08/18/2004: Thought for the Day:
The Olympics would obviously be better if every athlete carried a sword. If competitors had sharpened blades, equestrian would at least be watchable and gymnastics would require a lot more strategy. The sabre, of course, is perfect already. The other fencing disciplines, the epee and foil, are fun but ultimately a little mincing. Sabre, the only subset of the sport where you can slash rather than just thrust limply, is pure swashbuckling, the Errol Flynn of sports.
Swordplay makes for the fastest action in the Olympiad. Most points come down to whether or not the slasher brings his instrument down before his opponent sneaks in a counterstrike. True to the sabre's macho nature, ties go to the aggressor. When there is no clear-cut attacker, the umpire has to parse touches separated by split seconds and hidden by splaying arms. The sport's capriciousness is a great part of its appeal. The art of acting victorious can be just as important as good hand-eye coordination. After nearly every point, both fencers go through a hilarious pas de deux—mad celebration, followed by plaintive looks toward the umpire. When they stop screaming bloody murder, one fencer goes trotting happily back to his end of the piste while the other stares incomprehensibly into space, astonished that a blind man would be assigned to referee in the Olympics.
--Robert Weintraub [slate.msn.com]
Len on 08.18.04 @ 06:33 AM CST