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Bikinis + Volleyball = Ratings

There is no doubt that a sport which has received a lot of exposure during the Summer Olympics is Beach Volleyball which comes to a head today when a pair of American teams battle for the Women’s gold medal.

Chen Xue of China is blocked by Kerri Walsh Jennings of the United States during the Women's Beach Volleyball Semi Final match
Chen Xue of China is blocked by Kerri Walsh Jennings of the United States during the Women's Beach Volleyball Semi Final match (Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

NBC has devoted many hours of coverage to the sport, partly because the U.S. is good on the sand and I would imagine partly because women in bikinis is good for ratings. I’ve heard people question why the women wear scant bikinis…is it for comfort or to attract eyeballs? I don’t know the answer but honestly most of the women would not get a lot of second looks on Jersey Shore beaches.

While there is little doubt that the bathing suits have appeal to some the bigger picture is Americans like to watch Olympic sports in which American athletes shine.

With that said there will be many tuning in tonight to see Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings try and win their third straight gold medal in what will be their final match together.
Standing in their way will be the second fiddle U.S. duo of April Ross and Jennifer Kessey.

The match at Horse Guards Parade starts at 4pm our time but you’ll have to wait until tonight to see it on TV. By the way the American men turned in a disappointing performance on the sand with both teams knocked out before the semifinals. Their bathing suits don’t get much attention.

So for years I have waged on and off air battles with those who insist cheerleading is a sport. The timing of this story is somewhat ironic because there are surely some Olympic events which many don’t think are sports.

Victoria Voronina of Russia competes in the Trampoline
Victoria Voronina of Russia competes in the Trampoline (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Topping that list for me is trampoline. how is it that baseball and softball are no longer Olympic sports but something that kids do in their backyards is? I’ll leave that for another day.

However I feel vindicated in my cheerleading argument by a federal appeals court which ruled that colleges cannot count competitive cheerleading as a sport when trying to comply with gender-equity requirements. A federal appeals court in Hartford, Connecticut upheld an earlier court ruling against Quinnipiac University that competitive cheerleading does not meet the standards of a varsity sport under Title IX because it does not have the organization, post-season structure or standardized rules required.

I will stick by what I have always said: many cheerleaders are great athletes and have similar traits to gymnasts. But it’s not a sport but an activity.

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