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Boy, I’m glad they were able to get these Olympics off the ground. It was touch and go there for a while. To me, the whole thing resembled nothing so much as that pathetic picture of the last copter to leave the embassy in Saigon — only this time I was afraid there were gonna be too many lawyers dangling from the machine for it to accomplish lift-off. I can remember when the Olympics started with opening ceremonies. Now they start with trial briefs. Consider, for example, Greco-Roman wrestling. Don’t consider it too closely, because it doesn’t stand up under analysis. For one thing, it has nothing to do with Greeks and Romans. It was invented by the French in the 18th century, and called Greco-Roman because they envisioned it as somehow classical. (Insert here your own snide Francophobic comment about revisionist history; I’m above that sort of thing.) This would be a really interesting event if they restricted it to Greeks and Romans. Greece and Italy never win anything; an event in which only they could compete would promote diversity and national pride in a couple of places which could use some. Then, four years hence, we could have the Turko-Fijian hammer throw and the Polish-Voltan pole vault, and after a coupla decades, everybody could have a gold medal or two. Instead, it’s open to everybody — and their lawyers. That’s how we get sentences like this one from Associated Press: “Rejecting an emergency request by the U.S. Olympic Committee, a Supreme Court justice refused to keep Greco-Roman wrestler Matt Lindland off the American team [in the] Sydney Games.” Apparently they had to get John Paul Stevens up in the middle of the night to decide whether Matt Lindland, a former University of Nebraska wrestling coach, or Keith Sieracki, a military police sergeant, would be Greco-Romaning for the good old U.S. of Athletes. Seems Lindland had lost to Sieracki 2-0 at the Olympic trials, but claimed he’d been illegally tripped. In the old days, you complained to the referee. In the 21st century, you go to arbitration. Honest. The arbitrator sided with Lindland (they were apparently able to find an arbitrator who understood the intricacies of Greco-Roman better than the referee had) and ordered a rematch, in which Lindland kicked butt — or whatever you kick to win a G-R match 8-0. But the U.S. Olympic Committee refused to change their roster to put Lindland on the team. I don’t know why. Maybe they were just feeling cranky. So Lindland made a federal case out of it. Maybe you thought he did that when he took it to arbitration. But I mean a literal federal case. He got a federal district judge in Chicago to order the U.S. Olympic Committee to inform the International Olympic Committee that Lindland would be wrestling instead of Sieracki. Who wants to tell me what Sieracki did? That’s right; he appealed. It went to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which probably has lots of marble floors and doric pillars and classical accoutrements and is therefore well-equipped to decide issues of Greco-Roman significance. That’s why they get the big bucks and the lifetime appointments. Me, I could have watched the tape of Lindland’s match with Sieracki ’til the cows came home and never been able to figure out whether or not he was illegally tripped. But the 7th Circuit was able to determine unanimously that Sieracki should not go to Sydney to rassle. This somehow offended the U.S. Olympic Committee. They’re the ones who invoked John Paul Stevens’ emergency jurisdiction. According to the AP, “In seeking help from Stevens, who handles emergency matters from Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin (wouldn’t it be cool to be one of the Supremes and have your own three states to be in charge of?), lawyers for the USOC said the case ‘presents the question of who is empowered to choose the athlete who will represent the United States … the United States Olympic Committee or the 7th Circuit.” Apparently Stevens picked the Circuit. After which, I picture him going back into his den in his robe to watch PBS or the History Channel or something. But he’d better not get too comfortable. Sieracki says he has tape of his 8-0 loss in the rematch which appears to show Lindland biting him on the ear. I don’t have emergency jurisdiction in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, so I haven’t seen the tape, but according to AP, “Though not conclusive, the tape shows Lindland making a deliberate move toward Sieracki’s right ear as the two wrestlers jostle for leverage. Sieracki immediately jumps back in protest, and close-up footage showed a small amount of blood coming from the ear.” Holy Holyfield, Batman. Sounds like they went to a wrestling match and a heavyweight boxing title bout broke out. I’m not sure the 7th Circuit is equipped for this. What’s Mills Lane doing this week? I have no idea how this will turn out. But I know I’m looking forward to the Greco-Roman wrestling matches next week a whole lot more than I ever have before. I don’t much care who wins: I just wanna see who shows up. And believe me, I’ll see who shows up. I watch ‘em all. NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, LSMFT, UNESCO, all of ‘em. I’ll be camped out in front of my TV watching every single event, and screaming obscenities at NBC for deciding I don’t get to see any of the smaller events or any of the lesser competitors because they insist on showing me 27 hours of Sydney travelogues and mini-biographies of every Finnish cyclist or Ecuadorean taekwondoer who ever overcame a hangnail or an eating disorder to qualify for the team. Because they’re so busy with these up-close-and-personals, all we’ll see are sports involving Bela Karolyi and Marion Jones and Ian Thorpe. On the off chance that you, like me, would like to know something about the sports which aren’t televised, I’ve prepared my own guide to the less visible Olympic Sports. JUDO. I always start with judo because, of course, it’s the sport most of us are particularly interested in. Unfortunately, there’s very little suspense in the competition this year: The Japanese team, led by Tadahiro Namura’s exquisite to-moe-nage (this is a “whirl-throw” for those of you not yet initiated into the intricacies of judoic esoterica) and impeccable tamotoshi (the dreaded “valley drop throw,” which, of course, became famous in the sixth game of the 1949 World Series when Ed Valley dropped the throw which would have won for St. Louis) will once again dictate to the field, although I expect Armand Arabian to make a good showing now that he’s left the bench to devote himself entirely to the sport. ARCHERY. Sadly, the United States will again fail to medal in a sport it could have dominated had it merely lived up to its treaty obligations in dealing with Native Americans. Look for Asians to score big here, although the French are strong. The United States, having lost ’96 medalist Jason Huish to legal troubles (a marijuana bust) will again struggle: Sad days for the scions of Little Big Horn. MOUNTAIN BIKING. No, that’s not a misprint. Mountain biking is now an Olympic sport. So is beach volleyball. (That whirring sound you hear is the body of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic games, spinning in his grave.) We should do real well here. According to The Orange County Register, which knows almost as much about Olympic sport as the 7th Circuit, “Mountain biking developed when a bunch of Northern California hippies began cruising down Mt. Tamalpais.” And beach volleyball came into being primarily as a device for the distribution of beer in Southern California in the ’70s. We still got more hippies than anybody else, and I can’t believe beach volleyball has a lot of appeal in places like Kenya and Romania, so we should pick up a lot of precious metal in these events. FENCING. Likewise, fencing. Nobody can put up fence like Americans. Doesn’t matter whether you’re talking chain link or barbed wire, we’re the best. Gold, silver, bronze, nickel, zinc and aluminum to the U.S. team. TAEKWONDO. This translates roughly as “the way of hand and foot” in Korean. It’s been practiced there for 2,000 years, and there aren’t three dozen people in the rest of the world who can even spell it, much less do it, so I anticipate a lot of hardware for the Koreans here. Which is bad news for the IOC, which can’t figure out which Korea is the “real” one. They’ll probably have to call John Paul Stevens away from his bridge game to decide who to give the medals to. These “little” sports are the most interesting ones. The ones NBC shows are hackneyed. Track is just a bunch of black people running really fast. Swimming is a bunch of white people swimming really fast. Boxing is a bunch of people of all races inflicting great bodily injury on each other, yet somehow avoiding anybody’s arraignment court. I read briefs about this kind of conduct every day. I’m tired of it. MARATHON. The only track event I like is the marathon. Like all judges I have a sadistic streak in me, so I’m fascinated by the marathon — the 26.2-mile race designed for athletes who have forgotten Dr. Kevorkian’s phone number. Marathons (the word is derived from the Greek maros, meaning “to run,” and thonis , meaning “’til you puke”) are the dumbest thing this side of synchronized swimming. I mean, think about it folks, the first guy to run a marathon, a Greek soldier named Phidippides, died immediately after the run, and he only went 22.5 miles. Shouldn’t that have told us something? I predict the winners of the marathon will be two very skinny people with deep-seated psychological problems. Neither of them will have eaten a cheeseburger since 1978. Their nationality will be completely irrelevant: Nobody crazy enough to be a world-class marathoner knows what planet he/she is on, much less what country is represented. TABLE TENNIS. This is Ping-Pong. They don’t like it when you call it Ping-Pong because that reminds everybody how silly the game is. But it doesn’t matter whether you call it table tennis or Ping-Pong or cyber-orbic gazorninplat, it’s Ping-Pong and it’s about as Olympic as building sand castles. Table tennis has to be in the Olympics because 60 million Chinese play it, and Coca-Cola — whose commercials pop up every 11 seconds during the games — wants into that market real bad. With 60 million players, the Chinese should be able to find a half-dozen really good ones. Expect them to win big and expect Coke to lobby for mah-jongg in the 2004 Games. SHOOTING. Unfortunately, the Olympic Committee has not yet seen fit to include shooting from a moving car in the Games, blindly insisting that the competitors stand still, thereby excluding thousands of brain-dead American gang members, so we’ll likely be shut out again in these events. Pity. ILLEGAL DRUG SMUGGLING. This is apparently only a demonstration sport, since they aren’t yet awarding medals for it, but it’s been an exciting competition, nonetheless. China, with 27 athletes ejected for failing drug tests, and Uzbekistan, which managed to have a coach nabbed with performance-enhancing drugs in his underwear (thus earning the First Annual Bobby Knight Idiocy in Coaching Award), are already showing awesome natural aptitude. But I’m confident that by 2004 the United States will rise to the top of this sport. It’s made for us. We’ve got the gangsters, the lawyers, most of the world’s major pharmaceutical companies, and a lot more amateur players than anyone else in the world. This is a great addition to the Games. Now if we could just get them to include Greco-Roman ear-biting. William W. Bedsworth is an associate justice at the 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana, Calif.

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