Image: "Alternate Olympics 2012 Logo"
Today we will begin a series within this series. We've asked a number of poets to cover sports that used to be in the Olympics and aren't any more. We're calling them the Ghost Sports. In many ways, the decision to remove a sport from the Games tells us as much about the state of our worlds and cultures as any medal round we watch on tv. First up, Peter Campion and Nick Ripatrazone talk baseball.
I’m not disappointed that the International Olympic Committee cut baseball from the London Games. They had good reasons, surely. In the space on their schedule left by that languorous, bucolic pastime, they added a true spectacle of athleticism — golf. In fact, there was room enough for a second sport. Here, they thought to address another problem that the inclusion of baseball had underlined, the tendency of certain sports to favor one, dominant nation. So the I.O.C. dedicated the remaining time and money to an event certain to draw the punters into cross-cultural exchange — rugby sevens.
I’m convinced the committee made the right decision. Olympic baseball always seemed a put on, anyhow, a break from the real deal, a moment of enforced mirth that quickly grew tedious, like Pajama Day at school.
And I have to admit: the rest of the Olympics has always felt to me like Pajama Day at school. Back in the summer of 2008, I tried to watch the swimming events and all I saw was splashing. In the middle of the spray were some heads, wearing these rubber skull-condoms, emblazoned with the flags of their nations. It was hard to tell if any one head was really in front. Then it was over, someone had won, some mutant with a torso as long as a Buick. The analysis and the advertisements must have cycled for hours.
I also watched the running. This was easier to follow, perhaps too easy: the figures circled the track in their slender rows, like toy figures powered from remote control. There was no competition at all because there was nothing the slightest bit dramatic: the best runner was first, the second best was second, the third best, etcetera. The differences between them must have been pre-determined by genetics, since each had obviously received the ultimate training, the kind of care and attention that occurs mainly in neo-natal wards and missile silos.
The Olympics began to fill me with dolor. Was this really all that athleticism came down to in its sheerest forms? Trials of endurance and capacity? Freakish feats? How much, how fast, how far.
How arbitra...read more