Spartan head person Joe De Sena quite famously has a goal of getting obstacle course racing into the Summer Olympics.
Personally, I’m completely indifferent to this goal. I’m unlikely to ever compete Olympically, and while I recognize that growth in the industry is likely to have positive impacts on the availability and quality of races I have the opportunity to participate in, I have no idea whether seeking Olympichood is the most effective method of achieving that growth.
Nevertheless, I do love a good theoretical puzzle, so I’ve been wondering about what needs to happen to get OCR into the Olympics. And, while I can’t claim to be an expert on getting sports into the Olympics, I do have a few ideas that range from amusing to legitimate to completely-stupid-but-also-kind-of-thought-provoking-in-that-Ig-Nobel-Prize way.* And here they are:
Fantasy OCR: Let me start by saying that fantasy sports are something I don’t understand, in the sense that they don’t appeal to me and I can’t fathom anything that would lead me to join such a league. However, I have asked a friend who plays in multiple fantasy football leagues why he does so. According to him, fantasy football is great, because—and this is a direct quote—“Because it forces me to be excited about games that I don’t care about.”
One could certainly debate the moral gelatinousness of being forced to care about things you don’t care about, but that’s not important for this discussion. What is important is the fact that a sport with legions of fans is more likely to be added to the Olympic roster than one that has obsessive participants but whose only fans are people who know those participants personally and that one creepy guy on the internet.** And if millions of people don’t necessarily enjoy it but they start feeling compelled to obsess about every week’s results, well, that’s as good as fandom to the Olympic committee.***
Synchronized OCR: It worked for swimming. And diving. And biathlon. (It’s a shame synchronized biathlon**** doesn’t make the broadcast that often.) And none of this Team Ninja Warrior shit, where (as far as I can tell without owning a TV) it’s just a head-to-head race—to be Olympic-worthy, the synchronicity has to be judged, and it has to be judged separately from the performance, so it’s okay to perform absolutely shittily, as long as you perform absolutely shittily in synchronicity with your teammate. That’s what viewers want.
All the human interest stories: Olympic broadcasts, these days, are about 12% sport and 388% human interest. (Are there four channels of Olympic broadcasts these days? I know there was the Triplecast fiasco a while ago, but now there’s eight billion cable channels and there’s a limit to how many times the tapes of Wings can be played before they’ll disintegrate, so there’s probably more now.)
Anyhow, to be television-ready, every competitor should prepare a 3-5 minute multimedia package about their biggest failure, their greatest tragedy, and the childhood hero who changed their life. They should also prepare 3-5 backups for each in case their first choice is duplicated by a more prominent athlete. They also need to provide good B-roll footage of training (preferably including that shot where you clap freshly chalked hands together and the chalk flies everywhere), crying, and interacting with actors portraying an inspirationally disabled relative.
Americanization: We could pretend that the Olympics are about sport, or we could grow the fuck up and realize they’re about cash. I assume that the bulk of revenues from the Olympics come from TV deals, and that the U.S. is the most lucrative TV market there is (since we’re the ones with the wherewithal to watch at least 306 hours of television apiece over two weeks.)
Now, the Olympics do require sports to be played in a reasonably large number of countries before they’ll be considered. But Americans want to watch Americans win medals. We don’t give no fucks ‘bout foreigners, stealing our medals and impregnating our wimmins. So anyone with a legitimate shot at gold should defect. Except that a Canadian can win occasionally, as long as their top rival that year is Russian.
Mud Girls: Sex sells, so lots of sports have incorporated eye candy into their culture, in the form of ladies whose work is absolutely critical to the functioning of the match, while purely coincidentally having large breasts. There’s the Oakland Raiderettes, the Chicago Blackhawks Ice Crew, MMA Ring Girls, and, hottest of all, the Phillie Phanatic.
Now, OCR likes to think that it’s above that, and as far as I know, most participants are.***** But much as how the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders don’t actually have much of an impact on whether Dez Bryant catches that pass, the mud girls wouldn’t be there for the participants, but for the spectators. Anything for eyeballs!
In the name of equality, there probably should be mud boys as well. But while ladies would appreciate it, all of my cultural knowledge says that women get more turned on by emotion than visual stimulation. And thus, to serve them, there needs to also be…
OCR Erotica: Written-word porn is a powerful thing. 50 Shades of Grey—that bit of Twilight fanfiction gone horribly, horribly wrong—has been cited as one of the factors that helped Great Britain emerge from recession in 2012. (By a comedian, but cited nonetheless!)
So if someone turns OCR into a good popular porn romance series, then OCR’s burgeoning economic power would sweep it into the Olympics in a heartbeat. Seems like it’s time to figure out how spears, cargo nets, and monkey bars can produce female orgasms.
* As an aside, is it appropriate to award myself “The Ig Nobel Prize of OCR?” Because I like to think I could pull that off. If nothing else, that will be my Olympic dream.
** Not me. I’m that other creepy guy on the internet.
*** And nearly as good as a hefty, hefty bribe.
**** Biathlon is actually my closest Olympic connection, because when my brother was a kid and I was a much younger kid, he was on a swim team with Olympic biathlete Joan Guetschow. I mean, she wasn’t an Olympic biathlete at the time, but she eventually became one.
***** That’s a potentially huge bag of worms, so let me rephrase slightly: The culture of OCR seems to be one of respecting people, both men and women, for their accomplishments rather than creepily stalking them and turning them into sexual objects for their appearance. At least I have not seen or experienced any form of sexual harassment. But then again, to sexually harass me someone would have to be blind, stupid, racist, indifferent to humanity, suffering from acute appendicitis, and blind again. So I’m not a terribly valid authority on the subject. If it is an issue, then I hope that it can be discussed and eliminated. Now, back to hypothetical objectification for comedic purposes!