the gang, the Crips, who began in Serena's hometown of Compton: She didn't do it on purpose. It was a moment of unbridled joy. She pumped her fist, jumped up and down, looked into the crowd, then did her ill-timed dance.
You couldn't help but shake your head. It was as if Serena just couldn't seem to avoid dipping into waters of controversy even as she'd ascended to the top of her sport. ... On the podium, the gold medal dangling from her neck as America's national anthem played, the winds of Wimbledon struck down the American flag from its awning. The crowd gasped. Serena's eyes got big, and she giggled. The flag fluttered to the ground and was balled up by an Olympic official. Later, Serena joked that the flag was just trying to fly toward her: "It was probably flying to come hug me because the flag was so happy."
Or maybe it was the Royal Gods of Wimbledon, giving Queen Serena a proper British slap on the wrist for her moment of innocent, though unfortunate, American celebration.

If she didn't do it on purpose, what's the big deal? If her intention wasn't to support gangs, then why write this column? Did anyone write this column when just about every sports figure was doing the "Superman" dance? The origin behind that isn't exactly an activity for the whole family. I guess we knew someone would write this article though, and Forgrave took the bait.

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