Well, due to recent events in the softball world, I’m going use this forum to preach to the masses about how softball was dealt a crushing blow by the Olympic Committee, instead of my usual array of pitching thoughts and opinions.
Let me begin by saying I think it’s horrible that the IOC removed baseball/softball from the Olympics. I’m sure these people have their reasons but, there are over 100 countries around the world that play softball
who are waiting for an explanation! What is the justification for removing softball? Why take out women’s softball when there are far less popular
sports which could’ve been removed. It simply doesn’t make sense.
Rumor has it; baseball was removed mostly because Major League players were not available to be used. The Olympics often run through the MLB season and/or MLB teams don’t want their million dollar stars to risk injury playing for their country. To be honest, if I was a baseball owner and I’m paying someone MILLIONS of dollars, I’m not so sure I’d be excited about them playing either. Can you imagine the Florida Marlin’s playoff hopes being drained because 3rd baseman Mike Lowell took a line drive off an aluminum bat (which is legal in Olympic play) by Sammy Sosa? But, for the time being, I’ll let the baseball people fight for their sport and I’ll continue on with our sport: softball.
What first must be understood is this: if the IOC removes a male sport, they MUST also remove a female sport. There could also be a stipulation in there
about equal participation numbers among athletes, I’m not sure. But, either way, the IOC will be adding 2 new sports and possibly 1 for each gender.
The popular theory about why softball was eliminated has to do with American dominance of the sport. Many have conspiracy theories that the IOC wanted to take away, what has been an almost automatic gold medal from the USA. Nobody can deny that the 2004 Olympic team literally destroyed the competition. Unlike in previous Olympics, there wasn’t even a close game! But, if it really about American dominance, should the IOC have said the same thing after they allowed NBA basketball players in at the 1992 Olympics? Remember that show? The opposing teams were just in awe of
the Americans. They literally showed up more to get their photos taken with Michael Jordan than to play against him. And, now look at the basketball world: the USA didn’t even make the Gold medal game. It shows how the world improved. Yes, I know, the USA didn’t send Shaq, Kobe, Garnett, etc. But, it’s always been perceived that the Americans could send the worst group of Professionals and win the championship.
Instead of taking the sport out of the Olympics and having other countries cry and complain about the US dominance, Basketball nations around the world started to improve. They hired American players and coaches to come teach them and the results are astounding.
What few people realize is, the softball world has done the same thing. Personally, I’m contacted on a monthly basis to go here or there to help a countries National team or help develop pitchers from ground zero. I’ve worked with several countries in development of their softball programs: Denmark, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Bahamas, Philippines, etc. I know there are other coaches and pitching instructors that do the same thing. Then there are the other countries following Greece’s lead from the ’04 season and are asking American players with ancestry in their homeland to come play international competition for them. The point is, the international softball community is making huge efforts to improve.
Then there are the people that believe that it’s too costly for countries to build the facilities (such as softball fields) when they don’t have too much of that sport in their home country after the games are gone. I’m not sure this argument has many legs in this case. England has been DRASTICALLY improving their softball, both men and women, for some time now. The men’s team had a very respectable showing at the 2004 World Championship in New Zealand and has finished in the top 3 at the last European Championships. The women are also making improvements by leaps and
bounds. Moreover, it’s very nearsighted to think the softball facilities would be used for the Olympics alone and then sit empty. People forget there are other International softball events in the world: ISF World Tournaments, Pan Am games, European Championships, Asian Games, All African Games,
Southeast Asian games, etc.
Obviously, there is some controversy in Greece about what to do with the Olympic Softball stadium. But, I know ISF President Don Porter has been there urging them to keep the stadium and use it for future events and domestic competition.
Most of the people that read this probably have not seen much men’s fast pitch. Some may have seen the King and His Court at one time but, that’s about it. As I covered in a previous article, there is a whole world of Men’s Fast Pitch Softball. Countries around the world have National teams that play in all sorts of International competitions. But, it really flew under the radar this year when Brazil, who is hosting the 2007 Pan Am games, pushed hard and apparently won to have men’s softball eliminated from the games. Why did they do this? It’s because they don’t play men’s softball and do not want “Non Olympic” games there. So, this got me wondering, will they still want women’s softball to be in the ’07 Pan Am games since the next year will be the last for it in Olympic competition?
I often get on my soapbox about the disparity between the National teams funding. The women get infinitely more than the men and we are jealous and frustrated by that. Having said that, we also understand that they are not only very deserving of the funding they get but, they also are in the Olympics which brings the worldwide recognition to the game. But, the US Women’s team is in for a real wake up call. The players on the team now, minus a couple, were not in the program when Softball as Non Olympic. They did not get annual trips to Europe, Australia, Japan, and all over the USA as they prepared for the next Olympic competition. It’s very likely that the USOC (United States Olympic Committee) which funds all sports in the USA will scale back their funding the USA softball by astronomical amounts. It could even put them back even with the US Men’s team. Remember, the difference in funding is primarily due to the Olympic status of the women’s team. With the Olympics out of the picture, and the possibility of Pan Am removal, what’s left? The ISF World championships every 4 years, which is the same as the men have.
Here it is in a nutshell: this is going to put the game of softball on its knees worldwide. I know that sounds awful. But, that’s because it IS awful. While softball is a great game and played by too many countries to count at all different levels, the reality is, without the Olympics the National teams are simply not going to be funded by the individual Olympic Committees around the world. Without that funding at the top, and the dreams of playing in the Olympics, it’s hard to see a bright future for softball globally. And as someone who has been around the world because of softball and owes the game everything I have, this makes me sad beyond words.