WRITER: Water Polo, Marathon Swim Compete for “Worst” Olympic Sport


The men’s marathon is under way, which means that the Rio Olympics are coming to a close… and it’s time for the media to critique the sports!

Handball earned some early pub as the darling sport no one in the U.S. actually follows.* Water polo, meanwhile, received as much publicity as it ever has in the States, largely due to its violence and the U.S. Women’s Team, which proved to be both dominating and interesting to scribes and broadcasters.

The sport is not without its critics, as we know. Justin Peters of Slate elevates it to elite junk status making the case that it and marathon swimming deserve to vie for the title of worst sport at the Olympics.

The professionally grumpy correspondent shares the fairly common lament (even among fans, quietly) that the game is “basic” and “boring.” But, a man of the times, the bulk of his commentary takes a much more Slate-y direction:

Water polo combines the absolute worst elements of soccer, mandatory swim testing, and suburbia.

The main target of his dyspepsia is a lad who lacks the dignity to install his pool above ground.

It feels like a fake sport that was invented ad hoc by some kid named Gavin whose parents are rich enough that he doesn’t have to get a job in the summer and can just loaf all day in his in-ground pool. Gavin’s parents were somehow able to buy his way into Harvard, and then they somehow bought his dumb sport into the Olympics, too! Screw you, Gavin.


Those keen insights indicate an enviable depth of analysis. Water polo is the worst sport at the Olympics.

Except it’s not. Marathon swimming wins the title because it, “tends to bring out the worst in everyone.” What a relief.


*We are very big fans of handball, but it simply isn’t going anywhere (yet) in the U.S.