The IOC has voted to cut softball and baseball from the 2012 Olympics. I heard the news this morning when I was barely awake and now that I am fully cognizant and have read the news, I am still in shock.
This is a huge, huge blow for softball. A professional softball league is only just getting on its feet and I worry that this news may irreparably harm its chances of succeeding. The WUSA couldn't even survive in this country and the US always is a contender in the Olympics.
The reasons given for the cutting of softball are ridiculous though. It was implied that USA softball is just too dominant having won all three of the gold medals since its Olympic debut in 1996. Granted the games could be more interesting if there was greater competition but the strength of the US team has only made other teams more motivated. (Look at what happened to women's tennis when Venus and Serena were dominating--everyone else raised their level of training and play.) But change, especially in women's sports, is slow given the lack of resources organizations provide. And besides--doesn't everyone love a good streak? I don't see anyone suggesting that Lance Armstrong be banned from the Tour de France because he has won it too many times.
The argument that there is not enough international interest may be true. Not having scoped out the softball scene in other countries I can't say for sure. But I do know that some other countries, like Italy and Greece welcome American players with Italian/Greek heritage to their national teams. For example Iowa pitcher Lisa Birocci has considered going to Italy to play for them. This seems like a good way to spread internationally the wealth of talent we see in the college game in the States.
One of the most absurd reasons given for the cutting of softball was its connection to baseball, allegedly cut because of the steroid problem in the US (and the lack of professional players--hello? what has happened to the original spirit of the games which were played with amateurs!!). Anyway softball bigwig Dan Porter said: "We tried to keep our distance. But I think there's still too many people think we're part of baseball. We're absolutely not. We're a separate sport." While I believe that to be true, I would ask Dan Porter to listen to some of the commentary that occurs during softball games. Commentators continually compare softball players to various baseball players in terms of style and ability. When favorite athlete is flashed alongside a player's stats, it is often a baseball player. I think softball needs to reevaluate, but I still maintain that the steroid connection is far-fetched.
Methinks there is something that IOC is not telling us about their decisions. But since we will likely never know the real story I guess we'll just have to campaign hard (which includes giving your support to the fledgling Fastpitch League) to have it reinstated in 2016.