Nastia Liukin

Nastia Liukin’s judgment day

Judging? Subjective judging? You mean people just watched a sporting event (and more importantly, the people who spent their entire lives training for that event) are forced to spend over a minute watching a scoreboard to see who won? Isntt the best part of a sporting event watching the outcome and seeing it for yourself?

In gymnastics, judging is the entire game. Imagine David Ortiz hitting a home run in the World Series, crossing home plate
and then pacing the dugout for 90 seconds while watching the scoreboard, hoping his homer registers as a full run?

Is that a satisfying ending? Is it even an ending?

I have to admit, I’ve always respected gymnastics more than I ever even wanted to, but watching somebody do something I wouldn’t do even if I were paid $1,000 is always entertaining (that’s right, I wouldn’t do any gymnastics event unless I was paid more than a grand to do so…call me a wuss or somebody who doesn’t feel like visiting an E.R. anytime soon, unless Julianna Margulies is back, anyway).

I don’t understand deductions in any judgment sport. Well, I understand that they exist, but I don’t know how much any individual f&*kup means in terms of points deducted. Sure, when a person falls I realize they won’t win a medal, but I’m also not stupid. Realizing a person who falls on their ass isn’t an Olympic champion kind of comes with the territory.

For some reason tonight I found myself watching Nastia Liukin earn a 16.725 in the uneven bars, the same score as China’s He Kexin. Although due to tiebreakers, Kexin still led after Liukin earned the same score she did.

Okay, fine. I’m not a gymnast; maybe the sport has some tiebreakers I’m not accustomed to. However, it took NBC’s (three hour
old in the Pacific Time Zone) live feed about 15 minutes to figure out how Liukin lost the gold to He, and the reason why was absolutely ridiculous.

Apparently in a tiebreaker situation gymnastics takes the lowest and highest scores out of the equation. Makes sense. But if that doesn’t settle anything, the judges take the lowest score away from each gymnast. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. I understand that
taking the highs and lows out in the beginning can combat the biases some rogue judges could be utilizing in their scoring decisions (like those damn Trinidad and Tobagoans…can’t trust ’em). But doesn’t taking only the lowest score afterward hurt the more consistent scorer? In this case it did, as Liukin lost a 9.0 at the same time He got to shed an 8.9., giving the Chinese 9-year-old the Gold Medal.

Hey, we all know I’ll have already forgotten about this situation tomorrow. How can I really get mad — it’s gymnastics? I’d lose all my street cred if I became the Bay Area Gymnastics Guy. And the Bay Area Sports Guy has a ton of street cred I can ill-afford to lose.

I’m just sick of judgment sports. No more diving. No more figure skating. No more gymnastics. Subjective judgments are already way too prominent in daily life, and that’s just if you’re talking about office politics and beauty pageants. We all judge people by what they’re wearing, what they’re drinking and what they smell like (wait, have I been hanging out in the  Golden Gate Park Panhandle too much? Probably so).

I know these judgment sports aren’t going away (especially since they’re ratings gold among the coveted casual/female audience). And whenever your friend does some sort of cannonball/jackknife into the pool, being able to say “8.5 from the Russian judge” is something none of us want to give up. But can’t we get some sort of immediacy to these horrible judgments? Michael Phelps won a race by one hundredth of a second, and he was able to see the results by the time he turned around. Usain Bolt knew he was the fastest man in the world before his race was even over (which pissed people off, but that’s another story), but Liukin has to watch the scoreboard for a full minute after not just her routine, but all of her opponents’ routines as well.

Like in baseball, where they try to put time restraints on how long hitters can stay in the box or how long pitchers can hold the ball before hurling their next slider, judges in judgment sports need some sort of judging “shot clock” to make these sport tolerable. If we all have to feel stupid while watching these events because we have no idea how they’re judged, the least these judges could do is be quick with their arbitrary decisions.

Wow, I feel like I just filmed a “The more you know” commercial for NBC:

“Slow scores make everyone nervous. If you’re a judge, hurry the f*%k up and give us your score,”

The more you know. On NBC. Bing, Bing, Bong.

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