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Posted - 08/08/2012 :  23:45:37   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Cuneiformist

Reading this piece at ESPN about the decathlon (it is the 2012 Olympics, kids) made me roll my eyes. After making the trenchant observation that the event isn't as popular as it once was, the author tries to reason why this is. He posits 3 factors:

1. We aren't as interested in generalists-- I don't even know what that means.

2. No time-- The argument here is that people don't have time to follow a two day event. This also doesn't make any sense (we are watching the US Beach Volleyball team play games for a longer span, aren't we? And swimming, and so on, and so on.

3. We're not good at math-- Here, he laments the complex scoring system of the decathlon. It's unclear how this is a problem when the complex scoring of diving, gymnastics, ice skating, and so on, aren't a problem.

In all, whenever you see someone try to blame a sport's popularity (or lack of it) on stuff like this ("This is just too complex for Americans; we like things simple") you should know immediately that this is just some hack trying to make a deadline by spewing out these simplistic, superficial observations, and not someone who's really put thought into actually answering the question.
I've always liked the Decathlon a great deal because it's for "generalists". Other sports often encourage the training of particular body-types to become more and more extreme. Look at how different even runners look, comparing the Marathoners to the sprinters. Compare a hammer-thrower's body to that of a pole-vaulter's. All those are great athletes, and their sports are perfectly valid, but there is often a certain freakishness of body that is required by each specialty. The Decathletes are in a sense more "normal" looking and are easier for the public to identify with as having "ideal" human physiques, with more rounded skills.

There's also the whole process of how the Decathletes must use strategy to balance their skills and training, thus adding an additional gamesmanship layer to their competitions.

Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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The Imperfectionist

4954 Posts

Posted - 08/09/2012 :  08:50:00   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Cuneiformist a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Machi4velli

I'd say it just had bad time slots and not much hype. I've yet to hear anything about the athletes participating in it and I've watched quite a lot of the olympics, only heard about it for the first time tonight. And they're just now starting it after some time of other track and field events getting airtime (which were really the same events these athletes are doing).
Totally. If there had been a month or more of hype from NBC or ESPN, we'd obviously know more about the sport and who is competing. When it comes to the Olympics, interest is almost entirely driven by the media hype surrounding a person or event. American's don't have some huge love affair with women's sprint hurdles. But we've been fed so much Lolo Jones that people care, and thus she gets headlines. If we were fed lots of decathlon hype, it would get more headlines.

With #1, I think he means that the athletes are good all-around, but aren't the best in any of the events. Usually specialists are best at most events. I don't see why that should matter though, it's just a different sort of skill being tested.
Yeah. I got that, but it was so bafflingly stupid that in my quick post I couldn't even think of something to say.

Again, this is just another example of lazy sports writing. A person is tasked with writing about track and field, and finds some unusual take on it ("huh, what about the decathlon?") and spends all of 10 minutes sitting in a hotel room in London trying to imagine why it's not as big as it used to be, and so dreams up a few things that pop into mind ("they do have that scoring system that I haven't bothered to look at and must be super complex...") and then spits it all out to his editor before dashing off to the pub.

Seriously: this guy has no metric to base this on. He didn't poll people. He probably hasn't covered the sport for some length of time, and he certainly didn't go back through the decades to see how the sport was covered (beyond what he vaguely recalls from his memory).

It would be really easy to just change the names of the sport and the athletes mentioned, and then dream up three new things and one could do this for just about any sport played today!

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