Wednesday, February 24, 2010

May I make a suggestion to the IOC?

Regardless of what happens in the other events, Canada can be almost guaranteed to win a gold medal for shooting fish in a barrel women's hockey. And in the rare event that that does not happen, I can say with a very high degree of confidence that the gold would go to the US team, with Canada getting the silver.

Even most of the countries whose men's teams have prevented Canada from getting the gold, and sometimes any medal at all, do not have strong enough women's teams to be considered even remotely competitive with either the US or Canada. The exception is Sweden, who did give the US a run for its money in 2006.

Because of the highly lopsided nature of the competition in this event, there are really two competitions. One is to see whether or not this is the year where the US wins the gold and Canad silver, instead of vice versa. The other is to determine which of the remaining teams receive the bronze. All else leading up to the former competition is merely a formality, a set of large hoops to step through, which really means nothing in the end. The latter competition is really the only one that actually deserves to be called a competition, that is, where abilities of the teams are matched closely enough that the winner cannot be decided by checking to see whether the name on the jersey begins with "Canada" or "USA".

Given the imbalance, then, one wonders whether this should be an Olympic event at all. There are really only two good teams. The rest is facade, for the sake of making it look like a tournament of some sort. You couldn't cancel the event, however. First of all, Canadians need something to make them feel better about themselves when the men's hockey players that have the same citizenship as them don't acquire the medal they assume belongs to them. Second, the fans like it. That means TV ratings, which, in turn, means advertising dollars. And that means that the Olympics are less of a money-suck on the cities and countries that host them than they would be without women's hockey.

Now, Eddie the Eagle could be prohibited from participating in Olympic ski jumping because he wasn't embarrassingly bad, even though he was the best ski jumper of his country. On the flip side, though, it would hardly make sense to prevent either the US or Canada from participating because they're embarrassingly good [1]. Only picking the teams that could beat the US and Canada doesn't work either, because two teams does not an Olympic event make.

I can think of two ways to deal with this situation. Neither of these are perfect solutions, but I think both are better than the current system. The first is to simply give byes to the US and Canada until the final game where they compete for the gold and silver between them and have all of the other teams compete for the bronze. This has the benefit of sparing us from the slaughter by the North American teams, and therefore not exposing us to the currently blatant imbalance. The disadvantage is that, with all these byes, some might think it unfair that we would not be shown that the US and Canada deserve all these byes, even though we all know it to be true.

The second is to invent two new medals that the US and Canada would inevitably compete for. Platinum is more valuable than gold these days, so a platinum medal makes sense. Also, I've seen enough movies involving bomb plots to know that plutonium is also a very valuable element. It's radioactive, mind you, which may require shorter podium celebrations, which may prove unpopular. In that case, other precious metals, such as rhodium or palladium, are good candidates to name a medal after. Both of these metals can fetch prices comparable to that of gold, yet clearly, as you've never heard of them, they aren't as popular as these prices suggest they deserve to be. In addition to solving the hockey problem, popularizing one of these metals would be an added benefit. Having invented these two medal categories for the US and Canada, the remainder of the teams could then play for the gold, silver, and bronze, in something that actually resembles a true competition.

Are you listening IOC?

[1] It's not actually embarrassing that they're good. The embarrassment is the extent to which they trounce their competitors.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think titanium is a good medal. The US and Canada could compete solely for one titanium medal while everyone else can compete for the standard gold, silver and bronze. But, then again given the IOC's history perhaps the highest medal would be the viagra medal.