Sports commentary: Wrestlemania

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It's flat-out wrong to rid the Olympics of wrestling

By Mike Forster

  Zeus can't be too happy about this one.

The greatest and most powerful of the Greek gods, Zeus is probably a bit peeved at the mortals who decided that wrestling doesn't fit in at the Olympics anymore.

The announcement by the International Olympic Committee that it is seriously considering dropping wrestling came from out of the blue.  Kind of like one of Zeus's pesky thunderbolts.

By the way, we're talking wrestling in its purest form here.  That excludes the kind of wrestling brought to you by Vince McMahon and company (also known as professional wrestling).

Wrestling has been a part of the Olympics ever since the Greeks decided to add the sport into the mix, way back in 708 B.C.  That's 2,720 years ago.  Now, it stands to be shunted aside?

Yes, it does.  The 2016 Games will be the last to carry the sport.  Starting in 2020, there will be no wrestling.

According to those in the know, the reason for the demise of Olympic wrestling is driven by a desire to make room for more youth-friendly sports.  That reasoning fits with the mindset that has brought snowboarding, synchronized diving and BMX biking to the Games in recent years.

It isn't completely curtains for the sport.  The Olympic committee has indicated that it will add (or add back) one sport from a list of eight.  Wrestling will have to top the likes of baseball/softball, climbing, karate, roller sports, squash, wakeboarding and wushu.

You're not familiar with wushu?  Neither was I, until I saw the news release.  Apparently, wushu is some form of martial art that is popular with the Chinese.

As an aside, I don't mind that I have to make out my mortgage payment to the First Bank of Shanghai.  Nor do I get too riled up about the fact that Chairman Mao's smiling puss will soon supplant that of George Washington on our one dollar bill.

But, does it make any sense for wushu to supplant good ol' rasslin'?  Or, for that matter, is it logical to get rid of wrestling, only to plug in squash or roller sports?

Here's where we should take issue.

The present-day Olympics are moving away from the original idea.

You younger readers may not believe this, but there was  a time when the Olympics were for amateurs, only.

Since the decision was made to open the Games up to professional athletes, we are starting to see the whole Olympic ideal turned on its head.

That's because there are a number of Olympic sports being played by individuals who view the Olympics as just another competition, albeit a fairly significant one.

Let's take basketball, as an example.  Every four years, the United States fields its "Dream Team."  This squad consists of the top players in the NBA, minus your occasional Spaniard or Aussie.  

The Dream Team goes out and stomps the living daylights out of the rest of the field.  The team members are awarded their gold medals, head home and get ready for what really matters to them:  the NBA season and the likelihood of earning truckloads of Chairman Mao greenbacks.

Basketball is the obvious example.  But, soccer, boxing, Alpine skiing and tennis are other sports where the contestants might not see an Olympic gold medal as the prime mover in his or her career.

But, you can bet your bottom dollar that it's not that way with wrestlers.

By the way, I'm not sure why this has to be a zero-sum game:  That is, one in which you have to give up something in order to add something.

The Olympics are touted as the world's grandest sporting spectacle.  Why can't it be the world's broadest-reaching, as well?

This past weekend, I was at the Salem Civic Center, covering the State (AA) wrestling tournament. 

Now, I'll not go into all that sappy drivel about how hard these athletes worked to get to this level and how difficult it must be to become an Olympic wrestler.

I'm not naive enough to think that money and popularity don't matter to the folks running the Olympics.

But, if a high school wrestling tournament at the state level can fill a building such as the Salem Civic Center, isn't it pretty likely that you're going to draw a crowd when you gather the finest wrestlers in the world to one venue?

Zeus shouldn't be the only one miffed here.