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The Myth of US Olympic Softball Dominance


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#1
SpartanIlliniCub

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Softball was removed from Olympic competition following the 2008 Games in Beijing. Several reasons were cited by the International Olympic Committee for its decision to exclude the sport: (1) a lack of "universality" (meaning softball is not played in enough countries), (2) a suggestion that softball was caught in the steroid storm that caused baseball to be removed from the Games the same year, and (3) Team USA softball was too dominant. The purpose of this article is to dispute (3).

Plenty of other national teams are as dominant—or even MORE dominant—than Team USA was during softball's Olympic run from 1996-2008. During that period Team USA won 3 gold medals and 1 silver medal; below are the list of national teams that were either as dominant or more so during that same timespan:

1. 10,000 Meter Run (Men): Ethiopia; 4 gold medals

2. Archery (Team Men): South Korea; 3 gold medals, 1 silver medal

3. Archery (Women): South Korea; 4 gold medals

4. Archery (Team Women): South Korea; 4 gold medals

5. Basketball (Women): USA; 4 gold medals (Team USA men's basketball has won 3 gold medals and 1 bronze medal since 1996 and are therefore not as dominant as Team USA softball)

6. Fencing (Women): Italy; 3 gold medals, 1 silver medal

7. Equestrian (Women): France; 3 gold medals, 1 silver medal

8. Soccer (Women): USA; 3 gold medals, 1 silver medal

9. Gymnastics (Men): China; 3 gold medals, 1 silver medal

10. Judo-Lightweight (Men): China; 3 gold medals, 1 silver medal

11. Synchronized Swimming (Women): Russia; 3 gold medals (was not offered at 1996 games)

12. Table Tennis (Men): China; 3 gold medals, 3 silver medals, 3 bronze medals (Chinese men players won 9 of the 12 total medals awarded from 1996-2008)

13. Table Tennis (Women): China; 4 gold medals, 2 silver medals, 2 bronze medals (Chinese women players won 8 of of the 12 total medals awarded from 1996-2008)

14. Beach Volleyball (Men): USA; 3 gold medals, 1 silver medal

Three nations stand out as particularly dominant. The first is South Korea which has been overwhelmingly strong in team men's archery, women's archery, and team women's archery.

The second is China which has had a monopoly on ping pong. Chinese players have won more than 70% of the total medals awarded in the sport, including 7 of 8 gold medals from 1996-2004.

The third is Ethiopia which has had a stranglehold on the 10,000 meter men's distance run.

South Korean, Chinese and Ethiopian sports have dominated their competition from 1996-2008 considerably more than US softball did during its era, yet there was no talk of removing those sports.

There are also three events that the US has been equally or more dominant in than softball from 1996-2008: women's soccer, women's basketball and men's beach volleyball. Most intriguingly, two of these sports, basketball and volleyball, are very similar to softball.

These three sports were all invented in America sometime around the turn of the 20th century, were later added for international play at the Olympics, and are very popular in America now. The US has always fielded competitive Olympic teams for each. Yet for some reason, softball was singled out as the sport that was not allowed to continue in the Games.

The line of reasoning that the US is too dominant in international softball and that this led to its Olympic demise is, by itself, a flawed line of reasoning.

#2
CatOsterFan

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The men that make up the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are slimeballs in the purest sense of the word. These guys only care about money, yet they peddle the virtues of national pride and international competition.

I bet the real reason softball was eliminated had nothing to do with dominance or "plurality" or any of those things. My guess is that it wasn't bringing in enough ratings worldwide and therefore was not making the IOC enough money. Because softball was not a money maker the IOC decided to reinvest elsewhere by adding rugby and golf. Big names sell tickets and drive up TV revenue, and softball did not have enough of them with any worldwide appeal like golf (and to a lesser extent rubgy) will.

Maybe the IOC is smarter than we give them credit for. Ever notice that the removal of softball from the Olympics coincides precisely with the final Olympic appearance of Jennie Finch (the only softball player with potential international appeal)?

#3
hitgirl

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The problem is that the IOC has a European bias, being composed of a near majority of European members. That’s why the Games are so jam-packed with European-type events. Baseball and softball were founded in the United States and are only popular in the Americas, Canada and Asia—Europeans don’t play either one.

So should the world judge its sports by what Europe thinks are cool? After all, that’s what we do for Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature, Economics and Peace (Nobel prizes in each of these fields are awarded by Scandinavian committees which, interestingly, also give out gold medals).

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According to Wikipedia:

Among other criticisms, the Nobel Committees have been accused of having a political agenda, and of omitting more deserving candidates. They have also been accused of Eurocentrism, especially for the Literature Prize.

Maybe we need to create a “new Olympics” that is more diverse?

#4
SpartanIlliniCub

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My guess is that it [softball] wasn't bringing in enough ratings worldwide and therefore was not making the IOC enough money.

You think that money is the real reason softball was eliminated from the games? You mean to tell me that sports like dressage, rifle shooting, and men's field hockey are big money makers? The Olympics have a handful of big money-makers and then they have "the rest." Softball can easily compete with "the rest" when it comes to earning money.

#5
KCSoftball

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Softball has the World Cup but it needs to start an "alternate Olympics," some kind of "International World Championships." The event could be held every four years during August for women's & men's teams, moved from country to country, and funded by sponsors to make the "rewards" very high for the teams that take part; maybe paid travel & general expenses or a nice payday for the top three finishers. All the Asian, European & other quality teams could be invited to take part. There are some good teams out there—maybe not of the USA/Japan caliber, but they will only get better if they get to play good teams.

There are around 125 countries (and growing) that play some form of competitive women's fastpitch. Some of the European teams are: Netherlands, Italy, England, Greece, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Sweden, Spain and many others. There is also a surprisingly large number of professional teams in Europe, and also a surprisingly large number of American players playing in them, so Japan and the NPF are not the only places to play pro ball!

Closer to home, I have to wonder why Mexico is not competing at a level with the USA Team. There are a lot of high quality Mexican players out there in our Division I schools. England sent a team to last year's World Cup and they played very well—I was impressed with how far they have come. The Netherlands is always good. There are so many good teams throughout the world and they will only get better if they have international competition to play against.

Also, let's make it easier for foreign teams to pick up American players for international competition. I would think the US alone could roster half the teams in the world with quality players if given the chance! Just look at the Women's "Amateur" 23U or Major Team rosters. There are so many quality players out there who would love a chance to play internationally/professionally. Heck, there is enough talent for a full-time eight-team professional league!

I know, I know, the politics of it all will not allow it to happen. Every organization wants to be the top dog and won't give an inch to the others. The Team USA, NCAA, ASA, USSSA, and IOC all want to be in charge and won't give a millimeter to make it work. But as they say, "Young men have visions, old men dream dreams," so (given my age) my vision for women's fastpitch is allowed to fall into the dream category.

Lastly, softball in the Olympics is a moneymaker—it always sells out its stadium for games. The television ratings were also very good, so lack of revenue is not a reason for dropping softball.

What is the real reason for the elimination of softball from Olympic competition? The head of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, had a large disagreement with Major League Baseball, and baseball & softball are thought of as the same sport by him. He waged a campaign to get rid of these sports thinking he would get back at the MLB, but he didn't. Instead he punished all the baseball/softball-playing countries. MLB couldn't care less about the Olympics!

Thankfully, Rogge will be replaced later this year. Hopefully the new IOC President will look more favorably on softball.

#6
SpartanIlliniCub

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I do agree that baseball and softball are much more international than they were even a few years ago. A huge percentage of the MLB players are not American-born, and the sport is popular in the Caribbean, Latin America, South America and the Pacific.

Mexico does not field a competitive team because Mexico is dominated by a machismo culture and they do not think much of women's athletics. There are no resources dedicated to women's sports in Mexico as compared to other countries.

#7
KCSoftball

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Mexico does not field a competitive team because Mexico is dominated by a machismo culture and they do not think much of women's athletics. There are no resources dedicated to women's sports in Mexico as compared to other countries.

Welcome to the "Real World." That's how it is in most, if not all, of the world. Even in parts of the US it is still that way. In parts of the US women are still "possessions."

Women (with Title IX) have come a long way! But they still have a long way to go. Women have maybe won the "numbers game," where they get equal numbers of things. It seems that some of you women have settled for that, but you are not "equal" yet. Women are still "s-x" objects, not athletes.

Watch and listen to what’s happening around us all. It seems that when they show a female athlete her good looks are stressed.

I agree that most of the elite female athletes have toned bods from working out so much. Softball players may be the exception. I would say that a very large number of the softball players don't work out much if any. Maybe that's one of the reasons the media ignores them: no s-x appeal. Look at some of the male MLB players, they are just plain old and "fat." Rarely do you hear about that. But let a women be like that and you sure hear about it.

People have talked about how popular Jennie Fench is. How did she get that way? Her good looks sure helped. She was a great athlete with a great personality and she sure did look good in a bikini! The media picked up on that and she was off to stardom! Let me tell you that Jennie, Cat and Monica have proven you can have a nice athletic toned body and still be a great player. But until women start getting treated as athletes like the men, things will stay the same.

#8
KCSoftball

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Surfing the web, I found this:

In July 2005, IOC members voted 52–52 (with one abstention) to remove softball (along with baseball) from the Olympic program after the 2008 Olympic Games. Softball and baseball needed a majority vote to stay. The two sports were the first to be cut since polo in 1936. One of the reasons softball was considered for elimination from the Olympics was because there was not enough global participation and not enough depth of talent worldwide to merit Olympic status. In the three Summer Olympics which included a softball competition, four countries won medals: the United States, Australia, China and Japan.

In response to the expressed concern that there was not enough talent depth worldwide, the ISF began to introduce the game in places where softball is not traditionally played. For example, the US team donated equipment and hosted coaching clinics in the Middle East, Africa and Europe. The US team's Jessica Mendoza has also delivered equipment and conducted clinics in other countries such as Brazil, the Czech Republic and South Africa.

After softball's elimination from 2012 Olympics became a possibility, the ASA created the World Cup of Softball in Oklahoma City in 2005. This event allows the top countries in the world to compete on a yearly basis. The 2005 World Cup of Softball drew over 18,000 fans around the world for a competition between the top five international softball teams.

The World Cup of Softball was later established as one of the premier events for the sport of softball. At the second World Cup of Softball, the attendance record was broken and the television ratings were higher than in any previous US Softball event on ESPN and ESPN2. The US team expressed hope that the increasing popularity of this event will allow the sport to return to the Summer Olympic Games.

What is really interesting is the 18,000 fans that attended the '05 World Cup. At $10-$25 a pop plus concessions and the TV coverage, who says softball can't make money?




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