My all-time Olympic hero has got to be Paul Hamm, our accidental gymnastics champion. It’s not his fault that the Olympic judges screwed up and mis-scored an opponent’s routine and apparently awarded the wrong guy the all-around gold medal. And just like no one has any real obligation to correct a cashier’s mistake when they’re handed an extra 20 bucks in change, Hamm’s under no compulsion to take matters into his own hands and correct the situation. What’s hard to stomach, though, is the bleating — his own and others’ — that he won fair and square and should be allowed to enjoy his Olympic moment without all the negative attention.
That’s fine, but: Just imagine how Hamm and all the American commentators would be behaving now if it was the Korean who’d benefited from the officials’ failure. Actually, you don’t have to imagine. This would be an injustice for the ages, just like the Soviet Union’s basketball victory over the United States in 1972. The Yanks were convinced the officials manufactured an opportunity for the Soviets to win the gold, and they refused their silver medals (which are reportedly still in a bank vault in Switzerland). That’s 32 years of grudge and counting.
This is the way Team USA (all 293 million of us) looks to the rest of the world: When we win, it’s all about our hard work and perseverance. When we lose, like as not the fix is in. And if we win by mistake: Tough — that’s your problem. No wonder everyone loves Team USA.