Msnowe's Blog

Olympiadic Problems

Posted in 1936, China, olympics, politics, sports by m.snowe on April 9, 2008

The Olympics thrive on conflict–that’s essentially what they’re all about anyways–not-so-friendly competition that masquerades as international good-sportsmanship. Some Americans felt good/smug about Jesse Owens winning 4 gold medals while in Germany during Hitler’s reign in 1936, as the dictator was proclaiming the supremacy of the “Aryan race.” Yet, on returning home, Owens was still subjected to all the racial prejudices that plagued the US. Ultimately, neither side is free from blame, or can take the completely ethical highroad. The US was embroiled in a deep debate prior to the 1936 games as to whether or not they would boycott, due to Hitler’s regime. The US decided to participate, the main argument being that sports should be free from politics. Also, one must take into consideration the US policy of non-involvement before entering WWII. In fact, despite many nation’s internal debates about whether or not to send athletes, the Berlin Olympics (up until that time) had the highest number of participating nations. But really, can we claim that politics and sports are so divergent? Wasn’t it a mere month or so ago that baseball players were testifying in congress? Can a country that claims to invest so much in overseas peace and “freedom” really claim the rule of separation of sports (a.k.a. the new church) and state?

There are two main arguments in the newest debate concerning boycotting the Beijing summer Olympics, or at the very least, boycotting the ceremonial opening. The first is the obvious throwback to Berlin, currently trumpeted by Bush: he aligns with Chinese officials, and plans on attending the ceremony, citing international cooperation over any political concerns/issues. French and German officials plan on boycotting the opening, though the Brit’s Gordon Brown still plans on attending. Just as a precursor to the problems that might present themselves as the games near, the Olympic torch relay has meet with angry protesters in England, France, and California. The torch actually had to be held at an “undisclosed location” while in the US, and the general CIA-like feeling and rendition-style atmosphere is not helping the international acclaim of this year’s games, scheduled to start on 08-08-08. The last time something notable was held at an “undisclosed location” it was Dick Cheney–and I think most wished he would have stayed there to grow mold in undisturbed peace and utter incapability. But here’s the problem with Bush’s stance: we can no longer claim neutrality in world affairs, like Roosevelt did in 1936. This is not ala carte globalization–we’ve (for better or worse) taken the moral high ground in terms of the “war on terror” and “fighting for freedom and democratic society.” We might be able to strategically ignore a tiny country with problems in the middle of South America (probably due to it’s lack of oil). But we can’t pick and choose what types of events warrant our support or action in terms of democracy. Aren’t we still boycotting Cuba?…but then again, Cuba doesn’t manufacture nearly as many lead-laced children’s playthings that the US so enjoys receiving from China. China is a major world power, and it’s only going to grow. But the political problems that China faces are overt, and they’re gaining notice with the current protests in/about Tibet.

The claim that sports should be a non-political endeavor is absolute fiction. Politics, prejudice, and an ingrained attitude of superiority have all mixed together to create an Olympic system that has, until very recently, been highly discriminatory (it’s still discriminatory, but not as much nowadays). Sports like to consider themselves as drama-free in terms of the outside world (and most importantly politics) because that way, sports get to make up their own rules. And then, once rules are put in place to regulate them, sports and the sports authorities try in all seriousness to subvert the rules in whatever ways possible. Sports is increasingly political, because sports are no longer the lazy-day occupation of Saturday afternoons–they involve the same themes that inculcate political scandal: Drugs, sex, lies, MONEY, and fame.

Let’s take one “for instance” where the Olympics and the sporting community allowed a prejudiced view to continue for years, unabated. To think that national politics/feeling don’tfind their way into sports and vise-versa is insane–but people believe it. In fact, without reading about gender and sports, the practice about to be explained concerning Olympic policy is not widely known, or “politicized” if you will.

“Gender Verification.” This practice was performed only on women (or those participating in women’s events in the Olympics, and some other major sporting events). In 1966, Olympic officials felt that it was necessary for all female athletes in the games to be “inspected” by officials in order to prove their sex (to make sure that men were not trying to compete as women). It is also important to remember that men were not tested to make sure they were, in fact, men. This is inherently political because it goes against women’s basic rights as equals and it assumes: A. Women would not be athletic enough to pass as men, and B. Men are automatically better athletes than all women, so the incentive to try and win in a female competition would be high.

Not only is the idea of testing detestable–but the methods were also inhumane. The female athletes would have to strip down, and literally prove their sexuality by having their genitalia inspected. The tests, while despicable, were actually quite unscientific–because someone can look like a woman, but in fact be a man in terms of hormones and chromosomes–and so after a rather ungracious start, the Olympic officials decided it would be better to conduct genetic testing (still on women only) to see if the athletes were women. These tests relied on analyzing the X and Y chromosomes. XX: female, XY: male. But it isn’t so simple. Some people have extra chromosomes, and it causes different issues in terms of sex/gender determination, those being people that have XXY, or those who have a combination of XXY cells and a singular X chromosomes. So some women, who were women, turned out in the tests to be male, causing quite an uproar in the athletic community, and causing many women political, social, and psychological harm. It is also important to note that this was not the only type of gender-stereotype-influenced testing. Before the doping scandals of today, it was women who were considered more likely to inject steroids into their buttocks (because they were “weaker” than men and could use the extra help, apparently). Women, especially those participating in collegiate sports, were subject to random drug tests, while their male counterparts were not. This was happening all throughout the 80s and early 90s. Only now is steroid testing a huge part of male sports.

But the real shocker is this: Gender Verification continued up until the 2000 Sydney Olympics. From 1966 to 2000, women were either required to drop trow in front of doctors and other players, or ordered to take a cotton swap to their cheek cells in order to compete, while men waltzed in, test-free. These tests were not only shame-inducing, they ruined lives by determining that some women were not “in fact” women, and subjecting them to public and private humiliations.

The Olympics are fraught with politics, discriminatory practices, and every other injustice that plagues all the nation states. To claim that a global event with many nations involved can occupy a Utopian space of neutrality is inconceivable. The real question is whether or not one issue warrants pulling back the veneer of political myopia and actually making a boycott happen. If we didn’t do it for Hitler, the odds aren’t in our favor for boycotting The People’s Republic.

Yuck-Factor

Posted in black, historic struggle, politics, white by m.snowe on February 22, 2008

Quote from MSNBC:
“Obama’s strong showing has made him the man to beat in a historic struggle between a black man and a white woman, and even some of Clinton’s own supporters conceded she needs victories in both Ohio and Texas early next month to preserve her candidacy.”

This made us think of the other Historic Struggles between Black Men and White Women. Here are a few, for your viewing pleasure:

“Historic Struggle for Daytime Television”:
Montel Williams vs. Ricki Lake

“Historic Struggle for Best Recent MA Governorship”:
Deval Patrick vs. Jane Swift

“Historic Struggle for Life”:
O.J. Simpson vs. Nicole Brown Simpson

“Historic Struggle for Primetime Ratings”:
Bill Cosby vs. Rosanne

“Historic Struggle for Pop-Supremacy”:
Michael Jackson vs. Madonna

“Historic Struggle for Best Lipsync Fiasco”:
Milli Vanilli vs. Ashlee Simpson

“Historic Struggle for the 1988 Democratic Presidential Nomination”:
Jesse Jackson vs. Patricia Schroeder

“Historic Struggle for Sesame Street”:
Gordon Robinson (school teacher played by Roscoe Orman) vs. Linda (local librarian played by Linda Bove)

“Historic Struggle for Popular Young Minority Golfer”:
Tiger Woods vs. Michelle Wie

“Historic Struggle for Pop-Band Supremacy”:
Boyz 2 Men vs. Spice Girls

“Historic Struggle for Best Blind Celebrity”:
Ray Charles vs. Helen Keller

“Historic Struggle for Favorite Singing Muppet”:
Rowlf the Dog (technically of indeterminate breed) vs. Miss Piggy

(more to follow – and we’d love to hear your suggestions)

As you can see, the utter ridiculousness of such an exercise in historic struggles is fun and makes for an interesting spin on the same old political news, yet it proves inconclusive and completely pointless…and with the exception of the Simpson struggle, each exampled struggle is fairly undecided, and a matter of personal tastes/opinions (or lack thereof).

Ball Games

Posted in politics, sports, super bowl by m.snowe on February 4, 2008

You know, Bush once co-owned a baseball team (the Texas Rangers). Every candidate seems to be out there, throwing a ball around, or talking about which team they support. And in many respects, this is all in efforts for you, the voter, to take sides like you do when you’re rooting for a sports team. Last night, during the Super Bowl, there was no need to watch the actual game — everything could be surmised from the alternating growns and yops of the young couple in the apartment downstairs. The floor would shake, and instinctively, everyone know the score of the game had gone one way or the other, depending on the intonations and subtle variations in the method of absolute insanity. Jumping up and down and a high-pitched yell translated into “the Giants are winning,” whereas the dull thuds of a Pats gain echoed with a low-pitched wallop, as if the man downstairs was falgelating himself (or his wife) with the padded bat of a gong.

What is just so unbelievable is that sports garner enormous support and yet politics, while many find it cause for debate and the occasional squabble, still remains a relatively unpopular pasttime. And why? They have everything sports does – a long game (the parties), odds makers (pundits), cheaters (everyone), exciting clashes (Obama v. Clinton), underdog come from behinds (Huckabee, then McCain), etc. And what’s even more disturbing is that the results of this game will probably dictate what happens in domestic and international policy in at least the next few years, if not have reprecussions far into the future, and ingrain messages into the national psyche. Okay, maybe people do take it semi-seriously, but how many people do you know who can name all the starters on their favorite team, but can’t name their representatives, senators, or even more than two supreme court judges?

It’s understandable that sports make up such a big part of our national conscienceness — and we’re not the only country that cultivates a society of sport – England(football), Australia(footy), most of South America (football), etc., all have a reputation for extreme awareness of sport. In some cases, it is deadly serious (http://http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/soccer/world/2002/world_cup/hof/escobar/). And sport is important because it is a safe outlet (generally, contrary to the newstory quoted above) in which people can be completely biased, completely insane, and yet completely excepted. A world without sport would be a more dangerous one indeed, because it would be a world without an outlet for well-intentioned frivolity. In no other arena can one unequivically bash an opponent with outright prejudice for no real reasons and still be a respected individual in society the next morning at work. Where politics and sports meet, the pressures of prejudice come down much harder, and the water is murkier (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/10/business/media/10cnd-imus.html?hp) Sport is healthy transferance, I suppose – the Leviathan’s way of taking care of our more animal urges. And sport is more popular because its primarily based on physical ability and brute strength, and the rules (though sometimes broken) , are set in stone. Sport has an oligarchical structure, with a few commissioners deciding on how the rules will be amended, if ever. Usually, they are not changed, which is all the better for fans. Sports are a form of statis in the community, as time goes by, players can change, but the sport itself stays in power. The notion of the “team” is also great, in that it’s structure is so imposing, it allows people to stay “loyal” even when players and managers are traded to different teams in different areas. Political parties try to do this with their platforms, but inevitably, personalities and voices trump the issues, as seen from the current debate, and all the pundits pussyfooting around just who is using their pussy (or lack of one) for political footing, or their skin color for racially driven support.

Politics, in comparison to sports like football and baseball, is only partially acknowledged by the greater population – it has more of a cult following. Similiar to the show audience of “Lost”, most people don’t pay attention to political showmanship, but the audience that does is obsessive, analyzing every twist, turn, and supposed secret clue, and they’re usually way off base. Oh, and they blog too. The main reason politics is less universal is because politics is unfair in more transparent ways, although the structure of sports is unfair as well – but sport provides services to the watching public, and even if the team you like loses, there’s value to watching. Whereas, in politics, your team can win, and you still end up feeling empty, disregarded, compromised or even defeated and hoodwinked. Politics just isn’t as sexy, despite all the scandals. Its hard to knock back a few beers watching a Republican debate, or to wave a big we’re number one finger as a the Democrats go through a crowd, kissing babies. The only thing that both politics and sports excel at jointly is coming up with outrageous, unimportant, and completely stupid statistics, and political polls. Statisticians are the only ones who laugh last during super bowls and super tuesdays. And bookies. The message is clear: sports and politics are both necessary. But perspectives should be renewed when viewing each.