spilled milk

July 30, 2012 — It’s difficult to see the glass as half full, especially when the half that isn’t there is the half you really want.

I had an enormous amount of sympathy for Jordyn Wieber as I watched the women’s gymnastics preliminary competition last night. Maybe Wieber, the reigning world champion, didn’t have her best night. I don’t watch enough gymnastics to know the difference. But the fact that Wieber won’t be competing in the all-around competition despite finishing fourth overall in qualification is a brutal consequence of an asinine rule. If you’re reading this, you probably already know that only two gymnasts per country are allowed into the all-around competition. This is the worst rule I’ve ever heard. Of course, any rule that exists to supplement the usual rules of a sport is probably a terrible rule. But, hey, I’m a bit of an anarchist.

This rule is horrible for two reasons. Most importantly, the athletes were competing in qualification which means by definition everyone had an equal opportunity to qualify. Limiting a country to two qualifiers eliminates the need for qualifying. Why doesn’t each participating country just pick two?

Which leads to the other reason I hate this rule. By having an unnecessary individual qualifying round, the most poignant result is that it makes athletes from the same country compete against each other while they’re simultaneously competing with each other.

And the fact that it’s the cutest athletes imaginable makes it the absolute worst.

If The Hunger Games actually existed, they would barely be worse than what happened last night.

As it is, Wieber is left to convince herself that the glass is really half full. She still gets to compete with her team for the team title, which I assume is the ultimate prize because it seems like the one that most of us sports fans care most about seeing the USA win. She also has a chance to win an individual gold medal in the floor exercise.

We’re supposed to count our blessings, right? But does anyone else feel like that thing that’s just out of reach is the only thing worth grasping? That’s the thing that brings out the best and worst in us. That thing is why Wieber left the stadium in tears last night.

But tomorrow night, Wieber will drink from the glass and it probably won’t feel half empty anymore. In fact, I’m betting she goes after that team gold with everything she has. Yet, that’s where this gets tricky and even more brilliant. In gymnastics (as in life) wanting something and trying harder to attain something actually makes it harder to grasp. It all comes down to being in the zone when the biggest moment comes along.

And if we could manufacture that attribute, we would all be in the all-around finals.

photo via The Washington Post.

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