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On Water Polo and Drowning


The victorious U.S. water polo players celebrate while drowning. (Mark Humphrey - AP)


Lets' talk about drowning. My three experiences with water polo in these Olympics went like this: Croatian mustaches, a highlight package we watched yesterday on state TV, featuring male shorts being pulled off under water, and this photo of a female chest revealed.

It seemed a promising sport. And yet the most interesting things that happened to me at today's U.S. women's semifinal against Australia were watching USA Today's Beau Dure as he Twitters his way through eight venues today, and staring at more Chinese men-on-the-streets with their shirts tucked up around their arm-pits and their bellies flabbing in the wind. And now I'm supposed to write something? Talk about drowning.

Anyhow, the U.S. women got a last-minute goal from Brenda Villa to win 9-8, and then all the bench players (who sit not on benches but on plastic chairs) jumped into the water to celebrate wildly. But the thing about being in the water to celebrate wildly is you can't just joyfully jump into everyone's arms and release, because then you'll sink to the bottom of the water and die.

"We've never lost a player," said Kami Craig of the post-game celebrations, which is good.

If I were the one who'd been marooned in some pool with Aussies grabbing at my flesh for more than an hour, and I wanted to engage in ecstatic hugging, I'd get myself onto dry land as soon as permitted by the officials--who, it's worth noting, are smart enough never to enter the water themselves. But the U.S. women seemed content with their celebratory choices.

"We just drown each other," Patty Cardenas said.

"We do drown a little bit; you just have to hold your breath," Jaime Hipp said.


The Dutch kiss in the water. (Vincent Thian - AP)

"Sometimes it hurts; everyone's treading water and kind of drowning each other at the the end, but at that point we really don't care," Jessica Steffens said.

"Sometimes you run into each other, you kick each other, but it doesn't matter at that point," Betsey Armstrong said. "You're so excited that you won, you don't notice if it's uncomfortable."

Well, sure, I said, but still. Wouldn't things just be easier if the wet ones jumped out instead of the dry ones jumping back in?

"We're in the water all the time, we've got a pretty natural feel for it," Armstrong said.

"We spend a lot of time in the pool, we're pretty much water people," Steffens agreed.

By Dan Steinberg  |  August 19, 2008; 10:59 AM ET
Categories:  Olympics  
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Comments

Well, sure, I said, but still. Wouldn't things just be easier if the wet ones jumped out instead of the dry ones jumping back in?

"We're in the water all the time, we've got a pretty natural feel for it," Armstrong said.

/That all makes sense. Swimmers are a different breed of human. Which can explain why Michael Phelps can win 8 gold medals and a New York Times Mag piece can describe him as simultaneously clumsy on dry land

Posted by: Illegal Immigrant | August 19, 2008 11:22 AM | Report abuse

man..really rough time for stories huh?

Posted by: debo | August 19, 2008 11:34 AM | Report abuse

I'm just glad to see water polo getting some of it's due. On this coast, it's freakin' hard to find.. I've been trying to follow #9, Elsie Windes, as I played with her in high school, but aside from what USA Water Polo posts, there's very little.

Also, there's just as much male speedo-lossage as female boob-flashage that goes on, but the guys are always underwater. It's especially violent in a co-ed game.

Have we converted you to a follower yet?

Posted by: Teka | August 19, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

The sport you're describing isn't water polo. It's water handball.

http://shlake.com/2008/08/12/the-sport-of-king-neptune/

Posted by: Giannicolus Jones | August 19, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

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