Friday, August 15, 2008

Can anyone give credit to the US Women's Olympic softball team?

HHR would like to welcome a new writer into the family...

"The Cubbie Chaser" grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago and challenges anyone who thinks they've led a more miserable sports-fan experience to a thumb wrestle. Right here, right now. ...Yes, she roots for the Cubs. Born on Opening Day 1978 -- one guess what happened at Wrigley that day-- her heart still aches with the salt-filled wounds of 1984, 1989, 1998, 2003, and every other year before, since and in between. To her, a 10-run lead is not safe even with two outs in the ninth, and the World Series is like Voldemort in the Harry Potter books (that which must not be mentioned). In short, she lives her life in constant fear of inevitable collapse. She invites you to join the insanity.

Without further ado, the Cubbie Chaser talks about the Women's Olympic softball team.

They don’t compete in skimpy little bathing suits or leotards, like the other hugely popular American females in these Olympics.

While many of them play their sport professionally, they can’t lay claim to the salary or celebrity of the NBA — or even WNBA — basketball players representing our country in Beijing.

Still, nothing has changed since 2004, when the USA Softball team made the cover of Sports Illustrated as “The Real Dream Team.”

Nothing, that is, except the fervor.

As I sit here today, our softball team is 4-0 in the 29th Summer Games and has made the competition look like kindergarteners in gym class. Already the owner of all three gold medals since softball became an Olympic sport in Atlanta in 1996, the US has outscored Venezuela, Australia, Canada and Japan, 29-1, and allowed just two hits thus far this year.

That’s right up there with the ass-kickings doled out by beach volleyball mavens Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, gymnasts Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson — and let’s throw swimmer Michael Phelps in there, because he’s all we ever hear about anyway.

But softball seems almost overlooked, like a footnote in the daily coverage, presented in highlight form rather than as the prime-time big deal it should be. There's no excuse for this. Thursday’s volleyball and gymnastics events happened in the early in the day in Beijing — which is evening/night here — so why can’t afternoon softball games be televised when we’re sitting at home on the couch?

Trust me, a whole nation full of little (and big) girls with fake-stirrup knee socks in their bat bags (or deep in their drawers) would watch. Slow-pitch weekend warriors would watch. And with the likes of Jennie Finch, Cat Osterman and Jessica Mendoza on the field, I’m willing to bet a lot of key-demographic 20-something guys would, too.

Obviously, some people think dominance is boring, that the lopsided results every year in Olympic softball make the sport uninteresting or unworthy of the grand international stage. Softball was one of the sports voted off the island, so to speak, for the 2012 Olympics in London.

So, are they going to vote off swimming next because nobody can hold a Speedo to Phelps the Human Phreak? Here's a better idea: Work hard, get better, and maybe you'll be able to compete. Don't just take your bright yellow 12-inch balls and go home.

(I should note that softball is eligible to be reinstated for the 2016 Olympics, which if we’re lucky will be in Chicago, where Finch pitches for the resident National Pro Fastpitch team.)

Softball grabbed our attention in 1996, again in 2000 and again in 2004. This year’s team is just as great, just as exciting — and maybe it’s even better. If 2008 is, in fact, the sport’s last Olympic hoorah, we should be soaking up every second.
- The Cubbie Chaser

1 comment:

Robert said...

Yeah I agree with you about the telecasts. We in Australia only get highlights of the Softball competition maybe one or 2 innings where most other sports ie. soccer, hockey, gymnastics, swimming, just to mention a few get full coverage. Here in OZ they will even interrupt a softball game to return to heats of other sports then when they return they usually only show what is left of the game and if it has already finished nothing at all. It is really hard to find out the results of the games and I usually search the site to find out. It really is a disgrace to see this great sport treated as filler on while waiting for other sports to begin. Make the sport seem second rate.

MY gripe
from Aussie