Did you hear that? That was the sound of my EEG going haywire. I get triggered during every summer Olympics by what sports are and aren’t part of the games. The ho-hum legacy Olympic sports that are still included are one thing (humans hate breaking tradition), but a handful of new forehead-slapping Olympic sports are added at each games while one of the most difficult disciples known to humanity, juggling, continues to be ignored.
This omission is an ongoing insult for practitioners of an artistic sport that’s far older and infinitely more difficult than most of what gets shoved in our faces every fourth summer.
If by chance you, a person or entity, currently shoveling sickening amounts of money into one of these far less deserving sports, would like to be a hero and offer restitution to juggling, feel free to reach out to me. As someone who has been juggling at an elite level for four decades, I’m happy to accept your shame money on behalf of all jugglers. Don’t worry, I’ll buy the other jugglers drinks.
Olympic sports: Can juggling really be added?
Before I starting tuning up these far less worthy Olympic sports, I’d like to point out that this isn’t just an old-man-yells-at-cloud personal gripe. The World Juggling Federation (WJF) is actively lobbying to get juggling added to the Olympics.
Unfortunately, getting juggling into the Olympics requires the approval of the famously dysfunctional, incompetent and corrupt IOC, which means startling amounts of money needs to be forked over.
More reasonably, it also requires that there be a global governing body with affiliates in forty-something countries to demonstrate that the sport has international appeal and participation. This may be the only reason horseshoeing and log rolling aren’t Olympic sports. (Yet.)
The WJF is working hard to satisfy these prerequisites. Here’s magician and juggler Penn Jillette making the case (and fundraising) for adding jugging to the Olympics.
With that heroic message out of the way, I should also mention that parts of this post were taken from my book Throwing Up: Notes from 35 Years of Juggling. This is only a fraction of the several thousand persuasive words I wrote about why juggling is infinitely more difficult than most pro sports with eight-figure sponsorship deals, but you’ll get the gist.
So, let’s get into my public service to all of humanity, breaking down which Olympic sports are less deserving of inclusion than juggling and why. I’ll tackle two of the new ones first.
New Olympic sports this summer: Skateboarding
Seriously? I get that Olympic organizers are desperate to attract a younger TV audience, but WTAF? All we need is to inspire more stupid, unsupervised kids trying and failing (and failing and failing) to perform skateboard moves on busy sidewalks, while severing the Achilles tendons of innocent bystanders in the process.
Have you ever actually seen any of these street kids successfully perform a skateboard trick? Neither have I. They should call it “failboarding.”
Honestly, I’m shocked that there’s even enough people to hold this event after the drug testing. I assume there was rigorous testing for marijuana, right? RIGHT? And they all tested negative? Really? I think we need an independent audit here.
That dubiousness aside, how is staying upright on a board in dangerous water an Olympic sport instead of a Jackass segment? How is this even scored? Is the “sporting” part not dying? In which case, how is this not an all-way tie at (almost) every competition?
Legacy Olympic sports: Baseball/Softball
God, I hate baseball. When it comes to standing around, scratching one’s genitals and spitting for no reason, there is no equal. Well, maybe cricket.
The inching speed of baseball play should come as no surprise, as it was initially conceived of during the simpler, quaint mid-19th century, when traveling eight miles per hour on a bicycle was considered terrifying.
In a typical game (three hours, 12 minutes) there is an average of 18 minutes of actual action. This stat never fails to blow my mind. Guys get paid ridiculous sums to maybe touch a ball once or twice in three hours and maybe hit a ball with a stick once every three or four games.
Props to basketball for having longer periods of uninterrupted play and perhaps the highest level of athleticism of all the popular pro sports.
My main problem is that the pros are getting eight-figure salaries for a sport where 10 grown, fantastically athletic men play with one goddamn ball. One ball? Come on guys, that’s way too much time with idle hands. With the speed and reflexes these guys have, they should be able to keep track of more than one ball at a time. Put two balls in there. Or even five balls. Now that would be exciting.
Like basketball, tennis gets athleticism points for the potential for extended periods of play with only short breaks in between. But haven’t we grown beyond two people swatting a ball back and forth, over a net that’s uniform in height, on a perfectly flat surface? Where’s the thrill in that?
I propose we string a net across a skateboard park and play on that crazy rolling, wavy, sometimes near-vertical area. Suddenly predicting where the ball will go gets, like, 20 times more difficult, and the potential for crowd-pleasing trick shots also skyrockets.
There are two key problems with soccer:
- Not enough scoring
- The players are the biggest, most melodramatic babies in professional sports
Except for just a little bit in basketball, is there any other sport where pretending to be injured is part of a shrewd playing strategy that can lead to lucrative contracts and endorsement deals?
Olympic sports: Golf
Do I really need to go into detail on the myriad, virtually endless ways juggling is superior to golf? I still can’t believe this is considered a sport, never mind the staggering amounts of money one can earn riding around in a cart, hitting a ball once every 20 minutes.
OK, there’s no question this takes a substantial amount of stamina, but where’s the skill? Where’s the reflexes and razor-thin margin of error? Rowers don’t even have to look where they’re going, for fuck’s sake. If we’re going to include rowing, why not also make riding a stationary bike an Olympic sport?
Literally anyone off the street could get in a boat with no previous experience and row. But give someone three balls and no instruction and they’ll be chasing dropped balls for weeks. I know this, because that’s how I learned to juggle, like a badass.
Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy playing badminton as much as the next guy who’s deeply comfortable with their masculinity. But does slow-motion tennis really belong in the Olympics? Why not add wiffle ball while we’re at it?
And why is badminton still even in the games now that we know that cheating, including flagrant playing to lose, is rampant?
This is just juggling with one ball between six people (not counting the goalie) while running. Worst Cirque du Soleil act ever.
More violent than American football with less padding? Where do I sign up? Just kidding, I’m not batshit crazy.
At least it’s not Calcio Storico.
Oh right, key elements of Calcio Storico are already in the Olympics.
On behalf of the unicycling community, I protest this sad mockery.
Olympic sports: Breaking, A.K.A. Break dancing (debuting in 2024)
Why only breaking? Why not ballroom, swing and line?