I Won a Gold Medal in Frustration

I admit it, I love watching the olympics!  I love the winter and summer games both, and I really love those events that most people probably consider the step-children of the games.  I honestly think I could watch every curling match during the winter olympics, and if I were at the summer games you can bet I’d spend a good deal of my time in the table tennis and badminton arenas; however, I also love many of the more high-profile events too.  So, like many of you, I found myself glued to the TV on Sunday night watching NBC’s tape-delayed coverage of the women’s gymnastics qualifying round.

If you were watching Sunday night, then you probably saw reigning all-around world champion American gymnast Jordyn Wieber get her heart broken when she realized she did not qualify for the individual all-around competition.  That has to be so tough…to show up at an event you have practically been training your whole life for, that only comes around once every four years, and not come through in the clutch.  Bless her heart!  What a tough time to not have your “A” game.

Except you know, that really doesn’t tell the whole story, does it?  In fact, it turns out she DID bring her “A” game.  She finished 4th – FOURTH – out of 60 competitors!  Don’t believe me?  Check the results HERE.  So, what happened?  In their infinite wisdom, the governing body decided to put a rule in place in 2004 that allows only 2 representatives from each competing country to qualify for the individual all-around competition.**  I assume those of you who, like me, do not believe that diversity is an inherently noble end in and of itself can clearly see the problem here.  This is a once-every-four-years event that claims to crown the greatest in the world, but by definition, its own rules potentially (likely, in fact) keep the best in the world from competing against each other!

AGH!  This world is maddening!

It is here that I would like to insert a quote from Ayn Rand’s magnificent (and perhaps prophetic…if you’ve read it then you’ll know what I mean) novel, Atlas Shrugged – “Nothing can be unearned and unpaid for in the universe, neither in matter, nor in spirit; and if the guilty do not pay, then the innocent have to pay it.”

That may sound like a heavy-handed quote for a gymnastics competition, but here is the larger point I am trying to make: in our politically correct, post-modern world, we focus so much on trying to be diverse and tolerant that we toss common sense out the window if it gets in the way.  Why is it inherantly better that America not be allowed to have 3 women competing, even though we had 3 women that qualified based on the raw score alone?

And lest you think I am being nationalistic, you should know that I also think the two-person-per-country limit that was added for these games to the sport of table tennis is just as ridiculous.  The Chinese dominate that sport – they have the top 4 ranked men and the top 4 ranked women in the world, but still only 2 each can compete in the individual competition.

See, the problem is, unfair is unfair.  Whether we apply that to the olympic games or whether we apply it on a more generic, moral level.  As Ayn Rand so eloquently wrote, nothing goes unpaid for.  If the guilty do not pay, then the innocent will.  You know who is paying for this unfair rule?  Jordyn Wieber, Chinese table tennis players, and anyone else this applies to.  Think how much these athletes have trained for these moments.  How many hours in a gym, how many things they said, “No” to so they could train harder and longer.  Do you want to look Jordyn in the face and explain to her that it isn’t fair to limit (insert country here) to only one competitor, even though Jordyn qualified in the top 24?  The medals are awarded on points, right?  See, we always think that it’s good to include others, to give others a shot, and generally it probably is, but someone has to pay the balance in a situation such as this.

So this whole thing naturally made me think of affirmative action practices for some reason.  We should make hiring choices based on who is most qualified.  It is just as wrong to hire a black person for a job that they are unqualified for so you can meet a quota as it is to only hire white people because you are a bigot.  They are both wrong.  It shouldn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman…if you’re white, black, red, purple or blue.  If you have earned it, you deserve it.  To tie it back to Jordyn, if she finished 4th out of 60, she earned it.

Anyway, that affirmative action topic deserves much more space to be devoted to it, but I wanted to throw it in.  Thanks for reading the rant.

**Many thanks to Slate for a great article that I lifted some information from for this post.  Get their take on it HERE.

Copyright © 2012 Jonathan Ruth