I’ve been watching the Olympics,
Not to see who wins or loses
But to document the progress
Of those stupid cupping bruises
Now, there’s some that call it nonsense,
And it leaves their mouths agape;
Some percentage of these skeptics
Swear by brightly colored tape.
Or the tape is just placebo
Next to cupping, on the list
What you need’s a copper bracelet,
With a magnet, on your wrist.
Funny thing—these all work better
If they’re grossly over-priced!
So I’ll save myself some money
And I’ll put my faith in Christ
It’s the meal I have for supper
It’s my silly pre-game dance
It’s the way I tuck my shirt in…
What it cannot be… is chance.
When the gathered competition
Is the very, very best
I’ll use anything that helps me
Get a leg up on the rest
But… that’s just the thing—It cannot,
Must not, give the upper hand—
If it gave unfair advantage
It would certainly be banned!
All that skill was earned the hard way
Years of practice, real hard work,
And it doesn’t need upstaging
By some superstitious quirk
So I’m watching the Olympics
Not for cupping, tape, or God,
But to celebrate the athletes
And the work they do. How odd.
I really liked an article at Motherboard on the various Olympic placebos. This year it’s cupping (please see Orac on this–only look at the second photo if you are not completely squicked out by horrible injuries caused by cupping); 4 years ago it was brightly colored tape, and before that it was magnets. And there is a substantial literature on the effects of superstitions, pre-performance rituals, and all that fun stuff; bottom line is… well, did you ever watch Dumbo? The magic feather? That’s what cupping is. And just like Dumbo could do it all along… so could Michael Phelps (Hey, he won most of his medals before he started sporting circular bruises).
Anyway, the best comment on all of this had nothing to do with the various placebos. I don’t remember who suggested it (I’ve searched my history–if you know, please let me know so I can credit!), but what the Olympics needs is for every event to include one participant like… well, like me. A normal schlub. So that we can see just how superhuman these athletes really are. They are competing against the best of the best of the best of the best, so the people who come in last place are merely those people who would only beat us normal folk by minutes, rather than hours. (As I write this, the men’s 200 Butterfly swim semifinal just concluded. If I were included in the participants, it would not yet be concluded, and would likely not be concluded until sometime mid next week.)
So yeah, the real message of the cupping bruises is not “oh, look how superstitious these athletes are!”, but “Damn, these people are amazing”. The medalists didn’t win because of cupping, or tape, or magnets, or Jesus. They won because of years (decades) of hard work, dedication, practice, and maybe a bit of chance.