Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I am the world

As I sit here writing tonight, President Obama is giving his first State of the Union address. Being the patriotic American that I am, I'm watching the women's semifinal of the Australian Open. It's not that I don't care about the state of the United States (I'm guessing it's still intact. If it weren't, I think ESPN would break in to their tennis coverage to mention something about it. Then again, they may just run something on their Bottom Line, this is women's tennis after all), it's just that I find women's tennis (even a match with Serena Williams playing) more interesting than a 20 minute speech stretched out over 90 minutes.

Williams is taking on Li Na from China. Na defeated Williams' sister, Venus, a couple days ago and I'm hoping she takes out Serena Williams tonight. I've got nothing against the Williams' sisters. They've never done anything to me, personally. It's not like I'm a degenerate gambler who has lost thousands of dollars betting on their matches. I just find Na's playing style more enjoyable to watch than the overwhelming power Williams plays with.

But there's a part of me that feels I'm being unpatriotic to cheer against an American in an international competition. I'm not sure why that is. but with the Olympics coming up shortly sports no one cares about for 206 of every 208 weeks will suddenly become matters of national pride and examples of national superiority. (Yes Dear is ready for them to be over already just so we don't have the Olympic-themed commercials anymore.)

I consider myself a pretty avid sports fan. I watch ESPNews rather than cable or network news. I play in several fantasy leagues. I've already started planning my World Cup 2010 fantasy league. Yet I can only name a handful of athletes participating in the Winter Olympics (short track speed skater Apollo Ohno, skier Bode Miller and Ice Dancer Tanith Belbin are the only non-hockey players I can think of. And before you start wondering why I know an ice dancer, take a look at a few of her photos and tell me you wouldn't remember her too.) Despite that, I feel as though I'm supposed to throw my entire support behind anyone wearing the colors of the Red, White and Blue, regardless of anything else.Cheering for an athlete simply because you happen to share the same birth nation feels intellectually lazy. It's like saying Ronnie was your favorite Jersey Shore character simply because you both have an 'R' in your name.

In 2006 and again in 2009, baseball nations from across the globe participated in the World Baseball Classic. Unlike the Olympics, I actually knew a significant number of the players participating. (I'll be honest, I wasn't completely up to speed on the players from South Africa or from Italy.) I got a lot of strange looks from people when I told them I was cheering for either the Dominican Republic team or the Puerto Rican team instead of the USA. I liked their players more than the U.S. players. It's not as though the U.S. team winning was going to do anything for me. I wasn't going to become more attractive to women or shave 30 second off of my mile time if the Americans won. 

I don't know Bode Miller from Arthur Miller. Apollo Ohno could be standing in line in front of me at the Post Office and I wouldn't know him from an Apollo astronaut. But based solely on the locations of their birth, I'm supposed to cheer for them as they compete in their chosen sport. What if I don't like them? What if I think Bode Miller is a punk who is only out for his own self interests? What if I'm jealous of Tanith Belbin's dance partner and don't want to cheer for him out of spite? (Ok, that last one is true. I'm jealous.) I want to see compelling drama with the best athletes in the world competing at the highest level. Like the Backstreet Boys said, "I don't care who you are, where you're from, what you did," I just want you to be entertaining. Do that, and I'll cheer for you. (Unless you're an ice dancer. No matter what you do, I'm cheering for Belbin.)

1 comment:

Mike said...

Two words: Women's curling

The Swedish national team is my reason for watching the winter Olympics.