When the announcement came out of the International Olympic Committee meetings in Singapore that softball and baseball dropped were being eliminated from the Olympic program in 2012, many including myself, were stunned.
I could understand why baseball was eliminated. The fact that Olympic teams do not include the best players in the world was one of the major factors in that decision.
Major League Baseball has no vested interest in the Olympics. Why should they? Participating in the Olympics would not give the teams, players, and owners any benefits that would be tangible. Could you see the owners shutting down the season for a few weeks so some of their best could participate? I think not!
I think Major League Baseball’s transparent drug policy might also have had something to do with the decision.
Participation in the Olympic Games would require all professional players submitting to year round, mandatory and random drug tests. The Players Union would never go for that.
My belief is “so what.” The Olympic didn’t need major league players. Participate with those that wanted to follow the IOC rules and to play for the love of the game. But none of these statements mean anything now. Baseball is gone from the Olympics.
However, none of this relates to softball, but some will try to tell you it does.
In the nine years since softball was included in the Olympic Games, I have never heard of a softball player testing positive for performance drugs.
Softball is participated in over one hundred countries around the world. Girls are gravitating to the sport in record numbers. The sport is gaining in leaps and bounds at the local, national, and international level. In the past three Olympics, all games were sold out to record setting crowds.
Prior to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, I was in Columbus, Georgia for the 1995 Superball Classic. It was the first international softball tournament I had ever covered as a journalist.
Not knowing what to expect, I arrived in Columbus, notepad and camera in hand, with the naiveté of a novice softball reporter. It didn’t take me long to realize that softball had gone big time, and this was not the softball that I knew.
I remembered softball as the old slow-pitch variety of my youth. The games played in Columbus were the softball of the future. The girls were athletes, with the skills reviling many professional baseball players. However, that is where the resemblance ended.
It is very possible that members of the IOC thought of softball and baseball as the same sport. It is also possible that many of those same members had no idea what softball was.
If they did lump the problems of Major League Baseball in with softball, there could be no greater crime.
The IOC has stated on numerous times their desire to increase the participation of females in the Games. So why did they eliminate one of the most popular team sports in the Games?
If any of the IOC members had ever picked up at bat, stepped up to the plate and faced the likes of Jennie Finch, Christa Williams, Lisa Fernandez, or even a Cat Osterman, they would know the love, intensity, and competitiveness that many feel for the sport.
They would have understood that softball gives many young girls and women the chance to achieve their goals, and how their success on the diamond would carry over to their everyday and future lives.
The IOC really missed the boat on this decision. I wonder how many of those members would own up to their true votes. The IOC did not release the voting tallies or the outcome of the votes. I wonder why?
If they truly cared about Olympic ideals, increasing female participation in the Games, or even had a sense of fair play, they would reinstate softball immediately.
Only time will tell if their decision was correct. I am sure with the passage of time, history will view their decision with the same disgust and disdain that it deserves.