From The Press Box: Olympic thoughts and All-State oversights

Opinion and Insight

As the Observant Reader is aware, the Games of the XXXI Olympiad will begin Friday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They will conclude Aug 21.

Rio is just one hour ahead of New York time and two hours ahead of Iowa time, meaning much of what NBC broadcasts will be live, or with a very limited time delay. That means a less slick production (a good thing in my book — give me sports as raw as possible) but also less time for pre-packaged “oooh, ahhh, and how-sweet!” moments (which I will not miss, but which millions will).

Sadly, in my opinion, the stuffed suit that is Bob Costas will be the “studio host” but NBC will have less time to give him with many events — including much of track and field, gymnastics and swimming — going live, or near to it. Late-night viewers can look forward to plenty of live beach volleyball, with soccer and other sports, especially rowing and diving, receiving lots of afternoon air time.

The internet has changed the Olympics. In 1980 over 30 million Americans watched the “Miracle on Ice” on a three-hour tape delay, and 95 percent, or more, of the audience had no idea of the outcome ahead of time.

Not today. Within seconds results will be available worldwide to almost anyone, almost anywhere. You would think this might cause NBC to sweat, but the numbers for the London Games in 2012 were quite high despite a plus-five hour difference between NYC and Britain.

Of the many thousands of athletes who will compete, no more than a few dozen, at best, will become famous. Most, even those who medal, will do so without tremendous acclaim. These are the athletes who have worked their whole lives (or most of them) to reach this penultimate moment, and, sadly, much of the media coverage has been devoted not to their quests but rather to the disorganized state of affairs and possible health hazards in Rio, which I will not waste further time on.

I always enjoy the Olympics, preferring the Winter Games over the Summer, but thoroughly enjoying both. However, the Games are quickly losing luster, as the profusion of professional athletes, massive doping scandals (the cheating Russians, are, indeed, cheaters) and corporate greed sully the spectacle for many. Thank goodness there still will be plenty to feel good about — there always is.

FYI: The 2018 Winter Games will be held in Pyeonchang, South Korea, with Tokyo hosting the 2020 Summer Games and Beijing the 2022 Winter Games.

The Iowa Girls Coaches Association recently released their All-State Softball teams, with Perry’s Emma Olejniczak earning a Second Team spot in Class 4A. Emma was dominant at times, but she did finish 24-11 in the ring, and those advocating a different player for her spot would point to her overall record. In the cold world of raw stats, overcoming 11 losses to earn a Second Team spot is pretty darn good and certainly worthy of congratulations.

For more years than I care to recall, I was a voter for the Iowa Newspaper Association sportswriters All-State teams. The INA votes in football, baseball and both boys and girls basketball, and I can vouch for an honest desire on behalf of the press to create lists with the best players recognized, regardless of where in the state they were from.

Never one to pull punches, I wrote a column while writing for the Marshalltown paper that called out then-director of the IGHSAU, Troy Dannen, for his published remarks on the state tournament. He had publicly insisted the goal of the state tourneys was to find “the eight best teams from around the state” even if that meant “they are not necessarily the eight best team in the state.”

Over a dozen years later, I remain incredulous. The point of a tourney should be to find the best team, period, and if, for example, six of the eight best are from one league or one area, so be it.

I have always felt the same way about All-State lists: Trying to find the most worthy should be the goal, with geography playing as little a role as possible. The coaches, I believe, did a fair job of following that line of thinking — until it came to the 4A Third Team, where only four of the 19 players chosen were from schools west of Interstate-35 (the road, not the school).

Perhaps the coaches — who did not create an Honorable Mention list for 4A — just dropped the ball. As the IGCA apparently did not designate spots by position, they could not have been in a “shoot, we still need two more outfielders” quandary.

Or maybe they just said “look at this girl” without doing much comparing once the first two squads were generated, because any cursory and honest look at the numbers would reveal that an injustice was done to Perry sophomore shortstop Jo Diw and junior right fielder Rachel Kinney.

I am most certainly not about to denigrate any player who was honored. I congratulate them all. A total of 58 total players were honored from the 48 4A schools, but is simply no way — no way — that 56 players had better seasons than Diw and Kinney. No way.

Lest you think I am simply crying about Perry, let me add that Carlisle senior Cortney Joiner — who made the Third Team — should have been placed higher. She had 63 hits with 11 doubles, scored 44 runs and batted .529 for the state runner-up, all much better results than dozens placed ahead of her.

I am certain to catch all sorts of hell (professionally) for this. Coaches who see this will likely be furious their integrity has been called into question. In the case of those responsible for the 4A Third Team it has, and will remain so until a suitable explanation — or an explanation of any kind — can be supplied. I am open to correction or to be proven wrong, and if a counter-case can be made, I will give it an equal hearing.

Here are the numbers from five players in 4A. See if you can tell which two of these were not named to the Third Team and which three were.

Name  Runs  Hits 2B  3B  HR  RBIs  Avg.
P1:       49    61  10    3    6    31   .477
P2:        6     36  11    0    3    29   .346
P3:       11    33    9    0    0      9   .327
P4:       30    56  12    2    5    35   .438
P5:       30    41    6    4    0      9   .376

P1 and P4 were not included, despite playing in the state tourney and helping their team finish sixth while P2, P3 and P5 — all fine players, no doubt — had less impressive years and did not play in Fort Dodge and yet were included. One wonders …


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