"I had a very hard shell on me."
July 21, 2015 8:37 AM   Subscribe

 
No, you're not angry at him...No, you're just pointing at him. "Hey, you! I know you! I know you!"
posted by stevil at 9:13 AM on July 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


I know you!
posted by about_time at 9:21 AM on July 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


The picture of Bert Hubbard in Roman guard drag swimwear costume is pretty much everything I want from a picture from 1954.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:14 AM on July 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's weird that I defend certain events some folks think shouldn't be "sports" like Figure Skating and Ice Dancing, somehow I just can't get behind either Synchronized Swimming or Rhythmic Gymnastics as sports. I can't quite put my finger on why I draw a line there, but I do.
posted by dnash at 11:03 AM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Martin Short broke down that barrier a long time ago.
posted by prepmonkey at 11:13 AM on July 21, 2015


So, three of the first six comments are about the SNL sketch. Maybe some discussion of the actual post?
posted by Chrysostom at 11:15 AM on July 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


When I was a lifeguard, I knew a bunch of synchro swimmers (including one who was my weed connection for a while- long story), and occasionally sat in on their practices. Let me tell you, synchronized swimming is hard.


Some of the moves involve being upside-down in the water and elevating your entire lower body above the surface, using only your arms, while holding your breath for upwards of 45 seconds. I think anyone who can do this should be allowed to compete (as long as they're willing to get their hair all gelled up).
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:30 AM on July 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


I can tell you that, next to gymnastics and track, the swimming/diving events are some of my favorite events at the Summer Olympics. Those sports mold the human body in beautiful ways. I would watch the heck out of synchronized swimming events for male competitors.
posted by longdaysjourney at 11:34 AM on July 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Why is synchronised swimming even in the Olympics.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 11:39 AM on July 21, 2015


I think the real question is why isn't horseback archery in the Olympics.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:44 AM on July 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


It's weird that I defend certain events some folks think shouldn't be "sports" like Figure Skating and Ice Dancing, somehow I just can't get behind either Synchronized Swimming or Rhythmic Gymnastics as sports. I can't quite put my finger on why I draw a line there, but I do.

You know I was thinking the exact same thing earlier, dnash, so please don't consider this a call-out (or at least not one that doesn't include myself), but I wonder if it's because those that we do not defend are traditionally only done by women, and in fact, traditionally women who are ultra-feminized in the process (despite doing feats of endurance and strength that I certainly could never do).

In other words, is adding the men to the skating and ice dancing somehow making it more "sport-like" in our interception, even though neither is particularly "traditionally masculine" in any way.

I came about this because I was wondering if it would continue to be true if men were added to the competition as partners or if synchronized swimming would have some sort of breakthrough, and if it did, how that would kind of suck.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:46 AM on July 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Could it be that the classic SNL sketch had so perfectly ridiculed the very idea of Mens' Synchronized Swimming that IT is responsible for its failure in the decades since?
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:52 AM on July 21, 2015


I love how the lack of guidelines at this stage is translating into a lot of creativity and variety. Especially the team that decided to commit to breaking the small amount of expectations going in and have a lift with the female partner as the base.

All in all, this is good stuff. I'm not optimistic about its chances of getting into the Olympics, but I wish it would. It's ridiculous to not have male rhythmic gymnasts too.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:16 PM on July 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wonder if it's because those that we do not defend are traditionally only done by women, and in fact, traditionally women who are ultra-feminized in the process (despite doing feats of endurance and strength that I certainly could never do).

That's probably part of it - the ultra-feminized part anyway. I'm not bothered that, for example, men and women gymnasts use different apparatuses. But compare floor exercise. Why do the women have to wear sparkly costumes, use music, and half-dance their routines, while the guys just do tumbling passes and some connecting strength poses? (What if you're a tomboy of a girl who's super great at tumbling but seriously rhinestone-avoidant? Would that turn you away from competitive gymnastics?)

Anyway, I think maybe for me there's something about sync swimming and rhythmic gymnastics where there's so much "showiness" that it overwhelms the skill, I guess? I'm not putting down the skill level actually involved at all, just feeling like the presentation requirements seem to downplay it.
posted by dnash at 12:25 PM on July 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


This past week a dozen family and friends rented a houseboat together and somehow we hit on doing synchronized swimming routines as a means to delight amuse each other and compete for prizes: better than, say, charades. We all had music, choreography, costumes, and gimmicks (ours involved hiding kayak paddles under water and then creating wheels with them). My coed team's youngest member is 53. Even though we're all excellent swimmers, it was really hard. But so much fun and pretty easy to both take it seriously and insert hilarity. Thanks for this article, which I promptly emailed to my team.
posted by carmicha at 2:07 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hee. I used to do synchro when I was a kid! There were only three boys at my school who did it, and I can't remember how many girls.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:14 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


dnash: " I can't quite put my finger on why I draw a line there, but I do."

Sports hold up very poorly to existential questions, because once you get beyond your basic track and field exercises, you start to go, "Hey, wait, why ARE we chasing a little ball around a field trying to kick it into a comparative small goal? Why is this considered a sport? Why does it carry signals of masculinity? I mean, this is like the definition of ritualized uselessne-- awww, shit, I just let the ball in the goal."

Also when I was a newspaper editor I spent a LOT of time trolling my sports department about what things were and weren't sports, as it is basically impossible to come up with a definition that successfully excludes ballroom dancing and violin concerto competitions, but includes golf and snooker. They'd get extremely upset about it. I considered it revenge for having to edit 800-word golf stories. (Nobody. Cares. That. Much. About. Golf.) (Actually the sad thing is that there are enough people who care that much about golf for there to be a market for weekly 800-word stories and associated editorial suffering.)

I always like watching the synchronized swimming. It's a super-bizarre sport (but really, aren't they all?) but it's gorgeous to watch and the swimmers do the most incredible things, which is all I really ask for in a sport. Now I'm down a YouTube hole of mixed duets, and, yeah, I'd totally watch this on TV. (Can Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir learn enough about synchro to announce it? That would be awesome.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:47 PM on July 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


Hey, wait, why ARE we chasing a little ball around a field trying to kick it into a comparative small goal?


I see what you did there.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:14 PM on July 21, 2015


announce it hell. I'd like to see Johnny Weir take his Gaga-flavoured performance into the pool.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:14 PM on July 21, 2015


I'm happy with none of figure skating, ice dancing, and synchronized swimming (and a few other things) not being sports. Which doesn't mean I don't like figure staking. For me, the deciding factor is the performance. Usain Bolt doesn't get graded on how elegantly he ran the 100m. It's a purely objective measurement. Run faster and you win. Take fewer strokes and you win. Score more points and you win.

That's not saying that sprinting is better than ice dancing, just that I don't consider ice dancing to be a sport. I consider it art (albeit very athletic art).
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 5:19 PM on July 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


My sister did this at school and now in her forties runs triathlons for fun and joined an amateur synchronised swim league recently and that wiped her out physically. The combination of breathing and intense short hard strength bursts with the routines is harsh, but the end result is a team performance that is just great - coordination and physical strength and aesthetics all combined with waterproof pancake makeup. She's signed up for next year's competition and her other training helps her prepare for the demands of this.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 5:31 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


"It's a purely objective measurement. Run faster and you win. Take fewer strokes and you win. Score more points and you win."

Gymnastics? Boxing? Wrestling? Fencing? Diving? Snowboarding? Equestrian events? Not sports, but very athletic art forms?

Of course style always counts, even in "objective" sports ... There's a reason batters crowd the plate and soccer players take dives and Michael Jordan couldn't get called for traveling if he took Amtrak down the court: penalties are subjective and the "performance" the players put on helps influence how the refs judge their performance.

There are no objective sports, just degrees of subjectivity.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:02 PM on July 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Any sport that requires effort be disguised during performance adds another layer of difficulty, to my mind. The coordination that synchronized swimming demands, coupled with the difficulty of pushing against heavy water, and having your vision impaired by the waterline, leaves me very impressed with the sport every time I watch it during the Olympics.

The article says that men are generally less flexible than women, and did not have as much buoyancy. But that hasn't stopped the men profiled in the piece; I suspect that it's mostly because it goes against our ideas of men and display, and men working as part of a team whose primary function is to be visually interesting and pleasing. I don't know, just shooting ideas out.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 6:24 PM on July 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


One of my great joys in life is categorizing things. During the 2012 Olympics, my husband and I categorized all the sports into as few categories as possible. Here were our categories:

* Citius, Altius, Fortius: Any sport that involves comparisons of known, objective performances. Racing, jumping, lifting heavy things, throwing heavy things. Is there a finish line? Is there a measuring tape? It's in this category.

*Baskehockerball: Team sports with a ball (or ball-analogue) and a goal (or goal-analogue). Basketball, hockey, soccer, obviously, as well as handball and other such events. Tennis, ping-pong, and volleyball also go here; in these sports, the goals are so large that they have met in the middle.

*Fightin': Individual sports where two people attempt to best one other via strength and skill in a ritualized combat form. Fencing, judo, boxing, wrestling, and so on.

*Ballet: Any sport with a subjective or artistic score component. Figure skating, aerial ski jumps, diving, snowboard halfpipe (but NOT snowboard cross), equestrian, synchronized swimming, gymnastics, etc.

*Darts: Any sport where the primary attribute is accuracy. Target shooting, archery, golf, croquet, curling.

I submit that ALL SPORTS can be placed in one of these five categories. We used to have a sixth, "Swashbuckling," which consisted of nothing but fencing, sailing, equestrian, and the modern pentathlon, but were forced to concede that each of those sports could find a better home in another category. Synchronized swimming is obviously in the Ballet category, but as evidenced by its fellows there, that doesn't make it not a sport.
posted by KathrynT at 7:03 PM on July 21, 2015 [19 favorites]


Curling is a Baskehockerball/Darts crossbreed, I'd argue. Good taxonomy though.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:13 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Gymnastics? Boxing? Wrestling? Fencing? Diving? Snowboarding? Equestrian events? Not sports, but very athletic art forms?"

That kind of highlights how we draw the distinctions though: The fighting sports have win states that are further away from the judging of techniques for artistic presentation — the knock outs, the pins. In fencing, you can be as ugly as you like as long as you score a touch first within some general guidelines. Likewise, within the equestrian events there's a difference between show jumping (which is largely objective), dressage (almost entirely subjective) and eventing (a mix). It's gymnastics, diving, those sorts of things that are much closer to essentially competitive dance — a very athletic art form (or at least can be), but not something we generally recognize as a sport.

I'll also admit to being soured by the massive corruption in judging in things like figure skating and gymnastics, and why I'm pleased that they're moving more and more toward scoring on as close to objective standards as possible. The crazy tricks from gymnasts are always more fun than another round of earnest, unobjectionable anthems and posing; stuff like rhythmic gymnastics (and dressage, for that matter) reflect more of the patrician past of the modern Olympics than anything else.
posted by klangklangston at 2:09 AM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


The categorization discussion reminds me of my response when people dismiss figure skating, or more accurately ice dancing, as Not Sport, and say things that we "might as well assign points to ballet performance and call it a sport too." Yes, I see their point, but hey, actually, why don't we do that. That would be AWESOME.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:07 AM on July 22, 2015


might as well assign points to ballet performance and call it a sport too.

You could even say, particularly in the worlds of classical arts like ballet, opera, and symphony, that's kind of what critics do anyway only without the point system. It's still comparing Baryshnikov and Nureyev for doing the same moves in assorted combinations.
posted by dnash at 8:05 AM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Of course style always counts, even in "objective" sports ... There's a reason batters crowd the plate and soccer players take dives and Michael Jordan couldn't get called for traveling if he took Amtrak down the court: penalties are subjective and the "performance" the players put on helps influence how the refs judge their performance.

Penalties are different, but in most cases the rules do attempt to be objective. They are applied subjectively, but that's a different matter.

The point is that in baseball, basketball, running, hockey, speed skating, etc. there is no performance component. You can argue about whether or not someone should have been disqualified ("That wasn't travelling!" or "Oh, come on. He fell because he was tripped! That's not taking a dive!"), but once you get past that, the fact that they won is not open to debate. Jordan never got four points for a particularly stylish dunk. Tie breakers in golf are never decided by who made the most awesome shot on that nasty par five. For ice skating the subjective factor is a fundamental part of the decision process, right up to the very end.

And I'm not trying to dismiss ice skating and gymnastics (both of which I like), by saying they aren't sports. I'm just saying that they aren't sports. Or, if you prefer, they are subjective rather than objective sports.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:18 AM on July 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


it is basically impossible to come up with a definition that successfully excludes ballroom dancing and violin concerto competitions, but includes golf and snooker.

Using the above idea of different categories of sports, I think we get an interesting take on this. If we're judging on style ("Ballet" group), then it needs to include a significant body component. I think we can admit Ballroom dancing into sport but exclude music performance. In the latter, the art being judged is not related to the body. In dance, gymnastics, diving, etc the art is what you're doing with your body.

Golf and Snooker we can judge on different criteria - there's no artistic component here. Both would go in the "Darts" category, where the focus is on control of the body. This is in practice fairly different from a footrace, where the focus is on the speed of the body, but in principle I'm not sure it's so far off.

Snooker also seems like it would include a strong strategy element, which puts it, like curling, in the company of the ball and goal sports, but it's not a team sport, so it's a funny case. I'm tempted to call it not a sport because of how badly it fits - not enough body component for ball and goal sports, and too much rule structure for darts. At certain point it's a game, not a sport, but I'm not sure where that is.

Curling happily exists with ball and goal sports I think, because there's dynamic action during the course of a play - lots of movement and interaction with the current state of the field and things evolve every time a stone is thrown.

Croquet on the other hand seems structurally like snooker - you hit the ball and wait to see what happens. Golf has the advantage of enough simplicity that I'm willing to give it a pass as a pure accuracy sport like archery.

We might be able to collapse some of the categories down and get a shorter list:

"pure" sports: objectively measured sports, including accuracy based ones. How much can you make your body do a thing?
direct competition sports: anything where you score points against an opponent by working within a set of rules. Must include a significant body component. ball and goal sports plus fighting sports. Can you make your body do a thing better than your opponent?
Artistic sports: same as the "ballet" category. How artistically can you make your body do a thing?
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:34 AM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Fencing? Not sports, but very athletic art forms??

I agree that at some point the definition of Olympic sports starts to get really fuzzy, but fencing? Why not tennis, then? In both, opponents are confined to a playing field and they trade attempts to land a piece of equipment in a pre-designated area until one player has enough points to win. Besides, tennis has way more room for interpretation than fencing since fencing is scored electronically.

On preview, I'd put fencing squarely into vibratory manner of working's "direct competition" category, above.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:48 AM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Snooker also seems like it would include a strong strategy element, which puts it, like curling, in the company of the ball and goal sports, but it's not a team sport, so it's a funny case. I'm tempted to call it not a sport because of how badly it fits - not enough body component for ball and goal sports, and too much rule structure for darts. At certain point it's a game, not a sport, but I'm not sure where that is."

An assignment in an old philosophy class I took in undergrad was to provide a definition of "game," which entailed going into sports and arts too. The edge cases are always the most interesting.

It looks like a working definition that would include snooker would be: A feat of direct competition based on body control within an arbitrary set of objective rules. But that would be to broad — not only would it include the debatable ballroom dancing, it would also include things like skeeball. And honestly, I don't think that darts is a legitimate sport either. But what would differentiate the darts/croquet/snooker/skeeball etc.? It seems like the criterion accepted by most is simply a higher level of stakes for competition or higher level of difficulty. That's both kind of fuzzy and unsatisfying, and I think that the conception of high-level video games as both games and sport (even as Olympic Games seems to work on an anachronistic definition, so is less illuminating) shows some of the limit to that approach. I might have argued for a distinction drawn on the relative level of equipment or extra-human requirement (which is, I think, why I intuitively balk at both equestrianism and NASCAR), but cycling is both clearly a sport and one entirely dependent upon external technology. I think instead, for me, it may come down to the relative levels of exertion and the propensity for pushing the boundaries of the human body itself. I think that's why I'm willing to accept ice dancing and rhythmic gymnastics overall, even though I think that the general artistic framework makes them less of a comfortable fit. And that's why I'd be fine with calling snooker or darts a game instead of a sport.
posted by klangklangston at 3:38 PM on July 22, 2015


« Older "Some kind of bard...aaaasss"   |   It is then that I know I have lost. Had lost long... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments