So the other Olympic event I've been watching has been gymnastics. Last night's men's team final was the most fun I've had watching gymnastics since the Great Kerri Strug Ankle-Breakening of '96. It had all the ingredients: plucky underdogs (most no taller than Elijah Wood, though certainly more built), hard-luck stories, emotionless machines of proficient villainy, and one tragically disastrous floor routine by a guy who looks like Perry from Undeclared. Tale as old as time.
Anyway, the Chinese did prove to be unbeatable, and the Perry lookalike did doom a shot at the silver, but that run to the bronze was the stuff of third-place legend. Ultimate props to Jonathan Horton, the Platonic ideal of the Teeny-Tiny Muscle Child that characterizes male gymnasts. Kid stuck every landing there was to stick, then did his best to keep up the chatter on the sidelines like he was playing a real sport. Adorable! Seriously, though, Mr. Clutch, right here:
And if Horton was Mr. Clutch, then Justin Springs was Mr. Flash, because holy hell was he a maniac on that high bar. If you somehow missed it, here's a clip of the same routine from the Olympic trials earlier this year. Just imagine this routine, only flawless and crazier:
He also looks like Prince Harry, which don't hurt.
But the Chinese team indeed proved unbeatable, which ties into my problems with the gymnastics scoring system in general. I don't think the Americans were jobbed out of the gold or anything -- they stumbled at the end, after all. But the way the scoring is set up, with degrees of difficulty and potential points and yadda yadda, it seems like half the game is decided before the routines are performed. I'm down with valuing the more difficult programs, but if that's the case, either have everybody perform the same moves and see who does them better, or else allow the judges to internalize the difficulty of the routines and score them accordingly.
It's similar to the problem I have with synchronized diving that I alluded to before: the order of finish seems to be determined before the competition starts. It's a beautiful thing to watch, two divers in perfect synchronization. It'd work great as an exhibition. But I hate any sport where I have to wait for the announcers to tell me whether what I just saw was any good or not.
As for the female gymnasts...I just can't do it anymore. It creeps me out too much. This child...
...is not old enough to take aspirin when she breaks her ankles on the balance beam. Eleven years old, max. And it's that way with half the team. The announcers, during the prelims, were talking about one preteen Chinese girl who, and I'm paraphrasing, but not by much, "was in tears a year ago, wanting to quit the sport. Fortunately, her parents and coaches managed to convince her to change her mind." Yes, fortunately. That was before the announcers got their hooks into the Romanian team who, we're told, have lost their edge in recent years because they've lost that freaky, single-minded devotion to the sport that used to turn them into scary little automatons. After one particularly sub-par performance, one of the girls was met by a supportive hug from her coach. "That right there is the reason they're not number one anymore," said Kippy Martindale or whoever does the announcing with Al Trautwig. Sickening.
That's no way to get me to watch the "women's" finals tonight. Certainly not when there's Big Brother to be watched.