The Manny Pacquiao versus Jeff Horn fight resulted in what most people are calling an unfair decision, largely driven by corruption. I did not see the match and even if I did, I wouldn’t be able to determine perfectly if the bout was rigged or not. That’s part of the problem with sports that rely almost solely on the opinion of judges.
Even as a kid watching Olga Korbut perform gymnastics at the Olympics, I was baffled as to how the judges decided her performance was better than any other gymnast. Diving, figure skating, boxing, and every other sport that doesn’t have a quantitative winner leave me with a sour taste in my mouth.
Now, I know those sports rely on numeric ratings of performance to determine a winner but the numbers could easily be letters or simply a 10-star rating system. I’m also aware that some of these judgmental scoring based systems attempt to quantify performance. But these largely don’t work. The bottom line is that no one scores goals, no one runs faster, no one jumps further. These are the ways we determine who wins events.
What often happens is a performer attempts a more difficult maneuver and fails and thus gets fewer accolades than one who completes a simpler routine flawlessly. I’m not saying that is wrong, perhaps it is better to perform perfectly easy things than imperfectly difficult things. But who is making that decision and why? Judges are making those decisions and they are clearly doing them imperfectly.
I’m also willing to admit that officials make mistakes in games and sometimes even in a quantifiable situation, the outcome is unjust. This fact doesn’t diminish the idea that all judgment based sports are essentially begging for corruption. It happens all the time and not just in championship matches, I’d suggest that unfair judging occurs more frequently at lower levels where there is less supervision.
It happens in all sorts of circumstances, perhaps the third-place figure skater at an event is less marketable than the fourth-place finisher. A quick collusion of judges, who largely have an interest in the outcome, can change the final order.
I don’t deny that boxers, figure skaters, gymnasts, rhythmic dancers, synchronized swimmers, and a plethora of other performers are supremely talented. I don’t pretend their feats are unremarkable. But so too are the achievements of performers upon a stage or in circus ring.
It bothers my sensibilities in so many ways I can’t begin to express it. I view sport as one of the purest and most wonderful forms of human endeavor in existence. We take the field against a competitor and do our best. Sometimes we win, more often we lose. But shouldn’t that final outcome be determined in an unimpeachable way?
In conclusion, I’m certainly not telling you to stop watching boxing or any other judgment sport. If you enjoy watching, watch away. All I can tell you is that I finally gave up on things like that, I just get frustrated. Now, when does that Cardinals game start tonight?
By Tom Liberman
Tom Liberman is a regular fellow from St. Louis, Mo., who enjoys spending time with his wonderful family and great friends. He writes Sword and Sorcery fantasy novels in his spare time.