Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Why sailing is not long for the Olympics!

I lied. I said I would watch the online feeds of sailing but the NBC Olympic website didn't seem to like my FIOS password so I was just as happy to watch the regular broadcasts of team handball, field hockey, water polo and like wacky Olympic sports.

I did check the Olympic sailing results daily. Not good for the USA team but, hey, this might be fodder for a later post (everybody and his mother in the bloggosphere have jumped on this one - why not me?). This post goes beyond USA mediocrity; this post, on why sailing should be booted from the Olympics, was triggered by two Web events;

  1. An Irish fellow put up a comical short clip of one of the Women's Laser Radial starts at Weymouth. The video went viral. His roll-in-the-aisle commentary, where he confused the start with the finish, unfortunately hit too close to home. I imagine for the mass of non-sailors watching a sailboat race, the Irishman's humorous play-by-play rang more of truth than satirical sendup.
  2. And over at SailingAnarchy, they pointed out a misguided New York Times op/ed piece that argues sailing has no place in the Olympics; its too elitist, expensive, and exclusive. (I won't counter Bomani Jone's - the author - suppositions here, lets just say he's wrong, typical of the Internet he just shot from the hip with no research whatsoever.)
But sailing is not long for the Olympics because it is not a spectator sport... period. Fleet racing will never be a spectator sport because the masses that give BBC and NBC and the IOC the TV ratings will never understand sailboat racing. I equate watching fleet racing in sailboats with watching a marathon organized on the Rosie Ruiz rules. You will start at one place, after that you may run off where you want to, hither and yon, and at the 25 mile mark you assemble in some order to finish. One can argue that the latest video technology, where we can view animations of sailboats racing and where we can draw imaginary lines showing who are the leaders and who are the followers even though they are often widely scattered about the course; all this makes sailboat racing more understandable to the Average Joe. What other Olympic sport do you need video animations to make it understandable as to who is winning and who is losing?

Now for Exhibit B. If you bought tickets to the Weymouth Oympic Sailing competition you were allowed up on a hill on the shoreline that supposedly had the best view of the racing courses. So lets say you bought some tickets to watch the exciting medal race of the Women's 470 class. Oops, we forgot the binoculars. What exactly did I get for my money. Lets go to the videotape (as local sportscaster George Michael used to say).

2012 Olympics - Women's 470 class Medal Race from Tim Laws on Vimeo.

Though it pains me to say this; it looks like kitesailing, which is about as far away from typical sailboat racing as you can get and still call it sailboat racing, kitesailing may be the one Olympic sailing discipline that will pull in the average TV viewer.


Steve said...

Irish Olympic Sailing Commentary video: http://www.thatvideosite.com/v/5852

jp huza said...

I finally quit bothering with the online video this time...dumb to have to log in via my "provider". (If it were on free tv, I would've watched it that way....) Only checked in to see the results after a few days.
If they livened up the action, perhaps throw in shark dodging or whale jumping for style points, sailing would be "exciting" enough for the proletariat. I kind of like it the way it is.
Team USA showed up high on the leaderboard from time to time. Maybe it's time to take the sailing more seriously. The old guys in the Snipe class are taking the kids out with them to teach techniques and tactics. Maybe we need more of that in all classes.
It takes years to develop a program. Might as well start now.

Tillerman said...

I saw the NYT piece about why sailing shouldn't be in the Olympics and took it as a deliberately provocative article intended to provoke controversy and drive traffic to their website. Almost like what those annoying Internet trolls do in some forums.

Hmmm. I guess it worked. Maybe I should have a group writing project on what sports shouldn't be in the Olympics?

Baydog said...

Hmmm. It's been a while since there's been a project. But if I remember correctly, Tillerman has a couple of posts that he needs to start thinking about composing.

Tweezerman said...

Yes agree with Tillerman that the NYT piece was over-the-top. Interesting post by Tillerman about money vs. performance in our sailing Olympian's. It might be who is annointed (Zach Railey being an example) taking things for granted. But I must admit, I am a completely uninformed Netizen on this one.