Skateboarding is an Olympic event?

Commentary

Where have you gone, Jesse Owens, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you…woo, woo, woo.

As the 2020 Tokyo Olympics begins its inevitable wind down in August 2021 (my goodness, spanning two years, this must be the longest Olympics in history) I have a confession. In all the years NBC, and ABC before it, has been covering the Olympics on TV, I’ve spent less time, actually almost no time, watching these troubled games. In fact, the only coverage I’ve seen is when I’ve stumbled on some replays on a news show.

It’s kind of bittersweet for me. As you know, I lived in Tokyo for almost five years in the 1990’s and was initially so excited about the Tokyo event that back in 2019, Sharon and I actually signed up to be chosen as foreign volunteers to assist the many English-speaking people from around the world attending the games. Alas, a bad lottery number and, eventually, Covid, put the kibash on that endeavor.

As it turns out, my lack of interest in these Olympics was exacerbated by one of those replay segments that aired right at the start of the Olympics. It was replay of the “Street Skateboarding” competition. (If you can believe it, there’s another Olympic version of this event, “Park Skateboarding.”)

Now, let me say from the start, I’m in awe of skateboarders. For someone who generally has to hold onto a chair when I’m putting on my trousers to maintain my balance, the athleticism, the courage, the daring of these athletes, and make no mistake, they are athletes, is stunning. But…it’s skateboarding. And in my mind, it’s a street game that shouldn’t be in the Olympics. But there it was in all it’s magnificence.

Of course, as you might imagine, this idea of making a street game into an Olympic event got me thinking. What about all the other street games that the IOC should be considering?

So, with that in mind, the following is the Around the Block abridged list of other street games that must be made eligible for future Summer Olympics:

Stickball – Like, apparently, skateboarding, stickball has two versions; the “Street” version and the “Wall” or “Fast Pitch” version. Since most Olympic cities have streets, manhole covers in the streets and cars parked on those streets, there would be no need to build expensive venues for the games as it is played in the street with cars and manhole covers serving as bases and the buildings on the street designated the foul lines. The “Fast Pitch” variation is even simpler as the field requires only a wall and an open space in front of it. And, the equipment costs are minimal: broomsticks, rubber “spaldeen” balls, and for the wall version, soft chalk to mark the strike zone on the wall

Johnny on the Pony – Johnny on the Pony pits two teams of six players against each other. The team on defense lines up against a wall with one member standing with his back against the wall like a pillow while the remaining five line up, bent over with arms interlocked (forming the “pony”). The offensive team’s members then jump on the “pony” one-by-one with the objective to pile on the “pony” to cause it to collapse. Teams alternate, with the offense receiving one point for a collapse and the defense receiving one point if it holds without collapsing. There are an number of advantages to this game: It can be played on the same “field” as Fast Pitch Stickball; there are no equipment costs; and fat participants, generally shunned by the Olympics, have an edge, especially on offense since if they jump last their excess weight is more likely to cause a collapse. For the Olympics, there will be Men’s Johnny on the Pony; Women’s, which would be renamed Jane on the Pony; and Mixed Competition to be called Jack & Jill on the Pony*.

Pitching Pennies – An age-old game in which players compete against one another pitching (or tossing) pennies against the wall. The player whose penny comes closest to the wall wins the round and moves on the next level. Again, costs are minimal as the play will be on same wall that is used for Fast Pitch Stickball and Johnny/Jane/Jack & Jill on the Pony. And we’re not talking big bucks here; we’re talking pennies. An added advantage: as the Olympics move from city to city, the pitched coin will change to honor the host country – Pitching Yen in Tokyo, Pitching Euro cents in Paris 2024 and back to Pitching Pennies in Los Angeles 2028

There are many, many more street games for consideration including, Nok Hockey, Stoop Ball, Potsy, Ringolevio (a team variant of Hide and Seek), Box Ball…and others. But in putting this list together I began to wonder, is it just too urban. Do we need to include some events that are played in more rural areas. So, with that in mind, I submit the following for consideration:

Caber toss – Popularized in Scotland, a game in which players toss a “caber” (a roughly trimmed log) so that it turns end over end, falling away from the tosser. Ideally it should fall directly away from the tosser in the “12 o’clock” position. (Yeah, it’s silly but don’t the Winter Olympics have another ridiculous Scottish game called Curling?)

And while we’re talking logs, what would be better than Logrolling. Bet you didn’t know that there’s already a United States Log Rolling Association (USLRA) all set to pitch the sport to the IOC.

Look folks. If we have to put up with skateboarding, why not some of these great, competitive games as well. I don’t know about you, but adding them to the Olympics is enough to get me back to the TV and begin humming.

Published by Ted Block

Ted Block is a veteran “Mad Man,” having spent 45+ years in the advertising industry. During his career, he was media director of several advertising agencies, including Benton & Bowles in New York and Foote, Cone and Belding in San Francisco; account management director on clients as varied as Clorox, Levi’s and the California Raisin Advisory Board (yes, Ted was responsible for the California Dancing Raisins campaign); and regional director for Asia based in Tokyo for Foote, Cone where he was also the founding president of FCB’s Japanese operations. Ted holds a Bachelor’s degree in communications from Queens College and, before starting in advertising, served on active duty as an officer on USS McCloy (DE-1038) in the U.S. Navy.

6 thoughts on “Skateboarding is an Olympic event?

  1. Growing up on the West Coast we didn’t have Johnny on the Pony. We also never played stickball, but at least I have heard of it,

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    1. You must of had “potsy” though. And I’m sure, given your heritage, you played Caber Toss at the SF Scots Club. Do you still have that Caber Toss outfit? LOL!

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  2. Bowling was in the Olympics in 1988.

    The UK should dominate in snooker and darts.

    Pickleball and shuffleboard should definitely be considered.

    And how about cornholing? ESPN covers that, so why not the Olympics?

    Competitive hot dog eating has seen a rise in popularity, so how about that?

    And, of course, canasta, bridge, gin rummy, hearts and Hold ’em (maybe a multiple team event, ala gymnastics, or a pentathlon).

    And if pitching pennies is considered, how about baseball card flipping? “Match or dismatch?”

    How about the summer biathlon – drive a pickup truck 20 miles and then shoot somone between the eyes?

    So many possibilities…

    Maybe the color war committee would be interested.

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  3. Another Literary Olympic “goldish” medal for Block Blog! Congrats Ted.

    Sent from my iPhone-thanks for the email.

    >

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  4. Great Blog!
    I personally can’t wait to watch “Breakdancing” which, believe it or not, has been added as a new Olympic Event for the 2024 Summer Games in Paris.

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    1. Ron, good idea, but this is how it’s going to be with dancing: Paris 2024: Can Can; then LA 2028: Breakdancing. I’m not sure who’s next, but if it’s going to be in Istanbul: Whirling Dervishes. Need to do something to pay homage to the host city.

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