Alternative medal counts

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One of the big (and IMHO bogus, but more on this in a second) stories in the Beijing olympics was the medal count competition between the US and China. As you may have heard, both sides claimed nominal victories, with the US winning the total medal count and the Chinese winning the most golds. The BBC shows a number of other ways of counting (þ Alex Gregory on Crooked Timber).

I'm just nationalistic enough to have some mild preference for American athletes—if they're reasonably competitive I'll root for them, but I'm not going to sit around cheering for the guy who's 1/2 a lap back (and i admit this isn't rational, but put it down to community spirit)—but I find it pretty hard to get worked up about total medal counts because they're so meaningless. For obvious reasons, it's an edge to have a large population, as well as to spend a lot of money subsidizing sports. China apparenlt spends lavishly on their athletes, and surely if the US spent more, its medal counts would go up as well. It's not clear to me why that would cause me to have more or less national pride than I do today. Maybe we could invent some contest that measured inherent national athletic ability (though, again, unclear why that should be more important to me than, say, mean national height), but the Olympics isn't it.


See, it's just because you're a communist that you don't love America! Don't worry too much about the lack of nationalism. It's tough when our government lies, spies on you and engages in [practically] pointless wars.

I'll be less cynical when we close down all of those McDonald's restaurants and our chief export consists of engaging in excessive unprovoked peace, hugs and food donations. And we all get rocket packs. Come on future, I'm still waiting!

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