The Telefile

Making the Olympics Even More Confusing to Watch

I am an Olympic junkie (my obsession will probably reach its fever pitch by the time August 8th rolls around, expect lots of rants about scheduling) and I'm already feeling baffled and overwhelmed by the prospect of having to figure out how the new gymnastics judging system is going to work.

I, like many others (there are others, right?), consider myself a bit of a sofa judge. I pay little attention to the popular sporting event in the off years, but by the time it rolls around I feel overly qualified from my sedentary position to critique how well someone performed on the balance beam or if they really stuck their landing.

My judgmental quality is usually exacted upon dancing shows (a subject of which I have no practical knowledge, but I certainly watch enough of to know about) and is in full force during Olympic season. But now they've gone and changed the rules, making it impossible for us at-home judges to figure out how well someone performed without a degree in advanced calculus.

How will I be able to correctly assess if the actual judges made an error or a good call if I can't even figure out these complicated mathematical equations which involve, as best I can tell, charts, graphs and a new "ideal" total score of a perfect 17? This is like when I discovered that you could get better than a 1600 on the SATs. It is blowing my mind.

Basically there are two sets of judges (goodness, I'm going to need to have a friend to help me with this one, I suppose). One set judges difficulty and one set provides marks for artistry and execution and all that good old stuff. Difficulty is at least quantifiable, in most cases, do x amount of flips, earn x amount of points. The "execution" is a bit more flexible, at least as I can tell. There are deductions taken if you fumble a move, which I get. Falling on your ass = you lose points. But also in that same panel is artistry, which is a little bit more subjective, so I guess there is some wiggle room for me to quibble with the judges' rulings (my favorite part).

While the math looks hard, I'm sure that there will be plenty of video packages during the Olympics that explain the new system and why they got rid of the Perfect 10 and what we should look for which will be played after every athlete bio and heatedly discussed ad nauseum by the sportscasters, which will make it so we all know more than we ever wanted to about the sport by the end of August.

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