Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Caber Tossing Pongers

Last week I wrote about Michael Phelps, and what an amazing career he has just capped off at the 30th Olympiad in London.  As a swimmer, he competes in a sport where it is possible to win a medal for each event he is entered in, and he is ending his career with a second-to-none count of 22 medals to his name. That makes him hard to compare on an apples-to-apples basis to a decathlete, who can earn just one medal while having to compete in more events than Phelps ever swam in any one Olympics. Medal count aside, however, there is no doubt that Phelps is one of the greatest Olympians of all time.

You know who is not one of the greatest Olympians of all time? Any ping pong player.

I have nothing against ping pong as a hobby. It goes great with beer and it’s a good way to kill a half-hour in a rec room. And I have absolutely no problem with professional ping pong players - especially the ones at the Olympics. They are phenomenal. I even enjoyed watching it for about three minutes. What I do have a problem with is the fact that someone can go to London, play ping pong really well, and end up with the same gold medal that Michael Phelps, Jessica Ennis, and Usain Bolt currently have around their necks. That is ridiculous.

To keep everyone on a level playing field, all the Olympic athletes are rigorously drug tested. If ping pong is considered an Olympic sport, then the International Olympic Committee has obviously lost sight of the reason for drug testing in the first place.

The IOC needs to apply a theoretical drug test to their screening process. They need to sit down and look at the list of events they are offering at the Olympic Games and decide if taking performance enhancing drugs would actually help the competitor win. If the answer is no, it should not be an Olympic event. Ping pong? No.

They try to dress it up by calling it “table tennis,” but let’s all be serious for a minute. You’re hitting a little plastic ball with a tiny wooden paddle. Take all the steroids you want. Get steroid injections between matches. Who cares? You’re still just playing ping pong. It’s not a sport.

If they don’t want to apply the theoretical drug test, they could apply a very simple theoretical alcohol test instead. If the game in question can be played while holding a beer in your other hand, it should not be an Olympic event.

Hammer throw – Pass. Ping pong – Fail.

Hammer throw. Now there’s an Olympic event. Pick up a 16-pound lead ball on the end of a steel cable and throw it as far as you can. A gentleman from Hungary just won the gold medal in London by tossing that measly little hammer 264 feet. He could probably eat a ping pong table. The hammer throw has deep Olympic roots, and is also an integral part of the Scottish Highland Games, which also features the caber toss, the only throwing-heavy-stuff event that is cooler than the hammer throw. A caber is a log that is 19 feet long and weighs 175 pounds. Pick it up and throw it. Plain and simple.

It is patently obvious that the caber toss should be immediately added to the Olympics to take the place of ping pong. And on top of that, every medalist in ping pong since its bewildering inclusion to the Olympic Games in 1988 should be forced to enter the caber toss in 2016, just so they can get a feel for how ridiculous their medals for ping pong really are. We could force them to enter the swimming events, but I thought it would be a little harsh to actually drown them, which is what would obviously happen.

I am not saying that professional ping-pongers don’t need a competitive venue to showcase their “sport.” Like I said, I think they are amazing, but let’s remove it from the Olympics and leave the table tennis pro tour where it belongs – in Las Vegas at the Horseshoe on a Wednesday.

If the IOC fails to take my incredibly insightful advice and get rid of ping pong, then the least they could do is make the medal sizes proportionate to the events. If you medal in the decathlon, you should get a medal the size of a truck tire. If you medal in ping pong, it should look like a dime on a string. The silver medal could be an actual dime.

Other dime-sized medal “sports” would include race walking, badminton, and trampoline. Come on, IOC! Really? The race walking course was 31 miles long. Big deal. It’s still walking. My mother-in-law just did a fundraiser where she walked 30 miles in a day, three days in a row. I guess that means she’s a three-time Olympic hopeful! Badminton is just a larger, but somehow less exciting version of ping pong, and don’t even get me started on trampoline. Have you ever seen a kid throw a 16-pound lead ball on a steel cable 264 feet in the backyard for fun? Enough said.

The medal ceremonies should be proportionate also. Actual Olympic-caliber events can maintain the current pomp and circumstance, but the ping pong players should just be handed their dime-sized medal on their way out of the arena by one of the ushers. “Here you go, big guy. Great match.”

To any Olympic ponger, fast walker, shuttlecocker, or bouncy-bouncer that disagrees with me, I offer this simple solution: Get a tape measure and lay out 29 feet on your floor. Now stand back and look at it.

That’s how far Carl Lewis flew in a single long jump.

By the way -- huge congratulations to Jike Zhang, Long Ma, Hao Wang, and Xiaoxia Li for their amazing gold medal wins at the 2012 Olympic Games.


Exactly. Good luck in the caber toss, boys.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2012 Marc Schmatjen

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