Team USA

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.

4 Replies to “Team USA”

  1. Dan: Just a little vintage from the “sour grapes” bin. I don’t know if you saw any this woman’s (Svetlana Khorkina) performances this week, but she kinda’ choked when it came to the big game. Anyway, the article is pretty good.
    And yeah, The Yanks could show a little more humility. For the most part though I think they swimmers and female gymnasts were pretty good sports.
    One thought I had is it would be fun to find out what the basketball Dream Teams’ total yearly salary is (coaches included) and compare it to the combined salaries of all other Olympic basketball teams. Or perhaps the combined yearly salaries of all Olympic athletes. JB

  2. John, you’re right — Sweatlana Rutabaga or whatever her name was was absolutely horrible. One of the truly memorable snotty, unpleasant personas in sports.
    Loved this quote from the Times article on her:
    “You have to tip your hat to her,” said Bela Karolyi, a longtime coach of elite American gymnasts whose fame is rooted in Romania. “Svetlana is 24, 25, and is out there starving herself to death, puking her guts out, or whatever she is doing.”

  3. Still on the Olympics but changing the focus…. Did you see the coverage tonight of the women’s triathlon? Just amazing: We don’t see the eventual winner until the last mile! OK, so she “came out of nowhere.” But when it was over, we heard next to nothing about her. What was her run split? When did she make her move? Hell, the event ended half a day before the broadcast; NBC had time to get it together. It was as though the producers and the announcers all watched the ending and said, “Shit, this sucks. All that focus on the Aussie chick and she lost. Bummer. Wanna grab a beer?”
    Oh, and of course Al Trautwig was abominable. “Now they’re getting out of the water and will have to get their sea legs out of their heads.”

  4. I love the Trautwig quote. Have to add that to my list.
    I missed the triathlon coverage. Tom saw it and was jazzed. But the cut-and-paste work on their prime-time presentation really shows; lots of ugly seams and blank spaces. Actually, my favorite moments so far — the women’s marathon and the men’s 1,500-meter final — were great in part because there was no American story that had to be laid over everything to justify it. Not that they told you much about the amazing athletes who did win, but at least they showed the important moments.

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