Tuesday, July 11, 2017


The Black Clouds
Skateboarding was really the final nail in the coffin for me. When the IOC decided last year that skateboarding was worthy of Olympic status – more so than squash – it was irrefutable proof in their poisonous pudding that the once coveted and sacrosanct pinnacle of all sporting competitions had sold its obviously corrupt soul to the Devil.

Surely it couldn’t get worse. Yes, yes, the joke is on squash. The one true sport that purely defines the Olympic dogma, the one true sport that has done all it can do to attempt to please the IOC enough to earn acceptance, is the one true sport that continuously gets overlooked year after year after year. I was wrong about skateboarding. It wasn’t the final nail. And it’s gotten worse.

Years ago, to be an Olympic champion you had to be cut from a special kind of cloth, and extreme athlete able to perform under the most immense of pressures, the entire world looking on. Olympic heroes were held in such esteem, house-hold names in many cases, and that still holds true for the most part today. But the cancer is starting to spread, and once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it’s pretty darn difficult to put it back.

Now, the finest of athletes will have to share that spotlight with lesser, artificial disciplines, a virtual dumbing down of the requirements and sacrifices required to become the ultimate Olympian. That ‘special kind of cloth’ has turned into an ordinary, polluted rag.

The IOC has expressed their desire to appeal more towards the youth and urban audiences, but snatching up any activity to do it undermines the virtue and dignity that the Games should uphold. I wrote an article last September listing the 5 sports that were added to the 2020 Olympics that are to be held in Tokyo: Baseball / Softball; Surfing; Sport Climbing; Karate; Skateboarding. Whether these sports deserve to be included is debatable, but whether they deserve to be included more so than squash is not. That list has now expanded. Squash of course has fallen so far off the map, not even Jack Sparrow and his broken compass would be able to find it. Two more ‘sports’ have ascended above the fray and further sullied the grandeur of the event. One could say that the cream rises to the top, but remember, %#$& floats, too…
1.      BMX Freestyle. This is waaay up there with skateboarding. It’s basically doing jumps and ‘tricks’ with the BMX bike around various ramps and obstacles. Just like when we were kids and we would set up the wooden plank on a mound of dirt and see how far we could jump our bikes over it without killing ourselves. Yep. This is now Olympic. 
          3-on-3 Basketball. We all know what this is. Dang, most of you have probably played it. It’s athletic – sure. But my issue with it is that is not the real thing. Basketball is already in the Olympics, 3-on-3 basketball is exhibitionistic. Once again, the purity of the Games is being diluted. I actually joked about 3-on-3 basketball getting into the Olympics before squash in an article I wrote a couple of years ago. Not so amusing now.

Clearly, I am biased. But you would be hard pressed to find anyone who knows anything about sports to make a legitimate argument of why any of the sports listed above deserve to be in the Olympics over squash.

The way the IOC are going, I have a couple more suggestions for them. Now that they are heading down this rabbit hole, may as well embrace their new concept. Keep in mind, I am serious about these recommendations, I wouldn’t be surprised one iota if the IOC are already taking these under genuine consideration:

Parkour. You’ve seen this on You Tube videos now doubt – lunatics jumping, diving, rolling, ‘flying’ between all types of standard park furniture, stairs, walls, buildings… I actually find it impressive, if not incredibly dangerous and utterly insane. But Olympic? You’re kidding. However, watch out – I bet it’s not too far away before it earns that status.

Drone Racing: This was on ESPN the other day. The “athletes” don the virtual reality head sets and steer their racing drones through a twisty course about a stadium, through targets and around objects. I tell you, it’s enthralling. About as enthralling as watching me heat up my frozen dinner in the microwave. Impossible to tell which drone is ‘winning’ at any point of the race, and mind-blowing to watch the ‘athletes’ huff and puff and the end of the race as they rip of the head set and wipe their brow as if they physically ran the course themselves. Good grief. Its gaining popularity however – otherwise it wouldn’t be on national sport television.

Professional Gaming: I’m not one to even play video games myself, but watching other people do it? Incredibly, the top Professional Gamer in the world (according to my google search) earns over $400,000 a year. In a 2013 article I found, Ramy Ashour – after winning 7 major events and reaching the semifinal in the other that year earned just under $170,00 (after tax). Four years on, squash players are earning a little more, but certainly not reaching the same stratosphere as somebody who can play ‘World of Warcraft’. Sponsors, marketing… professional gaming is big business. You can bet the IOC see dollar signs everywhere with this one. It’s projected to be a 1 billion dollar industry by 2019.

What about Paintball? Laser Tag? Think I’m having a laugh here? The Olympics are searching for ways to appeal to new audiences. How do you engage the “non-athlete”? Imagine the viewership if they could attract all the “lazy” youth out there who do nothing but connect themselves to electronic devices 24/7. Suddenly, the recluse child that refuses to leave their parents’ basement is a potential Olympian… There you have Usain Bolt standing next to fellow gold medalist of “Legend of Zelda” Zoidberg McGeek…

The more ‘urban’ and ‘youth’ oriented the IOC lean, the less chance, I feel, squash has of acceptance. As much as it may dismay the squash aficionado, more of the population would rather watch Mr. McGeek shoot animated enemies than Greg Gaultier and Ali Farag going at it on the squash court, and guess which of those two scenarios peaks the interest of the IOC more?

The Silver Lining
And then, as if the IOC Gods just want to torment us, as soon as I finished putting together ‘part 1’ of this article, it was announced that squash – yes: squash – would be included in the 2018 Olympics. The “what?” you ask? Unbeknownst to many of you no doubt – including me – there is a Youth Olympics as well. And the next one will be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2018. Squash will be added as an exhibition sport.

An all-glass court will be constructed in one of the prominent parks in downtown Buenos Aires, a golden opportunity for the sport to showcase what we have to offer. I couldn’t find any information on how the format of the squash competition would take place. How big will the draw be? Would there be doubles as well? Team competition? Minor questions to be sure, but nonetheless this is very exciting news for all squash fans out there. When you take into consideration that the 2014 Youth Olympics in China featured 2 new sports that are now part of the ‘real’ Olympics for 2020 – skateboarding (!) and sport climbing, prospects for squash’s ultimate inclusion are suddenly looking brighter.

The carrot is being dangled in front of us once again. But it is definitely no guarantee. Dance Sport is also being added to Buenos Aires, another shake-my-head, can’t-believe-what-I’m-reading “event” that is not what you think it is. My mind immediately thought of “Ball-Room Dancing”, but I was way off. Here is what the website states: “Dance sport will feature men’s, women’s and mixed team breakdancing in a battle format. What the…? Suddenly I see the dark clouds gathering ominously overhead once again and think of IOC’s latest decisions based on attracting youth and urban crowds…

Our foot – or, more accurately, the end of our little toe - is finally in the Olympic door. It’s a start and its fantastic news. Let’s hope we can finally grab that carrot. If (just pulling a name out of the hat here) Ali Farag has to share the gold medal spotlight with Nerdy von Dorkman and his Playstation console, then so be it.

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