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2012 Olympics: The Badminton "Scandal" was Stupid, Completely Overblown

I’m not sure how outraged you are about the great badminton scandal of 2012, but I’m not losing all that much sleep over the fact that a bunch of female players in a sport I don’t care about did the smart thing by attempting to lose so they would have a more favorable draw going forward.

Isn’t this exactly the same as tanking down the stretch in the NBA, so you have the best chance at getting the No. 1 pick in the draft?  Or how about in baseball, when teams become “buyers,” and “sellers” at the trade deadline, with the sellers essentially getting rid of their good players and thus throwing in the towel on the season.

This happens in just about every sport, only most sports aren’t set up as stupidly as badminton so it no one is ever tempted to tank as a means to win a championship in the season they tank.

If you tank you in other sports, it’s to improve your draft position and hopefully get a player that can make you better down the road. The Chinese/Korean/Indonesian women who were tanking in badminton were doing it so they would fall into a different portion of the draw, one that moved them away from the better teams, thus giving them a better chance at advancing to the finals and winning the gold medal.

That’s the tournament’s fault – not the players’. Who makes a draw where the top two seeds could potentially meet in the semifinals and not the finals? How does that make any sense? And, if you were a player on the No. 1 seeded team and you found out that if you lost a match in the early going, you would have a substantially easier path to reaching the finals, wouldn’t you do it?

All we preach as fans and in the media is “the titles are what matters.” Everything we judge an athlete on is rooted in finishing at the top. When starters sit on the bench in the NFL at the end of the regular season because their teams want to rest them for the playoffs, we don’t usually get outraged (unless it’s the 14-0 Colts) – we praise it as being smart. They don’t want their guys to get hurt before the games that are much more important than the meaningless end of the season ones. They’re essentially throwing the games, but we don’t blame them for it because it gives them the best chance to raise a trophy at the end.

Doesn’t moving into a more favorable position in the badminton bracket give the Chinese or South Koreans a better chance at raising a gold medal? Hell, it even gives them a better chance at raising a silver medal. If the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds meet in the semifinals, the best the loser of that match could do would be to win the bronze medal.

That’s absurd, and the IOC or International Badminton Committee or whatever made up committee is in charge of arranging the draws should be ashamed of being so idiotic that they didn’t have the foresight to see that they were screwing up the entire tournament by not following a standard bracket model. The players were just adjusting, doing what was best for them. In a world where we base legacies on championships won and little else, these badminton players were simply following that blueprint.

Now, we are talking about badminton, so I’ll get off my high horse for a minute and take a breath. There’s no need to cry over spilled milk, and that’s exactly what this is. We can clean it up and everyone will forget that it happened. It’s not something overly important…it’s women’s badminton.

It makes me laugh when I read all these indignant stories about how the so-called scandal has “JEOPARDIZED THE INTEGRITY OF THE OLYMPIC  GAMES!!!” The people who write that sort of thing are the same people who never refer to it as the Olympics, but only as “The Olympic Games,” and they’re the same ones who thought the Opening Ceremonies were a work of art.

Spare me. The IOC is corrupt, the “government” in the Soviet Union used to actively give their athletes performance-enhancing drugs and the figure skating is fixed every year. This is just a small blip on the radar of an event that has a storied history of cheating. The integrity is and has been very gone for a long time, and a couple of girls who decided they wanted to enhance their badminton resume by intentionally firing the shuttlecock into the net doesn’t mean anything the grand scheme of things.

In all likelihood, the world will survive badminton-gate, the games will go on and the Summer Olympics will take place again, as planned, four years from now. I know it’s hard to believe, but we will recover from this Earth-shattering scandal.

All of that said…couldn’t the badminton players have done a better job of tanking? Watch the video below this paragraph, and you’ll see what I mean. These are the best players in the world, and they’re just smashing the shuttlecock into the net over and over again. They’re not even trying to hide it.

It’s so obvious that they’re tanking that if you turn up your volume you can hear the people in this crowd during the video start saying, “They’re trying to lose so they don’t have to play…” and then it cuts off before you can hear the rest.

After that, some guy responds – very casually – with, “Oh…right,” like he gets completely understands the whole purpose of the tanking decision. He realizes right off the bat that it makes sense.

And it does make sense – absolute, perfect sense. But couldn’t they have practiced losing a little less obviously before the Olympics began, at least so they could give the illusion of trying to win – like NBA teams do every year?

Apparently not. Just another day in the wild world of competitive badminton.

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