Olympics Say Yes to Tiger (and Rugby Too)

Baseball won't be making a return to the Olympics

By Josh Alper
|  Thursday, Aug 13, 2009  |  Updated 11:00 AM CDT
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Counting Olympic Gold

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What do you get for the Tiger that has everything? A gold medal!

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Dozens of companies could have already told you this, but Tiger Woods is an effective pitchman for your product or message. Golf's greatest player said that he'd be down for 18 holes under the five ringed flag and, lo and behold, the International Olympic Committee's executive board recommended that the sport be added to the roster come 2016.

It's subject to the vote of the entire IOC now, but that would seem to be a formality. In addition to Tiger, you've got Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia, Lorena Ochoa and all the other worldwide stars of golf to add luster to the Games. The timing of the Summer Olympics would make the 72-hole tournament a de facto fifth major, which adds even more allure, and the combination of a well-heeled fanbase and numerous sponsorship opportunities would seem to make this a matter of crossing t's and dotting i's for the October vote.

Rugby also got the nod from the executive board, and would be played in its seven, rather than 15, man format. It's not popular in the United States, but has wide popularity around the world working in its favor. That global appeal will likely help as they try for admission from the full panel, and the excitement of the sport likely earned it a nod over squash, BMX biking and other hopeful sports.

Baseball was also among the hopefuls, but it's failure to gain readmission isn't surprising when you look at the cases for golf and rugby. It will be easy for the PGA and LPGA to rejigger their schedules to clear a weekend for the sport's brightest stars, something that baseball wouldn't be able to promise the IOC. While baseball's reach has grown in recent years, it isn't at the level of either sport and it probably doesn't hurt rugby's case that it doesn't have the American pedigree of baseball and, especially, women's softball.

That's a shot at figuring out their rationale which, frankly, seems to work against the idea behind the Olympics in the first place. The lack of the world's best hasn't knocked boxing out of the Olympics, nor have sports that have been dominated by one or two countries much more than baseball has been dominated by the United States. The Olympics should have a place for all the sports under the sun, or the reason for their existence becomes even more nakedly about financial gain than some athletic ideal.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.

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