The Blackminton Scandal of 2012

Not that I care about this, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do a play on the “Black Sox Scandal.”

Beyond that, I really am sort of indignant at the creepiness of people who would deliberately lose in order to eventually win by getting to play weaker opponents. It’s just despicable on a number of levels:

Associated Press9:07 a.m. CDT, August 1, 2012

photo by Arne Nordmann

LONDON — Eight female badminton doubles players were disqualified Wednesday from the London Olympics after trying to lose matches to receive a more favorable place in the tournament.

The Badminton World Federation announced its ruling after investigating two teams from South Korea and one each from China and Indonesia. It punished them for “not using one’s best efforts to win a match” and “conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport” in matches Tuesday night….

IOC Vice President Craig Reedie, the former head of the international badminton federation, welcomed the decision.

“Sport is competitive,” Reedie told the AP. “If you lose the competitive element, then the whole thing becomes a nonsense.

“You cannot allow a player to abuse the tournament like that, and not take firm action. So good on them.”

Good on them, indeed.

It’s not that I care about whether something is detrimental to the “sport” of badminton, which seems perfectly adapted to the way most of us experience it — as a backyard mockery of sport for klutzes staggering about with racket in one hand and a beer in the other. How is this an Olympic sport to begin with? (And don’t even get me started on how I feel about having the Horse Guards Parade become a venue of beach volleyball, of all bogus sports. I imagine former members of the Horse Guards are harrumphing up and down the length of Britain. I certainly would be, were I they. What have they done with the horses while this nonsense is going on? That’s what I want to know…)

But it is indeed a violation of what sport is about.

It reminds me of my longtime nemesis in slow-pitch softball, the opposing player who deliberately tries to draw a walk. I played a lot of slow-pitch softball in my younger days, and I was usually the pitcher, because I was the only one willing to stand there lazily tossing the ball from a mound much closer to the plate than in baseball, at bruisers who were doing their best to send it back rocketing at my head.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been a slow-pitch softball pitcher, but it is next to impossible to keep throwing strikes — much, much harder than if you get to throw straight at the plate. You have to loft it up into the air just so, at a prescribed height well above the batter’s head, and then have the momentum fall away from it at precisely the right point and the right speed so that it drops toward the ground exactly through the strike zone.

The point of slow-pitch softball — as I always wanted to scream at the cretins who stood there with their bats on their shoulders, waiting for the walk — is to allow everyone to hit the ball, and get it into play. It’s not a duel between pitcher and batter. It’s a small step away from putting the ball on a tee. It’s to make the game fun, not to avoid hitting for strategic reasons. And of course, after the first guy stood there and took a walk, I got so angry that I couldn’t throw strikes for anything, and soon I was walking in runs, and had to be relieved. Which is way more humiliating than being taken out in the Major Leagues.

OK, so it’s not exactly the same thing. But it ticks me off the same way…

10 thoughts on “The Blackminton Scandal of 2012

  1. Bryan Caskey

    This really isn’t the same as what happened in the 1919 World Series. In the case of the White Sox, the players intentionally lost the games in return for money from gamblers who were in on the fix.

    As far as I can tell, this is totally different. It appears the format of this badminton tournament was going to give the loser of this certain game an easier path to the gold medal. The teams trying to lose were simply taking advantage of a poorly thought-out format to gain a larger competitive advantage.

    It’s not corruption like the 1919 World Series. It’s unfortunate, and I agree the teams should be DQ’ed on general principle, but they should also change the format next time.

    The ultimate blame here falls on whoever formatted the tournament this way. It is very easy to format sport tournaments to reward the winners. The rules should reward winning and punish losing. Duh.

  2. Bryan Caskey

    As far as the softball is concerned, funny story – simple solution: change the rules.

    In the law-firm league for slow pitch soft ball here in Columbia (in which I sometimes participate) you get 4 pitches. If the batter doesn’t put the ball in play with the fourth pitch (no matter what) he’s out.

    Problem solved.

    Now, there’s a whole other problem of a bunch of lawyers playing softball with no umpires. The arguments about safe/out can become legendary.

  3. Mark Stewart

    I liked crushing that big ball straight back at the pitcher. It’s harder to hit him than it looks, but they sure do twitch funny.

    The very definition of sport is not just to win, but to compete. Business is about winning. Sport is about how one plays the game. They should have banned the coaches for life…

  4. Steven Davis II

    When I was in college I knew a guy who was on the Nigerian badminton team, I laughed at him when I first heard it and was able to get him in a game when we saw the equipment left out at the PE center after basketball practice. Holy F###, I might as well have challenged a Chinaman to a game of ping-pong. I remember making an instant ruling that he had to play opposite hand, but I might have had a chance if I told him he had to put the racket in his mouth.

  5. Brad

    Yes, while I was making fun of badminton above, I suddenly thought of Tim Linder, a friend from college who was on the Memphis State badminton team. He took it seriously, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have wanted to play against him.

    Of course, knowing Tim, whose huge mane of hair hung halfway down his back, made it seem even less like a sport, on account of his seeming so unlike an athlete. I had the vague impression the team must be a sort of club for freaks and stoners…

  6. Greg

    My only issue with the DQ is this adage that was shared by an old coach: “It’s your job to know the rules and beat the other guy over the head with them.”
    In this case, the rulemakers got beat over their heads with their own rules.

  7. kc

    They’re not throwing matches for money, so why is this so bad? Should a swimmer or runner be disqualified for not going all out to finish first in a heat?

  8. Steven Davis II

    Golfers do this all the time. Blow the first round so you get put in a lower Flight, then smoke the players in that flight to earn a 1st place prize. It’s called “sandbagging” and used in nearly every sport.


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