Sunday, March 02, 2008

Results from the 1904 Olympic Lacrosse Finals

Wikipedia and I have a strange relationship. It's very good at convincing me that I care about things that I have had absolutely no interest in prior to finding them on Wikipedia. It preys on the part of my brain that wants to look up cocnepts when I'm not intimately familiar with them, and so is the same reason it takes me forever to read things with extensive footnotes. I'm going to blame it on studying German and having to look up words I didn't know constantly.

Occasionally, though, I'll find something that I don't care about and would never have an interest in but that nonetheless pulls me along for a ride. While waiting for a heating block to get to the right temperature the other day, I decided to read a little bit. Somehow, this led to Dolph Lundgren, who I'd read about a little while ago and who I was surprised to see that, in addition to being Ivan Drago and He-Man, also held a master's in chemical engineering, had been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to work at MIT, speaks five languages and led the 1996 U.S. Olympic modern pentathalon team.

I had no idea what the modern pentathalon was (it's épée fencing, pistol shooting, freestyle swimming, show jumping and a cross-country run) and was led from there to looking at lists of sports that are no longer played in the Summer Olympics (which I didn't pay attention to in 2004) to what the hell was going on when they'd restarted the Olympic games in the late 19th/early 20th century.

Therein lie the oddities.

I'd known that croquet was at one point an Olympic sport, but wasn't aware that an American variation that has some minor differences and is named Roque because that's what you get if you cut off the first and last letters existed, much less was played in 1904 at the Olympics in St. Louis, and which the Americans took all of the medals (and may have been the only ones competing, given that they'd invented the variant). Or that jeu de paume was a sport. I didn't know that you could, if you're the host country, be the only nation to field a team.

I wasn't aware that driving a motorboat was something you got a medal for at one point, and if I had to guess, I don't think I'd have picked "1908" as the year that happened. Though if you're going to make an argument for which sports get a spot at the olympics, I think anything that has this symbol should get bonus points.

And I don't know why, but it made me smile to see the results of the inclusion of baseball in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, with a Swedish club playing a single game against a collection of track-and-field Olympians from the United States, who won the six-inning game 13-3 despite not batting in the top of the sixth and allowing Sweden to have six outs in the bottom of the inning. Frankly, I'm surprised that the Pirates haven't proposed these rule changes.

So yes. This is why I shouldn't be allowed to use Wikipedia. Because I end up reading all I can about the middle distance runner who played shortstop for the U.S. team in 1912.

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