As usual, the other morning I was working my way through the daily websites and blogs—financial, news, weather, sports—when a headline hit me like a bolt from heaven, “Do Not Make Fun of this Sport.” I’ve never been called out by an ESPN sportswriter.
Some context. I should come clean, I am a terrible parent. More specifically a despicable father to my 15 year-old daughter. If I set the trash television, the blonde hair that seems permanently attached to the shower drain, her tendency to lose my bookmarks, and her recent use of the phrase “golf player” instead of golfer aside; 15, just like 12, has been a tremendous joy to parent. Without having to be told to, she chooses to work extremely hard in school, she passes on the beer at Norwegian high school parties, and she challenges developmental theory by having a consistently sunny disposition.
Like seemingly all girls in Olympia, WA, 15 grew up playing soccer. She was smart enough to figure out that since she was smaller and slower than average, she had to compensate by giving a total effort at practices and games. As a result, she developed a solid work ethic. When she switched to swimming in 9th grade, I knew she had potential when she complained after one practice, “A girl in my lane kept cutting the sets short. I don’t care if she wants to cut corners, but I don’t like it when she expects me to.” In 10th grade her dad’s studliness finally kicked in her hard work began to pay dividends, she scored quite a few varsity points, she lettered, her 500 free time got dangerously close to mine, and she was voted Most Improved.
She veered off course on her way to Beijing however, when she followed some of her teammates into synchronized swimming. Her teammates are great young women and 15 is pretty darn good at synchro, but come on, synchro versus swimming?! Have you seen the fake-up, the nose plugs, the scary hair?!
And that sentiment my friends is the reason I’m a despicable father. In the fall of 2007, I ripped the “sport” so consistently, that I decided to make the rare New Year’s resolution, “If I can’t say anything nice about synchro, I won’t say anything at all.” I think I’ve done pretty well, but 15 would undoubtedly say otherwise. Now, I’m switching gears and trying to accept myself.
Besides, 15 can be a wee bit sensitive when it comes to a water activity that I mastered at age seven when I had a free afternoon in a Holiday Inn pool. See, I just can’t help myself, which is why 15 forced me to read the ESPN article. Here’s the jest of it, “No, really everyone, it’s a really tough sport, quit making fun of it.” Thanks for that. It’s obvious the male author is planning on making a move on one or both of the twenty-something synchro swimmers who taught him some moves for the article.
You always hear Americans love redemption stories, so, before 15 runs away to live at a synchro training center, I am going to try to remedy this situation. I will go so far as to volunteer to judge synchro in Beijing. In fairness to the competitors who are putting their routines together, here’s what I’ll be looking for. This is my effort to make things right with the “sport.” 1) Fewer show tunes, less classical music, more hip-hop and rap. And pump it up, I want to see ripples on the surface before you enter. 2) Less military-like rigidity and more fluidity, think Shakira. 3) More fountain formations with synchronized spitting.
Also, after the first layer of fake-up, one point will be deducted for each successive layer. Similarly, after the first overdone, phony smile, one point will be deducted for each successive overdone, phony smile.
And lastly, to speed things up (so the spectators can turn their attention back to sporting activities like the marathon, basketball, the 10k swim, water polo), I plan on working behind the scenes with the other judges to tweak the overall structure of the performances. My vision is to have two teams competing simultaneously, thus trimming the total time for the competition in half. Each team will enter the water from opposite sides and then sprint to the middle where they will find one large rectangular ring on the floor of the pool. The rap or hip-hop song of whichever team “controls” the ring will begin coursing through the spectators’ veins. The “runner up team” will still be allowed to complete their routine just off to the side without their music. My fellow judges and I will do our best to catch some of their routine. In the spirit of sumo, teams will be encouraged to “enforce their will on one another” in order to control the ring and the clock will not begin until one team clearly achieves the upperhand.
May the fastest, toughest, funkiest team win.