Thursday, July 22, 2010

Special Olympics

I was reading the rules on eligibility to participate in the Special Olympics (also called the Paralympics). In order to be eligible, an athlete must fit one of six different disability categories. One of the categories is “intellectual disability”. The criteria for this category are an IQ less than 70 and limitations in two adaptive skill areas such as communication and social skills. This automatically qualifies half of Congress to compete in the Special Olympics. You don’t have to be crippled or blind; you just have to be a psychopathic idiot. OJ Simpson could win all the track and field events every year.

Actually it’s more complicated than that. Each athlete is classified according to the type and the severity of his/her disability, and this classification is used in order to “even out” the playing field. For example, in wheelchair basketball, each player is given a point rating from 1.0 (lowest) to 4.5 (highest) according to his/her level of physical function. A team may have no more than 14 functionality points on the court at one time. This got me thinking. Maybe they could even the playing field in the regular Olympics the same way:

“Ladies and gentlemen, this light heavyweight boxing match is between Andre Ward, the 2010 WBA champion with a classification rating of 4.5; and Ben Schwalb, a middle-aged Jew with sciatica and a classification rating of 1.3. During this match, Mr. Ward will have his right hand tied behind his back and will have to hop around on one foot. Also he’ll have to continuously hum the theme from Jeopardy. Mr. Schwalb will be allowed full use of all his limbs and a three iron.”