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Dead Pitches: How Do You Count Top Olympic Medal Winners?


At the beginning of the week, we have an editorial meeting when our producers and editors pitch story ideas for the show. The ones we like, we follow up on and turn those into radio pieces that you hear. And the ideas we don't like, well, those just die. But the thing is, sometimes even the ideas that don't make the show are mildly amusing or interesting. So in our recurring but non-commital series called Dead Pitches, we are now joined in studio by producer Olly Dearden.


MARTIN: What is your dead pitch?

DEARDEN: America...

MARTIN: America.

DEARDEN: America calculates who is winning the Olympics differently to how the rest of the world does.

MARTIN: Well, of course, because we're America and we do everything differently. But explain.

DEARDEN: So I said this to my wife, and you know what she said to me?


DEARDEN: She paused. She put down her drink, and she looked at me and she went, (chanting) USA, USA, USA.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

DEARDEN: The USA calculates who's winning at the Olympics by total medals.


DEARDEN: Everybody else says who's got the most golds because winning a race is more important than being the next best loser.

MARTIN: So why does this miff you?

DEARDEN: Great Britain currently has, like, three fewer medals than China.


DEARDEN: So on the U.S. scheme, we are third. But because we have more golds than China, everyone else says we're second.


DEARDEN: That's why it matters. OK? Just to prove that I'm not crazy, I called up Bill Mallon. He's an Olympic historian. And I said to him, look, you know, what is this? And he goes, look, everyone has their own way of calculating things, including, he told me, at the last Olympics, one U.S. journalist rang him up to say, what if I wanted to count all the medals from everyone who won in a team sport?

BILL MALLON: So instead of basketball counting as one medals, it was 12 medals for each of the gold medalists. People will come up with all the systems that can to make their own country look good, I think.

MARTIN: (Laughter) America, are we greedy? I don't know. We're just - we just win. Well, I've learned something here. So I'm glad we've given it a new life here on Dead Pitches.

DEARDEN: Me too. And my wife will be really glad that I brought her into this.

MARTIN: (Chanting) USA, USA, USA.

DEARDEN: USA. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.