There’s something about silver medals at the Olympics that inherently bothers me. They’re fine for races (swimming, track, cycling, etc.), things that are judged and given scores (gymnastics, diving), and any number of other events where there is a large field of contestants simultaneously competing against each other. If a bunch of people throw the javelin and yours is the second farthest, that’s great; you can go ahead and get excited about your silver medal. But when it comes down to a final game/match and there’s two people or teams competing head to head against each other for the gold, that’s when it gets a little dicey. I really don’t like how in those cases the loser “wins” the silver.
Last week I watched the women’s gold medal soccer game in which the U.S. narrowly defeated Japan. When the game ended the Japanese were crushed; heartbroken by their loss. Then a short while later they had to put smiles on their faces and “celebrate” their silver at the medal ceremony. Nobody wants to be happy about something you’ve already achieved when a greater prize has just been snatched away. It’s just not the nature of competitive sports. Imagine if after the Superbowl last year the Patriots had to go out on the field and accept a 2nd place trophy? It seems unthinkable (I couldn’t even write about it until a week later), but that’s how the Olympics work.
So here’s my suggestion: Play the gold medal game, but don’t give the loser the silver. Have them play again against the winner of what was previously considered the bronze medal game, for the right to truly “win” the silver. Then have those two losers play another game in order to determine the bronze. That way everybody who gets a medal earns it with a victory and goes out on a high note.
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