A Brief Olympic Commentary

Everybody is big on the Olympics lately. I myself have watched some of the events because the Olympics can be a little inescapable, especially when my mother is so excited about them. I have enjoyed watching Gymnastics events, Diving, Volleyball and Football. I loved watching the US Women’s soccer team fight it out in the trenches. I loved watching Simone Biles winning along with Aly Raisman and just enjoying each other’s victory. I even loved the Williams sisters getting smoked in the first round because it meant a passing of the torch. I also loved Fu Yuanhui’s surprise at having won a medal and not knowing because of less than stellar eyesight. There have been a lot of great moments so far.

To a certain extent, I have also enjoyed watching Swimming. I especially enjoyed Simone Manuel’s genuine reaction to winning her gold medal and her comments afterward. However, there is a lot of stuff that has surrounded the sport of swimming that has annoyed me. Most of them surround one name because, unfortunately, when you discuss Olympic swimming you must eventually talk about Michael Phelps. While many might assume that because I am a proud Baltimorean that I would support Phelps. Not automatically true. As we learned with Brock Turner, being good at swimming does not guarantee that you are a good person. While I don’t actively hate him, I have come to resent several stories that have surrounded him.

First up in the Phelps round up is the stupid Chad Le Clos story. I did not see the first airing of the incident that launched a million memes. However, it was interpreted that Le Clos was messing with Phelps and Phelps was glaring at him in return. A few minutes of research told a different story. The two guys have had an off and on friendship and constant rivalry since Phelps’ return to the sport following his “dark period”. Le Clos has lashed out at Phelps a little but only in the way most athletes trash talk their opponents. Why Le Clos was jiggling in front of Phelps, we may never truly know. It looked like he was trying to be funny and Phelps was trying to concentrate and not get distracted. What we do know is that Phelps has said that after the Olympics he is visiting Le Clos in South Africa for shark cage swimming. This was such a non-story that it was kind of ridiculous.

<img src=”https://queerty-prodweb.s3.amazonaws.com/content/docs/2016/08/09033344/michael-phelps-670×377.jpg&#8221; alt=”Maybe he was just trying not to laugh?”>

However, that annoyance pales in comparison to the stupidity that I really want to discuss. Let us talk of cupping. Cupping is an ancient Chinese “therapy” that leaves Phelps and other gullible athletes looking like they lost a wrestling match with a squid. It is the act of lighting fires in cups pressed to a person’s skin. The fire causes a vacuum to be formed in the cup and skin to be sucked up into the cup. This causes the characteristic circular bruising and, on some people, also causes the skin to be burnt. The Chinese said that cupping promotes the flow of chi. Now, Chi is supposed to be energy flowing through the body but that energy has never been observed by science. When cupping took off in the Western world, they dropped the word chi and replaced it with blood. However, cupping does not promote blood flow. By bruising you, it actually disrupts blood flow by damaging blood vessels.

<img src=”http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/files/2016/08/MichaelPhelpscupping.jpg&#8221; alt=”Losing a fight to a squid would be more acceptable.”>

Somebody believing in pseudoscience is something that is regrettable and should be cured by proper scientific education. However, people look up to these athletes. They assume that since these people are amazing physical specimens with athletic skill, that they know stuff about the human body. This is not necessarily true. This problem is compounded by the media who tries for a “balanced” look at things. Instead of looking for the truth, they present both sides of the debate equally which gives undue credibility to the pseudoscience. The problem here is shortcuts. Everybody loves finding shortcuts and there is certain manic pride in finding one and sharing it with others. This also applies when you think you have found a shortcut that isn’t one. These people think that because this “therapy” has existed for thousands of years, that it is a shortcut to enhancing their bodies. Instead, they are damaging their body and they just look foolish.

So, while you’re watching the Olympics this year, remember to think for yourself. Remember to do your research before you spread myths and rumors. Enjoy the awesome moments because those are way more fun than the manufactured ones. Also, choose your heroes wisely because some of them might be really gullible.

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