Bitcoin? Really?

At this time of year? At this time of day? In this part of the country? Localized entirely within your Perth ABL club?

Welcome to the latest edition of SSWOS, the Sick, Sad World of Sports, where sports is the mechanism by which we learn about the depths of shithousery and assholery and dipshittery of the human soul.

I hope you find it fun or informative but not both. If you want more of this particular species of brain worms, follow @scksadwos.

I also write exclusively about rugby league on pythagonrl.com and @pythagonrl.


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Bitcoin? Really?

Yes, really.

Those of us who follow the Australian Baseball League met this announcement with bafflement. It looked like the Heat’s social media had been hacked but it seems to be legit with, one assumes, Bitcoin Magazine1 as the club’s newest sponsor. This is contrast to how it appears, that the entire baseball organisation has boldly pivoted to cryptocurrency as the Way of The Future.

Once hacking was cleared, I assumed this was either a money laundering or tax avoidance scam. The reality, as explained in The Guardian, is somewhat more pedestrian. Players and staff will have the opportunity to be paid in Bitcoin2 and customers will be able to pay for merch and concessions in Bitcoin as well. Australian dollars will remain involved in some capacity.

The deal has done what it was supposed to, which was to create ripples of interest across social media, mostly among the kind of crypto acolytes that unironically like Elon Musk and probably consider monkey jpegs as art worth paying for, and briefly in legacy media, for both cryptocurrency as a legitimate form of tender3 and the Perth Heat baseball franchise.

As an incredibly observant sports watcher4, I’ve also noticed Crypto.com is everywhere. They’re on the signage at F1 grands prix. Crypto.com is Paris St Germain’s first official cryptocurrency platform partner and the first innovation and technology partner of Serie A. They’re in the NHL with the Canadiens, in the NBA on the 76ers’ jerseys and now, the Lakers’ arena, in the biggest naming rights deal in US history.

The other end of the spectrum is the Qhubeka-Nexthash debacle, where a five year deal was announced this year for a team that now does not have a racing licence for 2022 because their sponsor isn’t real.

While my initial, admittedly boomerish, reaction is that crypto is an elaborate Ponzi hype bubble and I’m just waiting for everyone else to catch up5, it seems unlikely that this many large organisations have been duped into accepting a non-existent sponsorship. Then again, bigger and supposedly smarter financial organisations fell for collateralised debt obligations in 2007 and the Astros played at Enron Field for a while, so who knows?

As for why crypto is now everywhere in sports sponsorship:

The results of a new Morning Consult poll indicate that sports fans are about twice as likely as non-sports fans to say they are familiar with cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, and about three times as likely to say they are “very” familiar with them. Forty-seven percent of sports fans said they are familiar with crypto, compared to 39 percent of all U.S. adults and just 23 percent of non-sports fans…

Cryptocurrency has emerged this year as the fastest-growing sponsorship category in sports, according to executives at sports properties and agencies that help facilitate marketing agreements. Deep-pocketed companies are seeking to use the high visibility of sports to grow awareness of their emerging brands in a relatively new industry. 

The Venn diagram of ‘hardcore sports fan’ and ‘crypto derp’ definitely has overlap, much in the same way that ‘I’m not sure about this covid vaccine’ and ‘women’s sport sucks’ has some elements in common, so it all makes a certain amount of commercial sense.

As I suggested two weeks ago, the emergence of cryptocurrency and the flood of investment funds into sport6 can be partly explained by a huge amount of capital chasing returns that would normally be reserved for waging war or disappearing into the aether via inflation.

With the world’s largest economy in the throes of the Great Resignation and complex and unresolved global supply chain issues from covid, the confluence of those two events could either be economic shock7, and we’re about due for one of those, and/or inflation, which we’re also about due for after a decade-long Kevin Spacey-style retirement from the public sphere.

Sport will always find a way to truck along, crypto collapse8, economic disruption or otherwise, and this may just be remembered as One of Those Weird Things That Happened in the 20s.

The grace, the beauty of sports

Very normal things

Oh wait, the IOC says its fine. Coincidentally, the Winter Olympics in Beijing will open on February 4.

This is a story that screenwriters would consider too on-the-nose, especially the framing of the above image. I had to fight the urge to gag when I read “President Bach invited Peng Shuai for a dinner once he arrives in Beijing next January, which she gladly accepted”. Gross.

This is offset by the pivoting of the Hashtag WhereIsPengShuai crowd from ‘it was never about her whereabouts’9 to ‘actually, it’s about how China is bad’. No shit. The Uyghurs and Tibetans could’ve told you that. Where’s their hashtag?

I don’t like the borderline-sexist Harding-Kerrigan framing but it’s right there. I can’t even begin to understand this to explain it better than that and it seems like this just fell off everyone’s radar as they scrolled immeidately past it.

News from around the grounds

  1. Rugby league: Kevin Sinfield has completed his 101 mile run in 24 hours to raise money for motor neurone disease research.

  2. Soccer: Al Hilal has won the AFC Champion’s League final.

  3. Taekwondo: The Vatican has become the 211th member of the international federation.

  4. Skeleton: Susanne Kreher has won the women’s skeleton event in Park City.

  5. Motorsport: the Detroit Grand Prix (Indy) will move from Belle Isle Park to downtown, starting 2023.

See the latest on the Governors and Leagues lists on Twitter.

#ModernPentathlonWatch

I thought this segment might get a week on the bench but if anything, it’s ramping up. The highlights are:

All in all, it’s going well.

There’s a lot to unpack, so let’s first draw battle lines.

On one side, you have a number of athletes and national federations. They are opposed to the removal of the equestrian discipline from the pentathlon because of the tautological argument that it’s not modern pentathlon without horse riding, so horse riding must be included. Like never-nudes, there are thousands of them16, according to Pentathlon United (which seems to be driven by 2000 bronze medallist, Kate Allenby), although it’s hard to believe there are that many pentathletes in the world. National federations in this camp include Australia, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Czechia, Kyrgyzstan, Hungary, Denmark and Great Britain.

On the other side, you have the UIPM, the governing body, and the other national federations. They are in favour of the removal of the equestrian discipline and its replacement would be with something more modern, more cost effective and equitable:

Today, horses are an expensive luxury inaccessible to the vast majority of people in the world. What can be ‘modern’ about a pentathlon discipline that excludes the vast majority of people in the world?

National federations in this camp include Germany (moving the motion for the removal of the discipline), France, China, Uganda and the Philippines, another 50 or so and all six continental confederations.

By default, one would normally be anti-establishment and assume that the governing body is full of corrupt weasels (it likely is), and so side with the athletes, there’s a deeper layer to be addressed here.

Of the 126 Olympic medals awarded in modern pentathlon, only six (6) have gone to athletes representing countries outside of Europe and the United States: China, Mexico, Brazil, Australia, Egypt and South Korea all have a medal each, with Australia’s Chloe Esposito winning the only gold. The first of these medals were won in 2012. Two of those federations, China and Egypt, are on the record in support of the reforms and one, Australia, is opposed. Do you want to guess how many medals have been won by European national federations opposed to the changes?17

It’s very difficult to mount an argument that the modern pentathlon recognises the supreme athlete when its talent pool, such as it is, can only draw on the upper classes of wealthy, predominantly white countries. The winter Olympics already exists to prosecute that case.

Who’s interests are the UIPM to protect: that of their existing, incumbent and (generally) well-off pentathletes that can afford to train on horses properly, or those of the potential pentathletes that might be able to compete in a modified format that’s more accessible? More importantly, is catering to the incumbents or expanding the field more likely to secure the future of the sport at the Olympics?

The incumbent athletes don’t seem to have begun considering how they might argue around this but they may implictly feel that if the talent pool were deepened, they may find themselves out-competed, which threatens their livelihoods, ambitions and purpose.

Instead, 2012 silver medallist Samantha Murray decided to question whether Uganda was even a real federation18:

"If Uganda really are aligned with the UIPM – we just don’t know," she asserted. "They are ghosts to us, we never see them, we never hear of them and yet they have this vote at a Congress which stacks up higher than the active nations. It shouldn’t be this way.

This seems, uh, problematic. It’s also problematic to argue democratic processes haven’t been followed and then question the very existence of the organisations you’re trying to democratically win over. Wait for the forensic audits.

I later discovered that horse riding isn’t even included in pentathlons until you reach UIPM finals. I wonder if the absence of Ugandan athletes in the finals of modern pentathlon could be linked to the presence of horse riding? I guess we’ll never know.


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1

Bitcoin? Magazine? What is this, 2017?

2

One assumes that tax on this will be paid in Australian dollars. This is not El Salvador, after all. I also wonder who picks up the transaction costs.

3

The price of Bitcoin in Australian dollars has dropped some $4,000, or about 5%, since the announcement.

4

The good kind that looks at advertising hoardings during events when I’m bored.

5

That doesn’t mean you can’t make money in the meantime but the smart money will bail earlier than you can anticipate.

6

And the flood of investment funds into crypto, which is then recycled into sports sponsorship.

7

Symptoms include economic dislocation and generalised pain, resulting in the expulsion of deadwood from the bowels of capitalism.

8

Irrespective of its Ponzi-like nature, it’s entirely possible that, like the Internet Bubble of the early 00s, the survivors of any crypto/NFT/web3.0 shakeout will shape the world in a couple of decades in ways we cannot even begin to fathom. That or Crypto.com will sell out to JP Morgan and the Crypto.com Arena will become the other Chase Centre.

9

Actually, it was. #WhereIsPengShuai

10

Schmitt’s quote, "As an IOC member for 39 years, I can assure you that the IOC has never asked you to change the programme, the timing, the composition or the rules of modern pentathlon” is directly contradicted by Joel Bouzou, “even the IOC President, Juan Antonio Samaranch, suggested after the Olympic Games Barcelona 1992 that horses should be replaced by bicycles”.

11

Imagine what else could be done with that money instead of ensuring penathlon tories get to keep riding horses at massive expense to the sport and the planet.

12

The wave of support is pretty underwhelming in quantity and very much Smithers-with-a-gun-in-the-back-of-Tom-Jones areas, along with more boring process stuff and PR waffle.

13

After the boring process stuff, Bouzou gets to the heart of the matter in plain enough language. It’s good and convincing if you don’t start from the assumption that pentathlon must include horses.

14

The thrust of this is actually a pro-athlete, anti-UIPM op-ed but a fair one. The interesting detail, that Schormann, despite claims of being asleep at the wheel and forever tinkering, will be re-elected unopposed says volumes about how much interest the athletes have taken in their own governing body’s machinations to date. If he’s re-elected, he’ll have had tenure for thirty-two years.

15

I’d prefer to dunk on bad faith strawmen directly but I’ll get blocked and then who will bring you #ModernPentathlonWatch?

The UIPM have not suggested that they will do this, so chalk up a victory there.

No shit but that doesn’t make the athletes right. In fact, athletes, including some of the dumbest people on the earth and a disproportionate number of anti-vaxers, probably should have very little to do with running any organisation.

16

Mike Rowbottom says it’s only 700. The UIPM claim support while the athletes declare opposition - it doesn’t matter the sport, the coverage always sucks.

17

It’s a lot.

18

The hilarious outcome here would be if the IOC revokes recognition of the UIPM because too many federations were made up to fill up the numbers.