Let’s play a game. I’m going to show you a picture of several ski jumpers, and you tell me which one has the best style.
The correct answer is: Who the F*#& Cares?
Ski Jumping judges care. That’s who. In the world of professional ski jumping, only half of your total points is determined by distance. The other half is determined by “style.” It is possible to jump a larger distance with “bad” style and lose a ski jumping competition.
Tennis tournaments now have technology to measure where a ball lands. The margin of error is insanely small. We’re talking millimeters, maybe less. Surely we can adapt such technology to ski jumping. Surely we could measure, to the millimeter, the distance a flying human travels when they all land on the same strip of snow. Surely it should not matter if someone flaps his wings, or poses like Christopher Reeve’s Superman, or places her skis in a V shape or an H shape, or does some snowboarder-esque 520 in the air, so long as said skiier lands the farthest from launch and does so without crashing.
We all know the reason “style” plays into this. Because “style” translates as “a necessary means to corrupt a competitive outcome for political or financial purposes.” Want Shawn White to win everything he does? Put him in front of judges!
In the women’s ice skating “short round” (which is an ironical name for a competition betwixt skinny lithe humans), the woman from Japan fell on her butt on a completely failed triple something or other and still finished in second place ahead of other competitors who did not land on their butts. Apparently, she performed with such grace, when she wasn’t skidding on her butt, that she still was the second-best performer on the ice.
Or maybe, just maybe, the judges all know who she is -- she’s quite the celebrity in Japan -- and they were giving her a benefit of the doubt based on her cache rather than her performance.
I love Moneyball as a movie because it lifts the curtain on the absurdity of our faith in human judges. Crappy judgment isn’t merely in baseball. Take Kendall Marshall, a guy who disappeared from two NBA teams before finding a spotlight in Los Angeles. His numbers scream out what no scout or coach seemed to want to understand: he makes a team measurably better when he’s on the court. Look at how many McDonald’s All-Americans play and ride pine for the UNC and Duke. Either those two coaches are vastly overrated on how they manage ungodly talent, or the talent scouts who deemed them “All-Americans” in the first place made some errors in judgment. I’ll go with the latter.
I don’t like judges. I don’t trust judges. They are, at best, a necessary evil, and anytime dependence upon them can be avoided, it should be. And I’m not just talking about Olympic judges or baseball scouts. I mean judges in general, anyone or tiny group of people whose fallible judgement is given weight sufficient enough to sway history.
One of the more interesting parts of the latest round of Woody Allen debates is how many defenders of Allen lean all of their weight on the criminal justice system. He was investigated, and charges were never filed, therefore he must be innocent, they say.
I wonder what Medgar Evers would have to say about that particularly odd brand of logic. I wonder just how many sexual harassment accusations never find their way into any courtroom, therefore “proving” the accusations and their alleged victims all baseless.
One need not be paranoid or in love with conspiracy theories to distrust judges or any system that relies on them. Judges, being human, screw up. Not only are they fallible by their very nature, but far too many -- we’ll never know the numbers -- are easily corruptible for the purposes of politics, power, or money... or God only knows what other kinds of influences can skew a person’s sense of justice or fairness.
Maybe judges would score better if I started judging them on style points.