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Monday, 24 February 2014


I live in Toronto and I am entirely sympathetic about the never ending winter. The lack of ability to go outside and take pictures reduces my interest in reading about the latest camera/lens. But I have a solution! I understand Ctein, who lives near LA, is off to the North Pole for a while. Why not move in and then invite the rest of us?

Failing that, I will be happy to read about stereos, printing, books and all the other stuff I can actually use.

If one were to apply your thinking to photography contests, how ridiculous is it that even if there are thousands of entrants in any given contest, one photograph wins first place.

And, to make matters worse, it is rarely the one that I would have chosen. Sometimes, I don't even like the first place photo at all. I did like the World Press Photo of the year that you featured, but I didn't see the other ones.

Ridiculous that someone has to "win."

They already do that except they use numbers instead of quantities of phony gold or silver medals

I like it - its a take on the wisdom of the crowds estimating technique. (ask enough people how many jelly beans are in the jar and the mean of the crowd estimates is likely to be close to the real mean.

The problem with what you are suggesting is that humans still perform the scoring. I was thinking about this same problem and really what you want is a "blind" judge, that is someone who doesn't know the nationality, nor person skating.

With advances in computer vision (like Hawkeye for tennis), in theory all skaters could wear the same suit and get biomechanically mapped as they skate. The judges can judge style, etc. but the technical component would be analysed by computer for various parameters (i.e. blade angle deflection on landing, hang time, total revolution in spin).

That would take out most of the guesswork and would be a great training aid. The same for diving, synchronised swimming, etc.


They should just get rid of figure skating as a competition. It's a farce.

Subjectively scored gymnastics too...

"Fresh rethinkings of existing sports" reminds me of one my favorite George Carlin jokes. His suggestion for making (American) football more interesting? Leave the injured on the field.

In downhill racing the times are very close, increasing variability would make for fairer competition. One way of doing this would make the actual physical contact between a skier and a gate a penalty.

Geez,initially I thought you were going for the everyone gets a trophy idea which as you know has led to the collapse of Western Civilization.

Great idea. Your problem is that you don't go nearly far enough. You said "figure skating isn't bobsled." Yeah, but bobsled (or officially "bobsleigh") has its problems too.

Me, I'd say that any time the top finishers are less than 1 second apart, in a sport where they don't race at the same time, they should ALL get gold medals. If competitor C gets bronze for finishing 0.07 seconds after gold-medal winner competitor A, heck, that's just random variation. Either that, or have 'em do three or four runs and AVERAGE them. Actually I like that idea even better. Or better still, widen the lane considerably and make 'em all go down at the same time. Now that would be worth tuning in for! :-)

Is it sad that I originally read that as "Scoring System Idea for Olympus"? If so, is it even sadder that it took me three paragraphs to realize you were talking about the Olympics?

I miss the old TOP. It's a little confusing what the blog is about these days.

I suppose because I live in Australia I wonder at your fascination with the winter olympics Mike. Particularly your fascination with the "judged" sports. Summer or winter, those sports that are judged are open to predjuidice, favoritism & just downright corruption. Sure, if you wish,watch them, admire the skill, but forget about national pride & medal tallies.

The olympics were founded as competition between individuals & it is supposed to be that way today. The olympic charter says “The IOC and the [Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games] shall not draw up any global ranking per country, instead honoring individual medal winners."

The problem with the olympics is money (the ultimate corrupter) & people (read politicians) using the olympics to promote national pride or xenophobia for their own political gain.

National medal tallies are an anathema to to the ideals of the olympics as is the corrupt judging of events.

Great idea. But this is even easier - gold medal for 2 minute skate, gold medal for 4 minute skate and gold medal for combined. Except ice dancing, only a gold medal for 4 minute skate - but new event. ICE DANCING MARATHON!. How much more Olympic can you get - last athletes standing win!

Agreed - the scoring of these subjective events is about as meaningful as photo competitions :)

I think this will play well the next time the Olympics is in the USA - everyone gets a medal! So what if some of them are made of tinfoil. Figure skating needs to be more exciting somehow, so they may as well give your idea a try.

I'm pretty surprised there's no Downhillcross. Or pairs halfpipe snowboarding.

It makes too much sense and does not allow for any scandals or, god-forbid, showing of the Olympic spirit when you lose a subjective competition because a judge hates your country and marks you down. Stiff upper lip at all times, please.

Your scoring of basketball and Mike's New Rules of Football™ are equally excellent and doomed to be ignored.

Please keep at it, Mike!

We already have national and world championships in all these sports, so whey even have the Olympics?

"Oh, Jimmy is the World Champion but Brad is the Olympic Champion." What does that tell us?

Arguably the most equitable and fair scoring system in all sports is golf: A round is 18 holes. In medal play the lowest number of shots taken to complete the round - or series of rounds in case it is a multi-round tournament - wins. In match play the lowest number of shots taken to get the ball in each hole wins that hole, the most holes won during the round wins the match. If, after a round of 18 holes, there is a tie - all square - the players continue playing until one player has won more holes than the opponent - sudden death. And as for breach of the rules, each player is expected to assess penalty strokes for fouls committed by himself or herself - and, if they love the game and are not idiot hackers, they do so!

why not like pro football(and now baseball, sigh) 10 videos from all angles available for review, then a committee to decide. we have plenty of unemployed lawyers. ah, don't get me started !

I think the basic scoring system where you have for example five judges and the highest and lowest scores are ignored is quite sound and fair. And any country can only have one judge. That way it is not so easy to promote own or demote the worst competitor's result. People who take part in subjective sports have to accept the fact that judging will always be subjective. Speed skating or shooting are easy as they are just based on time or score.

Hmmmm....too many medals. Here's a simpler solution: Separate the the technical and artistry medals.

This goes back to the sport's roots, when there was an actual figure component--cirles, figure eights, backwards, forwards, etc. This gave the shlumpier Warsaw Pact competitors the best shot at outdistancing everyone else. The problem was that stuff was combined into one medal. Still the problem today.

So: Give one medal, gold, silver, or bronze, for pure technical merit. This would be judged by skating experts armed with slo-mo replay, and have a pretty rigid scoring system for difficulty and technical perfection, or lack thereof. This panel should consist of no more than 10 judges, and preferably fewer.

Another medal would be given for artistry, still pretty subjective, but unhitched from the technical portion it could then reward competitors for really working that aspect innovatively or classically as the case may be. This would be judged by a panel of international----dancers/choreographers from the great ballet companies, modern dance companies, and etc. Probably there ought to be some music and costume people in there as well. This panel should consist of at least 15 judges and maybe 20 to smooth things out.

More medals than now, but not a profusion.

And if you really wanted/needed to, another medal could be given for best combined performance, but based on the 2 already given. That would then make it possible for a double silver person to get a gold.

This way we could much more fairly acknowledge both parts of this tricky sport. People make fun of a lot of figure skating, but as a former skater (very briefly) I can tell you I really admire anyone who dares to throw themselves in the air over rock hard ice.

How about the IOC just get rid of all the sports that have "subjective scoring"....

I'm just a competitive person. I like watching people win and lose. I don't mind the occasional tie but the point of sport is to determine the best. Lets not go to the 'everybody feel good' games that the kids now play. In life there are winners and losers.
I watched my nephew play tee-ball a few years ago - every player ran the bases no matter what. What kind of lesson does this teach - everybody wins? This just prolongs the rude awakening in my opinion.
Sorry - I'm about as liberal as they come(radical?) but winners and losers will always be a fact - and often times it will be based on subjective opinions(why didn't my band make it? Why aren't my photos famous?!).....

The prima donna competitors would not agree.

Russ, I am with you: Highest, Fastest, Longest (or Most in the case of scoring events like hockey or Biathlon) is the way to go. Everything else is a beauty contest. Nice, but a beauty contest.

All these human-judged events, Olympic and otherwise, take great athletic ability. But they are not sports and shouldn't be labeled as such. Period. End of Discussion.

But add another. In track & field, one is judged the quickest from Point A to Point B. You can sprint, you can hop, skip and jump, you can crawl. The fastest wins. So home come swimmers get a variety of ways to do the A-to-B? Freestyle, backstroke, butterfly. Why?

More medals make more people (make that parents most of the time) happy. And television reaps the benefits: More events, more coverage, more advertising revenue, more happy stockholders. The almighty dollar is the only winner!

"It's a judged sport!" That should be enough explanation. After the commotion about this Olympic's figure skating awards the judges claimed to be following some sort of mathematical "genius" requirement that mere mortals couldn't possibly understand. What's to understand? Most of their routine is compulsory. The same in other words. At least 2 did it perfectly. One of those who failed this task was awarded the gold. Sure...It's a judged sport. "Well this person performed a higher difficulty routine than the other." First off...I don't buy that but in any case she failed her routine.... Still worth more? It's a judged sport.
In 1994 Oksana Baiul won the gold. In a televised interview one or more of the judges claimed she skated a flawless routine. When shown video evidence of her faulty performance they claimed to have missed it. Anyone buy that? They then went on to say she still would be awarded the medal because she brought more "Presence" to the routine. Really? Anyone buy that? "It's a judged sport."

Lyle - I suppose you've neatly forgotten the walk and the hurdles. Or why have javelin, hammer, shotput and discus - its all just throwing stuff. And what about long jump and triple jump, or while we are at it why not just combine high jump and long jump, just have a single bar that moves further away and higher for each round (actually that would be pretty cool)? More seriously its just a matter of history for all these variations in track, field and swimming.

Its a little off topic but my favorite division of athletic endeavors is into three categories, fighting, fleeing and flouncing. Personally I can only see the first two as really "sport".

[There was a British sportswriter (I think) once who said something like "There are only two natural sports--running and fighting. All the rest are contrived." Sorry I can't attribute the quotation. --Mike]

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