2004 OLYMPICS

washingtonpost.com's Bill Grant wishes the IOC would invoke the mercy rule after about 12 days of competition.
Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs hits an off-balance shot just before the buzzer to give Argentina a thrilling 83-82 victory over Serbia-Montenegro.
Russia's Alexei Alipov won the trap shooting gold with a perfect final round, finishing with an overall score of 149 to tie an Olympic record.
The U.S. men's basketball team is embarrassed 92-73 by Puerto Rico, the first U.S. Olympic loss for NBA players.

Mercy for Us All

By Bill Grant
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Web Posted: Sunday, Aug. 15, 2004; 10:22 p.m. EDT

After watching the U.S. women punish Australia, 10-0, at the breezy Olympic complex at Helliniko on Sunday, we got to be thinking about softball's "mercy rule" and how useful it might be if we had something similar in real life.

For the uninitiated, a softball game is called off when one team -- on Sunday, the United States -- is leading by seven runs or more after 4 1/2 innings. Game over -- no garbage time, no padding stats against overmatched or disinterested competition. You know who you are, Jerry Stackhouse.

Here are some other instances where Snippets thinks a mercy rule would come in pretty darn handy:

Any Bruce Springsteen album after "Born in the U.S.A."
Any Quentin Tarantino movie after "Pulp Fiction."
Any Sue Grafton mystery past the letter G.
Any Steve Spurrier coached game post-Osaka.
Any Rocky movie after the original.
Any D.C. mayor after Marion Barry (for entertainment value).
Any perky American gymnast after Mary Lou Retton.
Any ER episode past the fifth season.
Any Jerry Rice catch where he's not wearing a 49ers jersey.
Oh yeah, any game in which the once-dominant U.S. men's basketball team can't seem to remember that playing in the Olympics means you're playing for something more than yourself.

Invoking the Wrath of the (Language) Gods
The world's media has gone to desperate lengths in its attempt to find inspiration in classical Greek drama and myth. So says language expert Paul JJ Payack, the president of the Global Language Monitor, who told Reuters: "There were more than 3,000 references to Classic Greek history and mythology in the media and on the Internet [Sunday] morning versus virtually none only 30 days ago." The worst offender, Payack notes, is the phrase "Greek tragedy," the use of which, tragically, exploded in the aftermath of the flap over Greek sprinters Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou.

Ratings Take a Tumble
It looks like guys in togas are not that big a draw -- at least on commercial TV. NBC's tape-delayed broadcast of the Opening Ceremonies got the lowest ratings for the event since 1992, and was down 12 percent from the first night of the 2000 Sydney Games. Friday night's telecast was watched by 14.4 percent of the 108.4 million U.S. households with televisions, according to the Nielson folks. Four years ago, the Opening Ceremonies drew 16.2 percent of U.S. households with televisions.

Just Say No
U.S. javelin thrower Breaux Greer, apparently tired of answering one of the largest questions surrounding the U.S. track and field team, took on the issue with a T-shirt he wore at breakfast one day. It read: "No, I don't take steroids, but thanks for asking."

Everybody's a Critic
Bill Lankhof of the Toronto Sun, on Phevos and Athena, the much-maligned official mascots of the Games: "My 18-month-old granddaughter can come up with better caricatures -- and we have the drawings on our 'fridge door to prove it."

As always, Snippets would like to thank our friends at the Associated Press and Reuters for their help.

Mascots Phevos and Athena are not winning over fans in Toronto. (Mike Finn-Kelcey -- Rueters)

You Write
The Caption
Submit a caption by 6 p.m. EDT. We'll pick our favorite and post it.

washingtonpost.com's 2004 Athens Olympics You Write the Caption contest has ended.

Click here to see a gallery of the photos and winning captions.

Thanks to all who submitted entries!