I have enjoyed the Olympic Games since I was a child. The rush of patriotic fervor and nationalistic pride runs strong in me. At the same time, Baseball is my favorite sports so in 1992 when baseball and softball finally earned a place in the competition I was happy. When, after 5 Olympic appearances both sports were being removed I was disappointed. My feelings have not changed since the announcement was made 7 years ago at the International Olympic committee meeting saying the sport would not appear in the 2012 London Games.
Now I have read a few scattered articles about efforts to bring baseball and softball back into medal contention in 2016 but the IOC want a few things to be addressed.
Here are a few issues to consider:
- The IOC wants Major League Baseball to suspend play for two weeks or so to accommodate the games and allow the best players from around the world to join in the international competition.
- A couple of articles mention doping issues in the US game that must be aggressively addressed in order to foster a fair tournament.
- Are the best athletes participating?
- Baseball is not a world wide sport as sports like basketball, soccer, or even hockey can claim.
- The inconsistent length of games (extra innings) is not conducive to the tight Olympic television schedule.
My response to those issues:
- Let me preface this by saying I loved the idea of ”amateur competition”, that said the Olympics have not seen true amateur competition in my lifetime. The mere fact that the IOC is asking for assurances that the very best players from MLB will participate if baseball would return highlights the fact that the Games are a decidedly for profit endeavor. I quit watching the NBC coverage after about two days of watching them broadcast 40 minutes of commercials set on a back drop of 15 minutes of flavor and 5 minutes of actual competition. If I want to waste that much time I could play Angry Birds or Tetris or Solitare. The network payed over a billion dollars for the broadcast rights and they intend to squeeze every cent out of their product. While I admire the capitalistic nature of this action, I don’t have to watch it. Hockey faces the same problem in the US during the Winter Olympics but they don’t have the strength of income to just say no to the IOC, baseball does.
- This point is kind of a joke to me. When I saw the 5 foot tall North Korean lift 3 times his body weight I had to chuckle a bit. My cynical nature instructs me he might have eaten more than just his Wheaties. I think baseball is relatively clean now. The only benefit I ever really heard of for baseball players was in recovery time. PEDs never allowed a pitcher to throw a 96 mph fastball to fly across the plate high and tight and it never allowed the batter to make contact with the ball. Just sayin’.
- Basketball has achieved the perfect match with the Olympics, they are a winter sport here in the US and it allows NBA stars play in the game. What MLB team would want to allow their best players to leave in the midst of the season, risk injury in international competition, and then come home weary from traveling abroad to resume the major league season. Say your star player, fresh off of signing a multiyear, multimillion dollar contract, gets hurt during Olympic play. What owner is willing to risk the health of their franchise?
- The International Baseball Federation claims almost 4 million children worldwide play baseball and 35 million people living today have played organized baseball at one time or another. Hot spots are in Asia, the Caribbean, and both North and South America. Australia also has a league. The moniker “America’s Past-Time” probably doesn’t help either. Doesn’t matter that it is incredibly popular in Japan, South Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Taiwan, the perception is that it is an American game. It is interesting that baseball has more in common with ancient European sports where basketball is more of a purely North America sport.
- The idiotic tiebreaker placing runners on 1st and 2nd to start the 10th inning is an abomination of epic proportions.
These Olympic Games are dowsed in capitalism to the point of being unwatchable. In the end, while writing this article I have talked myself out of the idea. I would rather just go watch Cueto and the Reds face the Cubbies this afternoon then watch 6 more hours of paid advertising.
Also remember, if Joey Votto played in the Olympics he would not be on my side. I don’t believe I would enjoy that view from the bleachers.
Follow me on Twitter @JohnHeitz