Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Updated: August 15, 5:31 PM ET
Game on! Ballroom dancing should be an Olympic sport
By Patrick Hruby
Editor's note: Throughout the Olympics, Page 2 writers will argue the merits of including various sports in the Games.
Face it: From bail bonds-sponsored youth baseball teams to logo-festooned stock cars to these words being brought to you by whatever banner is flashing above, the sports world as we know it primarily exists as an advertisement delivery vehicle. The Olympics are no exception. And if you've seen any of NBC's coverage and/or the commercials running during the Games -- weepy personality profiles that tangentially mention athletic skill; carbonated sugar water as the lone kill switch to the pending cowboy-versus-dragon apocalypse -- you've probably noticed that the quadrennial sportsapalooza isn't aimed at you, me, or those who care about how Brett Favre looks running a lap around a practice field.
Why bother? We'll tune in, anyway. No, the Olympics are aimed at the great big mass of casual and non-sports fans, people who view fantasy football the way most of us view Dungeons and Dragons, people who, all things considered, would rather be watching "American Idol." Or maybe "Dancing With the Stars."
As such, adding ballroom dancing to the Olympic program is a no-brainer.
Ratings-wise -- and if you think anything else really matters, perhaps I can interest you in this 250-mpg SUV? -- ballroom dancing would kill. Most popular Winter Olympics sport? Women's figure skating. Most popular Summer Olympics sport? Pixie gymnastics. Ballroom dancing offers the best of both: costumes, music, big smiles, bigger makeup, athletic display that just about anyone can immediately understand and enjoy, without the slightest bit of expertise or previous time investment.
Oh, and no nerdy stats.
Another plus: Unlike most ball-and-stick sports, ballroom dancing can't competitively exist in a vacuum. It requires judges -- which is to say, it requires an engaged audience, an audience invited to watch and appraise the on-screen proceedings, which is only the core appeal of all reality TV, from "Idol" to "The Hills." Michael Phelps doesn't explicitly swim for your approval and scorn; ballroom dancers sashay for exactly that, and in skimpy, sexy, US Weekly-ready outfits, to boot. Can team handball say the same?
Honestly, I'm stunned that ballroom dancing isn't part of the Games already. And equally surprised it isn't the first Olympic sport to feature real-time audience voting via text message. Sponsored by a major telecom corporation, of course.