Why stop with baseball and softball?

Updated: July 11, 2005, 3:56 PM ET
By Ray Ratto | Special to ESPN.com

That must have been some meeting of the International Olympic Committee Friday, because some of the blazers seemed to be in a very cranky mood.

Never mind that they booted baseball and softball out of the Olympics, in part because nobody wanted Kenny Rogers going off on some cartoonist from Luxembourg Today. Hey, the U.S. women beat everyone into gray paste, and the big league men didn't want to come.

It's what came next that is interesting.

One, they booed IOC big-dome Jacques Rogge when he suggested a show of hands in the replacement sport voting. This is not the sort of behavior one expects from these soul-crushing gasbags, because they don't want to end up on the other end of the booing when they start to bloviate about their own special projects.

Evidently the Costco chocolate muffins didn't go over well.

Then they voted down squash and karate with a singular venom, all but rushing the stage breaking cinderblocks with Dick Pound's head (and if that isn't a satisfying exercise, nothing is).

And finally, they replaced the two ejected sports with nothing whatsoever.

Aha, the Olympic ideal in a nutshell. When in doubt, don't split the pot.

The IOC has typically been a compliant group, happy in the knowledge that even if they didn't get their way in one area, they always had bribery and graft to keep them mollified.

But this meeting seems to have had some edge to it, as though they had some agenda to exercise. Some people suspected it was simple anti-Americanism. Others thought they were turning on Rogge. Our own theory is that their shorts were just riding up in unison, but we do not want to have to do the kind of research required for proof.

If, however, the IOC was not just in a really bad mood last week, and it really just wants to get leaner and keener, offing baseball and softball is just the start.

And no, we are not just talking about smoking synchronized swimming, everyone's pet who-asked-for-this sport.

Nor are we talking about not introducing the world to new and contrived Olympic sports like roller sports (unless of course it is Roller Derby), or poker, or pro wrestling.

As the next target for the committee's freshly discovered ire, it is time to deconstruct the opening ceremonies, which have blown right through tedium and stupidity and entered the realm of outright torture.

All we want here is the athletes' marching in happy and cheerful, not a three-hour cultural symposium going back to the time of the earth's cooling. That's what the National Geographic Channel is for. I mean, a person can only scream "Shut Your Festering Gobs!" at Katie Couric and Bob Costas so often.

Then we can work on not bankrupting the host city for a marble velodrome, or an artificial lake for triathletes.

Then we can get really get down to business and start taking out the blazers themselves, on the city, national, sport and even the IOC level itself. The breathtaking level of featherbedding and redundancy in the IOC and its various national bodies would shame Chicago in the '50s.

Now we're fairly certain that the IOC doesn't want to go that far, because as we know, the principal duty of an organization is to protect itself.

Still, last week's meeting shows us that the committee does want to look tough for the kids back home. Hence, no baseball (sorry Tommy), no softball (too bad, Dot), and no roller sports (tough darts, Scabby).

But if they want to come back in a few months and take out that bas-relief statue of Garibaldi, or the five-hour Chinese opera on Mao Zedong's swimming career, or the history of Britain done in the language of Chaucer … well, then it will all have been worth it.

And after that, let's talk synchronized swimming. I mean, enough's enough already.

Ray Ratto is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a regular contributor to ESPN.com

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