One of the questions on their Gym Nerd Poll from November 1st was, "Do you miss the perfect 10?" As you can see, 66% responded: No, gymnastics fans need to get over it. This fascinated me. Gym fans all over love to lament the loss of the perfect 10 and the comprehensability of the sport. Gymnastics used to be so simple and perfection was attainable! So why this hearty response that these fans simply need to "get over it"?
Scrolling through the replies, I noticed this comment from user Bernard:
This immediately struck a chord with me. Because, whether you agree with me or not, I do not miss the perfect 10. I just don't. And I do feel exactly the way the poll described it. Gym fans just need to get over it. Now, as confident as that opinion sounded, I don't think I've ever really expressed it on the gymternet. Why? Exactly the reason Bernard said. I feel like I'm not a real gym fan if I don't somehow long for the good ol' days when we had the perfect 10. And maybe this poll is exactly what I, and apparently fellow gymternet buddies, needed to express our opinions. Is it finally time that we stop reminiscing about when gymnastics could be perfect? Based on this poll, it seems like it might be time to fully embrace the new system.
I think there are two parts to liking and accepting the new code. The first, as Bernard points out, is the switch to more difficult skills. This is certainly a part of the new code. The unlimited D score leaves room to innovate and go crazy with incredibly difficult skills. However, I think a good portion of the progression of difficultly in gymnastics has to do with the evolution of the equipment and the sport in general. All sports evolve. Gymnastics will get harder as time goes on and as gymnasts continue to master the easier skills. There will always be upgrading and playing around with skills to see what comes out of it. So I don't think that we can necessarily equate hard skills with the change in code to the extent that many people do.
So why do people keep hating on the new code? Bernard suggests that it's "uncool" to like the new code because it suggests that "you just enjoy gymnastics for the ultra difficult skills." I don't think it's uncool to like hard skills, but what I do think is considered uncool is blindly worshipping them just because they’re difficult. In general, the idea of "coolness" is rooted in allowing yourself to be unimpressed and above excitement. I think this is what's at the heart of Bernard's comment. Being really excited about the hard skills getting thrown is what’s considered uncool. As gym fans, we like to show that we understand enough of about gymnastics to criticize a crazy hard skill, somehow proving that we’re just not impressed (McKayla pun intended).
But that's just about skills. Does liking the new code inherently imply only being excited about high D scores? In part, yes. Many people who long for the perfect 10 like the cleanliness and artistry in the routines. But I think liking the new code is uncool in another way too. It's cool to be above the innovation of a system change. It's hipster to like something the old fashioned way. Liking the perfect 10 shows that you liked gymnastics back in the golden age; in a sense, that you liked it before it was cool.
So I don't quite know how to answer Bernard's question. In part, yes, it is uncool to like new code because it encourages big skills. Nobody wants to be the one who's excited about all the innovation when everyone else prefers the old system. Do I think there's anything wrong with liking gymnastics purely for the big skills? No. I want everyone to like gymnastics, for whatever reason they want. Do I think there's value in seeing more than just the skills? Of course. But fans are fans for whatever reason they want to be. We always talk about going back to the 10 to get more fans. But we never consider the fact we might be alienating fans by failing to fully embrace the new system. Let's allow ourselves to get excited, gymternet. Of course, we can still be critical, but let's allow ourselves to rejoice in the exciting gymnastics we get to watch, rather than pining for the gymnastics we used to have.
Note 1: There's a lot to talk about on this topic. I know another huge part of the perfect 10 argument is that nobody can get a 10 in execution anymore (a la Maroney's vault). I'm also interested in exploring this argument and I plan on writing another post about it.
Note 2: If Bernard sees this, please contact me! I was obviously fascinated by your idea, and I'd love to talk more!