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IF YOU WERE PAUL HAMM, WHAT WOULD YOU DO -- GIVE BACK YOUR GOLD MEDAL OR CONTINUE TO WEAR IT PROUDLY?


You probably know most of the details by now. If you've been traveling the world with Ricky Williams, however, we'll review the facts in the judging controversy surrounding the men's gymnastics all-around final at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens:

  • American Paul Hamm won the gold medal Wednesday night, making an amazing comeback from an early fall in the vault to win with a score of 57.823, 0.012 points better than South Korea's Kim Dae-eun. It was the closest all-around finish in Olympic history. South Korea's Yang Tae-young finished third with a score of 57.774.

  • International Gymnastics Federation officials later admitted Yang was incorrectly given the wrong start value (9.9) for a routine that should have carried a value of 10.0. Had he been given the correct value, Yang would've taken the gold and Hamm the silver.

  • The federation said the results cannot be changed because the South Koreans did not protest within the allotted time. The South Koreans dispute this.

  • Upset that the videotape was even being reviewed, Hamm said he feels "like I'm the Olympic champion."

  • On Monday, USOC officials met with members of the South Korean Olympic Committee, and said they are trying to find an "equitable solution" to the controversy. USOC officials have said they might support dual gold medals in the event.

    So, the question remains: If you are Paul Hamm right now, what should you do? Give back your medal? Support a dual gold medal? Defiantly insist you're the champ?

    The members of Page 2's Writers' Bloc -- some in Athens, some in the States -- weigh in with their judgment.

    He should keep it | From Carrie Sheinberg
    Everybody just stop. Lay off Paul Hamm. And stop suggesting that he should give back his gold medal. Anyone stuck on that idea must still be yelling for the Patriots to give their 2002 Superbowl trophy back, and the 1960 Soviet Union basketball team to give their gold medal back. Get over it.

    So the judges made a mistake. I guarantee you it wasn't the only one they made that night. And you can't go back, it's not as simple as that. Who's to say that had Yang Tae-young been scored "properly" and consequently headed to the final apparatus in the lead, that he wouldn't have crumbled under the pressure?

    If you want to cry that he deserved the extra tenth of a point for degree of difficulty, then you also have to scream for the two-tenths reduction he should have received for performing four hold moves when he was only allowed three.

    The point is: athletes who compete in judged sports must resign themselves to the fact that judges are human. Most of these athletes have accepted that. Sometimes the judges like you, sometimes they don't. If you don't like it, go ski race, which was my choice as an athlete. The clock doesn't lie. People do.

    Paul Hamm did nothing but put together a jaw-dropping comeback and an overall performance that was unquestionably worth its weight in gold. That is what makes him a champion. The only thing people should be calling for him to hand over, is a bowl of Wheaties, poured from the box with his picture on it.

    Give it back, become immortal | From Jim Caple

    Paul Hamm
    Paul Hamm has the chance to go down as the ultimate symbol of sportsmanship.

    I didn't burn one calorie or sweat a single drop over the past decade training to be an Olympic gymnast. So far be it for me to tell Paul Hamm what to do with the gold medal he worked so hard for so long to earn. This is his decision, and it should be based strictly on this one choice: Does he want to keep a gold medal in his trophy case, or be remembered by anyone outside his immediate family?

    Hamm is a male gymnast, and as much as people are talking about him now, his name will be so forgotten by the first weekend of the NFL season that not even Ken Jennings will be able to identify him.

    Alex Trebec: This male gymnast won the gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics due to an incorrect scoring decision.

    Jennings: Sorry, Alex, I have absolutely no idea.

    If, however, Hamm gives the medal back and accepts the silver, he'll be so identified as a symbol of sportsmanship that Bela Karolyi will personally carry him from talk show to talk show for the rest of his life.

    "Gymmy" can't read | From Ray Ratto
    Ignoring for a moment the fact that you always get this sort of thing in gymnastics and figure skating because the judges are often either cheats or bunglers, let's consider this Paul Hamm issue in its most basic form.

    The Korean gymnast, Yang Tae-young, didn't get hosed because people can't multiply, but only because they couldn't read. Then, the Korean got hosed because the officials didn't know when the proper time to file a protest was. And the Korean's still getting hosed because illiteracy, lack of knowledge of the rules and a stunted sense of fairness isn't enough to get people in this idiotic dodge to do the correct thing.

    And the correct thing is to give Yang the gold and Hamm the silver. Because that's how it played out on the mat.

    Yang Tae-young
    AP
    Yang Tae-young would have won gold if the judges had given him the correct starting value.

    After all, this is the equivalent of your team losing the World Series because the umpires forgot how many runs a home run is worth, and then having the commissioner's office say, "Yes, it's worth one, but we're still going to make it a half because we don't want to fuss with all the paperwork."

    Yeah, that'd go over well.

    Now if Hamm were in Yang's place, my fellow Americans, you would be screeching purple murder with a clawhammer, and you damned well know it. But it isn't, so you're fine with it. Proud moment for you, I guess.

    The charitable thing would be to let Hamm keep the gold because he shouldn't have to endure the humiliation of losing something he thought he'd earned because the judges are morons, and in the everybody-plays-everybody-wins culture of the day, we can probably all live with that.

    But that's still Yang's medal hanging around Hamm's neck, which proves yet again that if you're having any electrical work done around your house by a gymnastics official, save time and call the fire department now.

    As usual, blame the coaches | From Seth Wickersham
    If I were Paul Hamm, right after I thought about being on "The Today Show" and Letterman and Wheaties boxes and why God made my nose straight and Morgan's a tad crooked, I'd keep telling myself and anyone who wants to listen that it's my medal, and I'm not giving it up.

    Look, South Korea's Yang Tae-young got hosed because his coaches didn't take their cause up at the correct time, which would have been no later by the end of the next routine. They're really the ones to blame for not being on top of things. It happens all the time. NFL coaches screw up replay calls. Managers leave their pitchers in too long, especially in Game 7 against the Yankees with the World Series on the line.

    Cry foul if you want, but if the South Korean coaches would have been as sharp as Tae-young's routine, something could have been done. They weren't. And Hamm doesn't owe them an apology for it.

    WWBD? | From Michael Knisley
    Whenever I'm faced with an ethical dilemma of this magnitude, I turn to the moral compass on which I can always rely to guide me toward truth, justice and the American way.

    I'm referring, of course, to former Colorado football coach Bill McCartney. Also known as Fifth-Down Bill.

    Is Hamm's situation any different than the one McCartney and the Buffaloes faced against Missouri back in 1990? Given a fifth down through no fault of their own, the Buffs and McCartney took it and ran with it all the way to a co-national championship. They never looked back.

    In a court of law, that'd be called a precedent.

    So keep the damn medal to yourself, Paul, if that's what you want. We'll remember you just as fondly as we remember your precedents.

    My precious! Oh, my precious! | From Eric Neel
    The gold medal is like the One Ring. Once you've held it in your hands, there's no letting go.

    The gold medal has powers. It speaks to a man's soul, to the dark, hungry parts of a man's heart. It says, "I anoint you. I bathe you in the waters of greatness. I make you legendary." It cannot be resisted. It cannot be denied. You do not hold the gold medal, the gold medal holds you. There is no letting go.

    Paul Hamm
    AP
    Paul Hamm says he'll do whatever the International Gymnastics Federation decides.

    People will tell young Paul to surrender the gold medal now. They will tell him it is the right and noble thing to do. Some will even say that such a magnanimous gesture will immortalize him, will mean far more to his reputation than any medal ever could.

    These people are innocents. They are fools. They believe in Superman and Santa Claus. Their heads are in the clouds. They deal in willowy abstractions and utopian dreams.

    They are underestimating the gold medal. They are discounting the feel, the heft, and the shine of the gold medal. They cannot imagine how it stirs a man's blood just to hold it, just to wear it around his neck. They do not realize the power it lets loose in his arms and legs. They fail to understand the way it feeds his deepest desires and answers his most existential cries.

    Give it back? Never. There is no giving back the gold.

    You clutch the gold.

    You hold it close to your breast, turn off the lights, draw the shades, lock the door, and rock gently to sleep.

    And if they come for you, if they come to take your precious, you run.

    You go underground. You go Abbie Hoffman. You hide, relocate, slip in and out of costumes and voices, wander the earth, and eventually, inevitably, you live in alone in a cold, dark cave in the mountains.

    You have no life and no friends. You are the object of worldwide derision; the very mention of your name causes people to spit and curse. But you have the gold medal. Your precious. And they can't take that away from you.

    Let's go to the WHOLE video tape | From Jeff Merron
    Hamm is in a no-win situation (literally, now, since the judges have been penalizing him in the individual events for their own errors in the all-around). But the South Koreans shouldn't be allowed to have it both ways. They go to the videotape to look at scoring errors that boost Yang Tae-young's score, then the video's also in play to see whether there were any errors that perhaps detracted from Yang's score. Which there were.

    Degree of difficulty is only one factor in gymnastics scoring. It's the most objective factor, but based on the expected routine the judges have to be watching for some things and not others. As Hamm admits, yes, the judges made a mistake. But as Hamm rightly argues, other mistakes were made too, ones that would have cost Yang had they been spotted in real time.

    The protest came way too late, and it's far from clear that Yang deserves even a piece of gold. Game over. Hamm wins.

    Human frailty: the spice of life | From Patrick Hruby
    Keep it. Give it back. I don't care. All I know is this: I'm already satisfied. And I want more judging, not less.

    Look, human error makes the Olympics more interesting. Every time a judge takes a bribe, botches a score, fails to fill out a swimming scorecard, it gives the rest of us something to talk about. Argue about. Get all outraged and sanctimonious over.

    In that sense, judges are a lot like the dopey singles looking for love on Reality TV. Not to mention USA Basketball.

    Judging is good for the Games. Excuse me: Lousy judging is good for the Games. Because we pay attention.

    Think of it this way: Figure skating without French judges? Exhibition puffery, set to show tunes. Figure skating with French judges? Full-fledged international incident.

    Spare me the swifter, higher, stronger, the Children of Light and animatronic, lightsaber-wielding centaurs. Deep down, we all can agree that the Olympics are the biggest caring-for-the-sake-of-caring non-event since Elian Gonzalez. Two weeks ago, none of us knew Paul Hamm from Mia; two weeks from now, we won't know him from a cheese sandwich.

    But thanks to a little bit of good ol' fashioned judging incompetence, we and millions of Koreans have a bone to pick. Which is great for the ratings.

    Besides, it's not like all of us don't already accept -- and secretly relish -- flawed judging in other sports. Remember the phantom tuck? College football's infamous fifth down? The Lakers-get-the-calls conspiracy theories of a few years back?

    Heck, remember the last Presidential election?

    A mediocre hell | From Steve Woodward
    If we had to return everything collected when human beings have lost their minds, that means all stock profits in 1999 and 2000 should be handed over. It is unfair, is it not, that Yahoo! once traded well north of $200 per share. Why that's just wrong! We know that any profit give-back movement ain't gonna happen.

    So keep your medal, Paul. Take it to Wisconsin and let them pass it around at Lambeau Field when it's 30-below zero. Hey, if the idiot gymnastics judges can't figure out how to rise to the occasion at the Olympic Bleepin' Games, let them live in their own mediocre hell. Why should you?



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