Wanted: British Giants For Minor Sports At 2012 Olympics

In Olympic competition, the host country gets to enter someone or a team in every event, I believe, and this is a direct outgrowth of this — the AP notes that the Brits are looking for tall people to compete in London’s 2012 games, and have roped about 50 people in open tryouts from their “Sporting Giants” program.

This is solely for sports like volleyball, rowing, fairly minor stuff (it wouldn’t quite fly for basketball, according to the GB hoops coach — besides, he’s got Luol Deng and Ben Gordon to tap, so it’s not impossible), but the concept of finding ordinary folks to fill out squads in non-marquee sports is amusing.

Stuart Campbell gave up his job as a personal trainer to join the British Handball Academy in Denmark.

“I had never even seen a handball court before Sporting Giants,” the 25-year-old Campbell said. “But we’re not just here to make up the numbers — we’re here to win medals.”

Frances Nicholls, who had been working as a teacher in York, has now relocated to Henley, home of Britain’s most famous rowing regatta, after being fast-tracked onto Britain’s national rowing program.

“It’s been an absolute whirlwind,” the 23-year-old Nicholls said.

Rowers, handballers, volleyball players — yet no one for the basketball program simply to take up some room on the court and collect fouls from LeBron or someone else going to the hoop? C’mon, Brits, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity here; no one wants your lasting impact on the world of basketball to be this guy’s WWL-orchestrated media kerfuffle:

6 Responses

  1. I’m really tired of the interpretation of Jon Amaechi’s book (and ESPN’s promotion of it, and general media reaction to it) as a media-orchestrated controversy, or a “WWL-orchestrated media kerfuffle,” as you call it.

    The book did help bring discussion of homosexuality in sports, and athletes’ perceptions of homosexuality, into mainstream sports discourse. How is that a bad thing? All “kerfluffles” should be so socially relevant.

  2. Sorry, PV – it may have brought discussion, but the main reason it got as much play as it did was because ESPN’s wings were working in synergy to promote it.

    Socially relevant? Yes. Overyhyped and manufactured controversy? Absolutely.

  3. I don’t see it as “overhyped and manufactured.” The discussion was about how gay athletes are treated and perceived: is the treatment and perception of gay people in America really an “overhyped and manufactured” issue? I think it’s real and relevant. Bringing the discussion into mainstream sports coverage was and is a good thing.

    ESPN should have been clearer about its relationship to the publisher. But really, the story developed in a typical way: a person has a story to tell and writes a book, and the publisher uses its own marketing apparatus to promote the book. It may be annoying that ESPN was able to meld its news and promotional material (the way many “news” networks do), but it was still providing a relevant story and discussion.

    I’m glad that they did it: it’s a discussion we should be having, and whether or not it took ESPN’s “synergy” to promote the discussion isn’t the issue to me.

  4. The issue itself isn’t overhyped and manufactured. ESPN’s treatment of it was.

    Maybe I’m being hypersensitive to media manipulation here, but when you control the methods of publishing, distribution, and promotion, that isn’t the typical development manner. The discussion is important — but Amaechi, in the interest of publicizing his book, allowed his publisher to develop a controversy through its various platforms.

    He became the issue rather than the issue itself.

  5. I completely disagree–Amaechi’s book led the discussion to be not about Amaechi, but about how professional athletes perceive gays.

    I think we can reduce the disagreement to this. Which of the following do you consider a bigger problem in the sports?

    a. ESPN’s powerful control over sports coverage, sports promotion, and sports discussion.

    b. Negative attitudes about gay people among professional athletes that impact the way gay athletes at all levels feel and act.

    If the answer is “a.” then you’re probably bothered about how ESPN put forth the issue; if the answer is “b.” then you’re glad of the discussion.

    I’ve obviously chosen “b.” as the bigger issue. Perhaps because I’m only exposed to ESPN on the internet and radio, I underestimate their work in forcing the issue. But I still don’t think that’s a bad thing–some issues NEED to be forced, and I’m not as concerned about how they get forced. I think the perception of gays in athletics is an issue that should be a part of mainstream discourse.

  6. When reporters went on en masse to ask players about the issue after Amaechi’s book came out, they didn’t just ask “what do you think of Amaechi and his book?” They asked “how would you react to a gay teammate?” or “How would a gay teammate be treated in the locker room”” etc. Those are questions I’m glad they are asking–they trigger discussion and awareness.

    I just find something awkward in criticizing a media outlet for talking about an issue like this–though admittedly, it’s fair to be critical of their “synergy” and their seeming lack of openness of their own promotion. But to criticize a media outlet for “forcing the issue” on a socially progressive topic sounds a little too much like blaming the “liberal media” for distorting issues (though I know that’s not what you’re doing).

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