Friday, August 27, 2004

Gymnastics, Bias & Lies

I didn’t watch the men’s gymnastics. I don’t care about men’s gymanstics. But I do feel somewhat bad for Paul Hamm.

For those of you not aware, he is being pressured to give his gold medal to a Korean competitor (non-communist variety) because of judging error.

The Korean’s high bar routine had a baseline score of 10.0 but they mistakenly put it at 9.9. That extra .10 of a point would have been enough to land him the gold.

But he lands the gold only if you make a lot of assumptions.

First, the high bar was on the second of six events. The scores for those first two events certainly had an effect on the strategies, mindset, and routines of all the competitors. The rest of the event didn’t happen in a vacuum.

It’s sort of like saying a missed field goal in the first quarter caused you to lose a football game because you end up losing by two points. That would be true if you missed it in the last seconds, but not early in the contest. The whole dynamic of the event will change depending on the actions and results that start the contest.

Secondly, because the gymnastic results are subjective in the first place, it’s possible the judges would be less lenient with a routine that starts with a 10.0 baseline. It’s quite likely that the judges not only take off deductions for technical reasons, but also give scores in relation to how well the other competitors scored. For example, the judge may give gymnast A a 9.8. He thought gymnast B was better so he gave him a 9.825.

It's also likely the judges knew what position each competitor was in going into the last rotation. They knew what Paul Hamm needed to win. If they thought he was the best overall gymnast, they would give him score high enough to win.

The bottom line is that there is no way you can say with any certainty that the Korean deserved a gold medal. And I think it’s insane that the International Gymnastics Federation would send a letter to Paul Hamm asking him to give up his gold.

But then I start to think that maybe I’m biased. If I was on the other side would I demand he turn over the gold?

Which brings me to another topic that has nothing to do with the Olympics. The most popular story on the blogosphere. The Kerry Christmas in Cambodia story.

You probably already know the basic outline. First, the Kerry camp has backed off the original story since Nixon wasn’t even in office at the time Kerry said he remembered sitting there taking enemy fire while the president denied any American troops were there. This has been followed by many numerous other explanations such as:

He was near the border.
He went there a couple of times on covert missions.
He went over the border one time.
John O’Neill was in Cambodia. (I don’t know what this has to do with anything)

Given that none of these scenarios have anything to do with the memory Kerry had “seared” in him, or no one has backed up his claim of being in Cambodia, and he has been avoiding the press ever since the charges came out, I can’t help but think he lied about the whole thing.

Again, am I biased? A lot of reputable liberals say of course he was there. The whole controversy is made up. He might have gotten the date wrong, that’s all.

But I don’t think I’m biased. If the shoe was on the other foot I don’t think I would argue otherwise. I’m sure I would argue the whole thing was unimportant, as many moderates have, but I wouldn’t disparage the accusers or call them liars. It’s a discredit to the many liberal bloggers out there that they have done exactly that.