So it turns out that the total, lay waste to the field domination of the United States isn't one of the reasons to boot softball out of the Olympics. Japan stunned the Americans in the gold medal game Thursday, 3-1. It's the first time Team USA has failed to win the gold medal since softball was introduced in 1996.
This is the second straight Olympics at which a U.S. women's team has been the victim of the greatest upset in the history of a sport. In 2006, Sweden shocked the United States in an ice hockey semifinal, the first time the U.S. or Canada had ever lost an international game except to each other.
Just as that game was a sort of women's Miracle on Ice, Thursday's win by Japan is the same thing in the context of softball. That is, a context that's taking its leave from the Olympics. But still. The U.S. had beaten Japan 7-0 and 4-1 in their two previous meetings in this tournament. This result is as shocking as they come.
Just goes to show that softball, like baseball, is a funny game. Get a hot pitcher going and anything can happen. Of course, almost every pitcher in softball is hot all the time. Runs are as hard to come by as people who care much about international softball.
Shocking as Japan's win is, it doesn't change much in the bigger picture. This tournament came out the same as the last two, with the U.S., Japan and Australia winning medals. China, which won silver in 1996, is the only other country that's ever won a medal. Those four countries were the only teams to finish in the top four until Beijing, when Canada edged China for fourth.
This is a hopeless cause, but I'd love it if the twin blow of the U.S. losing in the final and softball getting booted from the Olympics is a catalyst for American women taking up baseball in greater numbers. Softball is to baseball what the old zoned-court 6-on-6 nonsense girls used to have to play was to real basketball.
It's long past time to relegate softball to beer leagues where it belongs and let these great athletes play the game the way it was meant to be played.