How do you drop wrestling from the Summer Games? Heck, if the International Olympic Committee ran NASA, it might eliminate astronauts from the space program.
Wrestling is about as pure and organic of an athletic competition as it gets: You try to outmaneuver your opponent with your mind and your body. It’s like a California gubernatorial race, minus the PAC money.
Wrestling made its first appearance at the ancient Olympics in 708 B.C., or four years before Bob Costas anchored his first Games.
The Olympics without wrestling is like McDonald’s without French fries.
If it were up to me, I’d drop the entire Winter Olympics before I’d drop wrestling.
This nation – and the Olympic movement – was built on the backs of wrestlers.
James Madison and Benjamin Franklin used to wrestle in the rear hallways near the cafeteria at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787.
Who among us didn’t grow up wrestling? Even I – the ultimate Couch Slouch – wrestled in junior high.
(After winning my first two intramural matches one year, I lost to a close friend, Howard Yablon, who pinned me late in the first period with a surprise Fisherman’s Suplex. “Where did you learn that move?” I asked him afterward. “While you were watching TV.” Smart ass.)
Wrestlers from the world’s top wrestling nations lied on the mat and observed a moment of silence Thursday at the World Cup in Tehran to protest the IOC’s action; coincidentally, the Kardashians did the same thing Friday after Neiman Marcus got rid of valet parking at its Beverly Hills location.
At the moment, wrestling will be excluded starting with the 2020 Summer Games. However, in May the IOC will vote on adding a 26th sport for 2020 – wrestling will be considered, along with baseball/softball, karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu.
(Those are all great sports – I actually was offered a wushu scholarship at Dartmouth but turned it down to go to Maryland, which had better parking – but none of them resonate Olympic-wise like wrestling.)
Frankly, there are several Summer Games sports that should get the heave-ho before wrestling:
Javelin throw. How is it still part of track and field? How many kids – outside of a handful of Norwegian suburbs – are dragging a javelin to school every day, hoping to fulfill their Olympic dream?
Golf. Indeed, golf has been added to the 2016 Games. Does anyone really want to hear Johnny Miller telling us that some Malaysian duffer just “choked” on his approach shot at 17?
Modern pentathlon. What’s so modern about the pentathlon, other than the shooting part?
Water polo. For this “sport,” you need a swimming pool, a ball and a net; in wrestling, you just need a mat. For that matter, you can grapple on any flat surface – Tom Hanks probably wrestled with Wilson on that island in “Cast Away.”
(Speaking of which, good wrestling movies for a rainy weekend: 1985’s “Vision Quest” and 2011’s “Win Win.”)
Best I can tell, the IOC’s baffling decision to drop wrestling is tied to television; apparently, wrestling’s not a prime draw with the younger TV audience.
Alas, the world revolves around the 18-to-34 demographic; I half-expect the Vatican to name One Direction as the next pope.
(Here’s what you need to know about today’s Olympics: It has less to do with “Citius, Altius, Fortius” and more to do with “Cashius, Wealthius, Greedius.”)
Anyway, since it’s all about ratings – and now that the Olympic movement has foregone that whole “amateur” pretense – why not replace freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling with Vince McMahon-style professional wrestling?
Another idea: In ancient Greece, wrestlers trained and competed in the nude. That’s right, naked wrestlers – you think that might move the meter? Also, back then, many matches ended in death. Sure, you’d create the problem of having to replace your athletic pool every year, but – and I hate to give the IOC and NBC any ideas – wrestling-to-the-death would produce GINORMOUS RATINGS, no?
Ask The Slouch
Q. Give me your TNT “Inside the NBA” announcer rankings. It’s my favorite studio show ever. (Gary Armstead; Indianapolis)
A. Charles Barkley is plain fantastic, Kenny Smith is plain good and Shaquille O’Neal is hiding in plain sight; Shaq adds nothing. Let’s not forget Ernie Johnson, the modest maestro conducting the whole shebang.
Q. You praised LeBron’s 30-60, van Gogh’s paintings, De Niro’s movies and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, but what about the all-time record set by God? He created light, water, land, animals and man, then took a day off, and, according to Paul Harvey, on the eighth day created the farmer. That’s a pretty impressive stat. (Jim Parcelli; Leesburg, Va.)
Q. If my 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates highlights DVD quits playing halfway through, should I ask for my money back or assume it was meant to work that way? (Mark Collins; Pittsburgh)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.