Friday, February 19, 2010

May the Best Sled Win?

Recently at the Olympics there were some complaints about the German luge team. It had nothing to do with spandex or their positioning in the doubles event. It had to do with their sled.

Apparently those wily Germans had used magnets to somehow create a smoother ride for their sled than their competitors. I don't know how this works, but you know that German engineering. This brings up a beef I've had for years with sports.

I don't like it when the equipment plays a determining role in who wins. I've long thought that all competitions that involve equipment should require the use of a stock model. Tiger Woods and the rest of the gang should show up and be given a bag of clubs and balls. Slo-pitch teams should share a set of bats for each game. Those lugers should all use the same sled. Micheal Phelps should be handed a speedo off the rack.

Having said that, I've always had a soft spot for someone who has the creativity to find a loophole (in sports but not taxes). A case in point is Dodger infielder Maury Wills who used to drop pop-ups on purpose and turn them into double plays. This caused baseball to invent the "Infield Fly" rule, which is understood by less than half the players in any given game. And how about those Edmonton Oilers during the Gretzky years, who used to gladly take off-setting penalties and play four on four so their speed would have more of an advantage in all the open space.

My favourite personal experience with loopholes comes from almost 40 years ago. Of course it goes against what I said about equipment above, but it still is a good story. Back when I was a kid in the 70's, we used to stay at one of the many resorts in Parksville, B.C. each summer and were joined there by many of the same families each year. One year the men heard about an innertube race to be run on a local river and they decided to enter some teams. I guess the rules were written rather loosely and my father and his partner were able to win using two tubes lashed together so they could paddle canoe style (front and back rather than side by side on one tube).

The next year the rules were tightened up to limit competitors to one tube. The men at our resort were not to be deterred and wanted to give their team a chance to defend their title. One of the gang was a fiberglass expert and so they fiberglassed the bottom of an innertube. Dad and his partner skimmed along the surface while the competition had to paddle half submerged. I remember distinctly how they covered the first 50 metres of the course while the rest of the field had moved about ten. The race was over before it started. Good thing the German lugers aren't that smart.


  1. Cheaters do win!... I guess that's the message the Showers SR brothers have been feeding us all these years!!! The fibreglassed tube stories have become some sort of urban legend around the mainland Showers abode. I've heard that a certain uncle of yours would purposely slow down his tube through the narrow areas to give the Beach Acres professionals (aka your dad) a chance to get even further ahead. They'd plot who was going to win the race before it had even started!!! I think that was the last year the race was run!

  2. While I can't deny that there were secret plans and clever tricks to go along with the superior tubing equipment, I do believe the race continued for a few more years. They just made the rules so much tighter that our heroes realized they'd have no chance, so they retired as champions.

  3. Quit while you're ahead! They taught us well eh???