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Fuzzy math or not, Nastia Liukin got ripped off

Let’s hope Olympic gymnastics officials never open a restaurant.

If this Olympics gymnastics competition is any indication, patrons of the restaurant would have to endure delays in receiving their food only to find out that, when the food finally is delivered, restaurant personnel got the order wrong. And there would be no way to send the food back to the kitchen to get they wanted.

What figure skating is to the Winters Olympics, gymnastics is to the Summer Games — big ratings, big controversy.

Unlike the “faster, higher, stronger” sports on the Olympics schedule, gymnastics is about being better. More precisely, about determining who was better. Thus, it’s subjective.

Take a 100-meter race, for example. A time of 9.69 seconds is going to be 9.69 seconds all around the world. The only thing open for debate is how much lower the time could have been had the Jamaican runner not spent the final 15 meters thumping his chest, waving to competitors, signing autographs and doing the Hokey Pokey.

Now, take for example — just picking a competition at random, of course — the uneven bars. What is a 9.0-worthy routine in Brazil may somehow be considered a 9.3 routine in Australia. Unless the American young woman is competing instead of the Chinese kid, of course. Then it’s a 9.0 in both places.

As a result of that subjective system, a final of score of 16.725 is worth a gold medal in China while the same score is worth a silver medal in the United States.

Honest admission: Unlike the television folks who tell you this is a travesty regardless of the countries involved, I’m telling you right now that if this controversy involved gymnasts from Uzbekistan and either Trinidad or Tobago, this column would instead be discussing something like the Dallas Cowboys special teams or Texas Rangers pitching. Or pretty much anything other than select soccer, because I’m still cleaning out my “In” box from that one.

All I know is that Nastia Liukin got ripped off and no matter how much gas prices plummet, I will not be taking my family to Australia for vacation before school starts.

Ms. Australian Judge may not care what Bela and Martha Karolyi have to say — and they do come across as the type of picky and outspoken couple who could make life miserable for anyone in a service industry, don’t they? — but I’m banking on the hope that she will listen to Australia’s Minister for Tourism.

At least at these Olympics, there certainly is drama in gymnastics, mainly because they’re taking longer to deliver the what-Olympics-were-they-watching scores. I guess they figure it makes for more drama when they delay the proceedings.

Actually, all that does is give viewers who watch gymnastics every four years more time to realize that it’s taking longer than past Olympics to get the scores wrong.

In fact, Martha Karolyi claimed Olympic gymnastic officials pulled a page from NFL coaches’ playbooks and iced U.S. captain Alicia Sacramone with one of those delays before her ill-fated balance beam routine during the team competition that — see the trend here? — ended with China winning gold and the United States taking silver.

As we transition into the objective part of this column, I do admit that we Americans tend to want to have our gold medal and wear it, too.

If a tie had been declared and both gymnasts awarded gold medals, we would have complained that the Chinese gymnast also was given a gold medal.

Remember, we are the nation that will complain about a tie in Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, then complain when All-Star Game managers risk injuring pitchers to avoid another tie game.

We vote a President in, complain about him and then vote him in again. (Please note that is a bi-partisan joke. We’ve had back-to-back Democratic and Republican two-termers. Cancel that e-mail unless you’re a Libertarian or Green Party member.)

So until Olympic gymnastics has a better system in place — and by “better,” we mean one in which Americans win all the gold medals — we are serving notice that when it comes to Olympic gymnastic results, we will continue to have, um, reservations.

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