I am still wrestling with the IOC's shocking and inexplicable decision to drop wrestling from the Summer Olympics while preserving the modern pentathlon (which was expected to get the boot). Wrestling is a sport that is popular worldwide. It goes all the way back to the ancient Games and is even mentioned in the book of Genesis (Jacob wrestles all night with the angel of the Lord).
The modern pentathlon, meanwhile, consists of five events that most people could not name even if Regis gave them a lifeline and a smartphone.
Dropping an inexpensive, global sport that has always been in the Olympics is more of an inexcusable travesty than the London mascots. Here are five obscure/ridiculous sports the IOC should drop instead to get wrestling back on the Olympic roster:
Equestrian: This is an elite sport that requires the backing of such enormous private wealth that I don't think they can afford it even at "Downton Abbey." Despite the presence of Bruce Springsteen's daughter, this is truly the sport of kings. And queens (Queen Elizabeth's granddaughter Zara Phillips competed in London and won a silver medal). Maybe equestrian might hold some appeal to the 99 percenters if we could bet a $2 trifecta on the medal winners, but, until then, I would much rather see the likes of Rulon Gardner and Alexander Karelin battling it out on the mats.
Synchronized swimming: Look, I respect synchronized swimmers. I've even tried the sport. It's hard. It's athletic. But I'm sorry, no one can take this sport seriously after this "Saturday Night Live" parody. It has been 25 years since that spoof aired and it's still the first thing people think of when they hear the words "synchronized swimming."
Trampoline: I've covered 10 Olympics on four continents. I've written on just about every medal event there is. And this is still easily the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen at the Games, with the possible exception of letting George Michael sing two songs at the 2012 London closing ceremonies. When I saw trampoline for the first time, I kept expecting to see an angry father rush in and yell at the kids to stop jumping up and down or they'll break the mattress. Which, frankly, would have improved this event considerably.
Pingpong: Yeah, I know it's called table tennis. But anything you play in your parents' basement can hardly be considered a sport more worthy of the Olympics than wrestling.
Modern pentathlon: The only reason this event exists is that Olympic founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin created it. For the record, the events in the modern pentathlon are laser-pistol shooting, fencing, show-jumping, a 3-kilometer cross country run and a 200-meter swim. In other words, it combines arcade games, very expensive horse riding, a run too short to adequately test endurance and a swimming event that does not include Michael Phelps. Not only does no one want to watch this, but no one wants to compete in it, either. I mean, have you ever met a modern pentathlete? Have you ever gone to a modern pentathlon? Does your high school or college offer modern pentathlon? Of course not. Which is why the modern pentathlon should be dropped and wrestling reinstated.
This whole matter could be solved to everyone's satisfaction by simply replacing the modern pentathlon with the ancient pentathlon that was in the original Olympics B.C. That's because the ancient pentathlon consisted of the long jump, javelin, discus, a foot race and, yes, wrestling.
The Olympics are still six months and three weeks away, so there's still a little time to order a copy of Michael Phelps' "London on 10,000 Calories a Day" guidebook. The U.S. Olympic trials season, however, is just about to heat up.
Mark the following events and dates on your 2012 Mayan calendar if you want a head start on crushing all opponents in your Olympics Fantasy League.
(Disclaimer: This isn't all of the trials since some sports don't have them, but this list is a lot to put on your plate without also explaining the selection process for the modern pentathlon team.)
Jan. 14: Marathon
Begin the long, grueling season of Olympic athlete trials and qualifications with -- what else? -- the marathon in Houston. The U.S. women may have their deepest field ever, including Desiree Davila, Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan and 38-year-old Deena Kastor. On the men's side, Ryan Hall is the favorite, but don't rule out 36-year-old 2004 silver medalist Meb Keflezighi, who set a personal record in the recent ING New York City Marathon. By the way, top marathoners average just under five-minute miles. For 26.2 miles. You'd be lucky to average that in Houston at rush hour in a car.
Jan. 19-29: Women's soccer qualifying tournament
Sadly, Hope Solo's "Dancing with the Stars" season finished shy of the coveted mirror ball. If she wants a shot at adding another Olympic gold medal to her collection, she and the rest of the U.S. women must first secure a spot. A field of eight countries from the Americas will compete in Vancouver, British Columbia, for two slots in London. The United States is in Group B with Mexico, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, but another interesting story should be Group A in which Haiti will face Canada, Cuba and Costa Rica. Let's just hope Vancouverites don't burn down the city if Canada doesn't qualify.
Feb. 13-19: Women's boxing
Qualifying for the Olympics is a two-step process for the U.S. women. Boxers must win the trials in Spokane, Wash., in February. Then those boxers must finish among the top eight in the three weight classes at the world championships in China in May. This will be the first time women's boxing will be on the Olympic calendar.
March 22-April 2: Men's soccer qualifying tournament
Because of the age restrictions, men's Olympic soccer isn't viewed as big a deal as it is for the women. But can Freddy Adu and his teammates grab the spotlight away from the women with a medal? Well, the Americans will first have to get there. The qualifying rounds will be played in Nashville, Tenn., and Carson City, Calif., before the semifinals and final March 31 and April 2 in Kansas City, Kan. Don't drip your scarves in the barbecue.
April 21-22: Wrestling
In addition to the usual hopefuls, there are two possible wrestlers who could make this event very interesting. Both 2000 gold medalist/"Biggest Loser" competitor Rulon Gardner and 1996 gold medalist/pro wrestler Kurt Angle have said they will attempt to make the team. A slimmed-down Gardner is working at the Olympic training center, while Angle is training on his own. No chairs, please, Kurt.
Late spring, basketball roster selections
The Olympic spots are set, it's just a matter of hearing the final rosters. The men are coming off gold in 2008, while the women are 33-0 in the Olympics dating back to 1992. BTW: If men's coach Mike Krzyzewski needs a vowel, he can buy it from women's coach Geno Auriemma.
NEWS RESULTS FOR WRESTLING
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