LONDON -- We have breaking news on the badminton scandal. After a long and very intense night of negotiations, the Badminton World Federation, the International Olympic Committee and the Chinese team reached a compromise. The Chinese players still can no longer compete in these Olympics, but they will be able to have Andrew Luck on their team in 2016.
Public and private outrage swiftly reached world-record heights over the eight badminton players who intentionally lost games in an attempt to secure a more favorable road to the medal round. This is understandable. Olympic sport is supposed to be about giving your all no matter the circumstances. All sport is about that. Little leaguers and youth soccer players who try to lose will have their snow cones and orange slices withheld. I even got upset when someone on our co-ed softball team would drink beer during a game.
Respect the game! At the very least, leave the beer in the dugout when you go out to bat.
And think of all the athletes who tried so hard and sacrificed so much to reach the Olympics but missed qualifying for the London Games. They must be justifiably livid at home when they hear that some Olympians "competing" in their place tanked a match.
Was what the badminton players did such an unforgivable sin? It definitely wasn't sporting, but we certainly can't say it was unusual. (To be honest, I am still trying to wrap my head around the words "badminton" and "scandal'' being linked in the same sentence.) We've often seen teams give less than their very best effort down the stretch of a season in order to obtain a higher draft position. We've also seen teams rest starting pitchers, quarterbacks, running backs, etc., after their playoff spots have been secured.
We might not like seeing this, especially if the players being rested are on our fantasy teams; but teams don't do it because they lack athletic morals, they are simply trying to better their position to either win more important games in the postseason or to win more the following years by getting a higher draft pick.
Is what the Chinese and the other banned players from South Korea and Indonesia did really all that different? The Olympic people love to talk about how participating is more important than winning, but then why do they give out medals and keep track of the medal totals for each country? We not only expect athletes to "go for gold," we also demand it. This almost always means 100 percent effort in a competition. But as we saw this week, there are times when losing a match now boosts your odds of winning the gold later.
And that's really the problem. The tournament format should not present any incentive to lose. If losing an unimportant match now means a better chance at winning gold later, then tanking becomes more than a temptation -- it becomes inevitable. If purposely losing was really so outrageous and offensive to the Olympic ideals, then why did four different badminton pairs do it?
Some sports (such as tennis) use loser-out formats. Others, such as badminton and basketball, use round robin. The round-robin format is good in that it allows a team to recover from one bad day, but it also must be set up in a way in which there is never a benefit to losing.
I'm not suggesting NBA commissioner David Stern and a cage of pingpong balls is necessarily the solution, but the knockout and medal-round formats must always be set up so there is never an incentive to lose at any point in the Olympic tournament.
That's what the Badminton World Federation and IOC should be concentrating on right now. They shouldn't be pointing fingers when they're the ones who set up a system that left this as a possibility. It's up to them to correct it.