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Olympic Poseur: Water Polo

Not a foul.  (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)
Not a foul. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)
Getty Images

During these Olympics, Poseur will spend each day watching and reviewing one sport. He also promises to stop referring to himself in the third person.

Today's Sport: Water Polo

Most sports in the Olympics, I feel as if I could perform on a recreational level. I'm not saying I could run like Bolt or swim like Phelps, but I could certainly jump in a pool and do a few laps. I might absolutely stink at judo, but I feel that I could do it against someone else who equally stinks. Heck, while I couldn't do the uneven bars or anything, I feel I could at least do a tumbling run and I used to do extremely simply vaults in high school gym class.

But water polo? Not a chance in hell. If there's a class at the Y or a rec league through the county, there is no way on earth I could play a full game of water polo. It's just the most exhausting, violent sport to watch. Even without the whole "my opponent is trying to drown me" thing, I don't think I could tread water that long between sprinting for the ball. And how the heck do they lift themselves out of the pool to take a shot? I'm not the world's best swimmer, so water polo looks like living out some kind of sports hell.

Which is to say, I'm absolutely fascinated by the sport. Outside of the fact that the ref seems to blow the whistle every ten seconds, it's a fantastic sport. And really, what's up with that? I've watched about 20 or 30 hours of water polo in these Olympics and I still have no idea what's a foul. This is a sport where it seems drowning is encouraged.

Water polo's most famous match was in 1956, and it has been dubbed the "Blood in the Water" game. If you don't think I absolutely adore that, you are not a regular reader of this blog. Hatred is one of those foundations upon which great sporting events are built, and the USSR and Hungary hated one another. Throw in the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, the brutal oppression of said revolution by Soviet tanks, and you have a toxic mix of politics and sport.

Another great thing about water polo is that Hungary is great at it. One of the most wonderful things about the Olympics I hope I've been able to impart in this series is that these sports are only minor to us, as Americans. The Olympics are so huge that it gives many nations a chance to shine, and this is Hungary's chance. You bet your ass I was rooting for them.

The Favorites: USA

After that lead in, I now have to admit I would be watching the women's water polo medal matches, and Hungary has never even medaled in the women's division. The US has never won the gold in women's water polo, but we are the only nation to have medaled in every women's water polo competition, which only dates back to 2000. The US is a dominant sporting power, but one of the reasons we've been able to maintain our supremacy is that our women kick serious ass. The US delegation is majority women for the first time, which is fitting. Our sustained excellence is due to the fact our women are great at sports. That's what you get as a result of not treating half of your population like second class citizens. Just saying. We've lost some of the geopolitics of the Olympics post-Cold War, but the success of American women is a subtle blow for liberal democracies and equal rights. Our women are great because we treat them like people. Novel concept.

The Gold Medal: USA

Snooze. This has been a great, tight tournament full of tense games coming down to the wire, so for a gold medal match we get a complete blowout of Spain. The US rocketed out to an early lead and never looked back.

The drama was in the bronze medal match between Hungary and Australia. The Aussies held a lead throughout, sometimes as big as four goals, but Hungary kept clawing back and had a chance to tie the game on their final possession. The Aussie goalie made a huge save and then did something kind of dumb. She swam out with the ball instead of just chucking it down the pool, and she was met by two frantic Hungarian women. One assaulted her, and the other took the ball and backhanded it towards the goal, scoring right as time expired. After such a thrilling finish in regulation, Hungary built on this momentum by going scoreless in the extra period and losing by two. Another year without a medal for the women.

Track Update

The US took one-two in the decathlon, which was pretty great. Even better was that they invoked Jim Thorpe in their obligatory post-race interview, which scores serious points with me. There's something inherent great about being able to say that you're just continuing a legacy started by Jim Thorpe.

David Rushida of Kenya would have had the performance of the night in the 800m. As a heavy favorite, he took the pressure and set a blistering pace, setting a world record by running from the lead the entire race. He ran so fast that the entire field set personal records just trying to keep pace. The last place finisher came in with a time that would have won the gold medal in Beijing. They were hauling ass.

But that's not the story and we all know it.

Bolt. Usain friggin' Bolt. I don't know what to say, so I won't say anything other than... man, that guy is great. Usain Bolt. Wow.

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