OK well let's extend the argument beyond softball.
Many of the arguments in the following newspaper article are absolutely perfect
for the argument we make in the softball scene here in the USA, even though the
article does not address softball per se.
Read and enjoy and kudos to the reporter from the San Diego Union Tribune who
wrote it. He went to the USA Figure Skating championships in Philadelphia this
Inner politics of figure skating muddies ice, skewing ou tcome
Philadelphia ~ The pairs team he coaches had just withdrawn from the U.S.
Figure Skating Championships, and now John Nicks was waiting to learn if they
would be named to the Winter Olympic roster.
Jenni Meno, who skates with husband Todd Sand, had sprained her right ankle in
an earlier practice. She tried to skate on it and finally succumbed to the
obvious pain. In another sport, where Olympic berths are determined strictly by
finish at the Trials, their Olympic dreams would have been a merciless casualty
But a few years back, the U.S. Figure Skating Association changed its rules to
allow more leeway in the selection process. The national champion still
receives an automatic berth to the Olympics; all other sports, though, are at
the discrection of a 34-member international committee and can be based on
results over the past TWO seasons (emphasis added on TWO by the newspaper).
Someone asked Nicks if he were confident the committee would vote his skaters
onto the team.
"When you get 30-odd people in that committee room," Nicks replied," I'm never
confident of anything."
Meno and Sand ~ three-time national champions and twice bronze medalists at the
World Championships ~ ultimately were selected and will go to Japan next month.
But it is a system that threatens to dilute the significance of the annual
national championship and might be a public relations disaster waiting to
Mmmm, mmmm good, but risky
It almost happened last week in Philadelphia. On Monday, Campbell's Soups held
a news conference announcing it would put the faces of three women's skaters on
its soup-can labels: Michelle Kwan, Tara Lipinski and Nicole Bobek. The company
called them skating's "Dream Team," which carries definite Olympic overtones.
Television ads with the three began airing nationwide.
One problem" The ladies' singles competition hadn't even started yet and the
Olympic team had not been named.
In the end, Kwan, Lipinski and Bobek went 1-2-3 and were confirmed as members
of the Nagano Olympic team by the USFSA's international committee.
But what if the standings had not changed after the short program and Lipinski
had finished fourth, behind Tonia Kwiatkowski?
The international committee no doubt would have placed Lipinski, the reigning
world champion, on the Olympic team instead of Kwiatkowski, who has never
finished higher than eigthth at worlds.
Now consider this: Campbell's Soups is a major sponsor of the USFSA, and
Kwiatkowski's picture is not on any cans.
Or this: VISA is also a major sponsor of the USFSA, and all winter it has been
airing Olympic TV commercials featuring Bobek.
Suddenly, you're talking major conflict of interest.
Why even have National Competition?
There are other snags in a system of choosing an Olympic team in a meeting room
instead of an ice rink. Take the case of Shelby Lyons and Brian Wells, who
finished second in pairs Friday night after Meno and Sand pulled out.
A year ago Lyons and Wells were fourth at Nationals, and the international
committee opted not to send them to the World Championships. Instead, the
committee sent the top three pairs from nationals, including the inexperienced
third-place duo of Stephanie Stiegler and John Zimmerman.
Stiegler and Zimmerman bombed and worlds and finished 15th. A country's Olympic
berths are determined by its performance in the previous World Championships,
and Stiegler-Zimmerman's low placement meant the United States could send two,
not three, pairs to teams to Nagano.
So now it's a year later, and Lyons and Wells are second at Nationals. There
are only two Olympic berths, and the international committee decides to send
Meno and Sand along with national champions Kyoko Ina and Jason Dungjen. Lyons
and Wells are out again.
"I thought that's why they have competition, to decide who's the best," a
frustrated Lyons said. "But they're going to do what they want to do."
Their coach in Colorado Springs, Colo., is Kathy Casey, who has been around
skating long enough to know the *** politics. Anbd know there is little you
can do about it.
"When I was a young coach, it used to upset me greatly," Casey said. "But then
I said, `Kathy, if you can't take it, then get out now.'...whatever the rules
are, we have to live with them."