I stumbled upon these articles by Michael Callahan in regards to the Olympic Games. He first called for people to not watch the Games at all:
But it’s not the overblown theatrics of the modern Olympics that has me tuning out. It’s the plain fact that we have lost, in the zealous xenophobia that now defines America globally, any interest in the Nadia Comanecis of the world. I can’t remember the last time I watched an Olympic telecast and saw a gold medal ceremony featuring someone who wasn’t from the U.S. In 1976, Hanni Wenzel from the tiny country of Liechtenstein won a gold for skiing, the first one ever won for her country in its history. I seem to recall there was a slight delay in the medal ceremony, because no one had thought to bring the Liechtenstein national anthem. But when she stood on the podium and the first strings of that anthem began to play, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Or my house, either. Because that’s what the Olympics should be about—the shining moment of triumph, yes. But something more than that. Much, much more than that.
RAH for you Michael! I actually recall that Olympics and cheered for Liechtenstein, too! There’s more:
The Olympics represent the ultimate in sportsmanship, a coming together across the globe of athletes from different cultures, with different beliefs and often very different views, who all agree, by mutual consent, to put all of that aside and simply compete, side by side, for personal glory and national pride. But somewhere along the way we as Americans lost sight of this, and turned it into “Us Against the World,” a Bruce Willis action movie set against the backdrop of track and field. Watch any event packed with American fans and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Every time I hear that awful chant of “U.S.A., U.S.A.,” my skin crawls. Can you remember seeing any other nation’s fans doing that? Other nations’ fans are passionate, yes. They cheer for their teams, yes. But we’re the ones who always have to push the envelope, who have to sneer and jeer, who have to muscle our way into the camera shot and declare “We’re number one,” even when we’re number eight. We’ve become the classless hooligans who always ruin the otherwise fun and spirited party, because we can’t stand it when the attention isn’t on us. As fans we’ve become the equivalent of a bunch of five-year-olds, pouting when we don’t win and mugging and finger-pointing to the opposition when we do, the tableau of Chickie’s and Pete’s unfurled for the whole world to see. It is, in a word, appalling. The Ugly American at his most ugly.
I actually would not go that far. Even in Chariots of Fire, the US fans were chanting USA! USA! In 1924! You should root hard for your team. But that is the attitude behind the men’s basketball team. We’ll beat you! It is unfair and imperialistic. Smaller nations ought to be treated with dignity; that’s why I am doing the stories about Botswana (and I like Botswana, too! Great nation. I’d help them with curling in the nation if they asked me!)
Well, Callahan wrote this and actually used the word imperialist:
I now find myself in the ridiculous position of being so ashamed of my country on this particular international stage that I now actively root against the Americans. Because this isn’t patriotism anymore—it’s imperialist bullshit, a relentless drumbeat of “We’re America, and the rest of you suck,” aided and abetted by the billion-dollar U.S. Olympic complex, Bob Costas the orchestra conductor waving the baton and leading the jingoism, all set to Yanni. Of this I can assure you: The only national anthem you’ll hear played during the orgy of coverage over those three weeks will be ours.
I wouldn’t even go that far – but I will not root for a US team if they are made up of pro athletes. Sorry Serena. I got to speak out. Perhaps Callahan and I could watch a basketball game in a sports bar in Richmond and root against the Dream Team 2012…but not a particularly odious nation. How about Lithuania?
But guess who called Callahan? Yes, you guessed it: Bob Costas! Here’s the Callahan column that resulted and here’s a highlight or two:
He [Costas] admitted the “nature of the assignment” can sometimes risk pushing coverage over the patriotic line. “If someone covering whitewater canoeing declares that the silver medalist has earned this overcoming the greatest adversity in the history of mankind because their cat died prior to the opening ceremonies, that isn’t my fault. And all I can do is arch an eyebrow and politely distance myself from it. And you can’t distance yourself that much—otherwise you need to get up and leave the chair.”
Costas tried to say that NBC does talk about foreign athletes, sometimes! (I agree, they do. But that is not my beef with the Olympics: My beef is the pro athletes and how this has perverted the Games into a reality TV show that favors those large or rich nations that can put forth a largely pro team. See this post here from me last week!) But, Callahan will hold NBC to discussing foreign athletes:
So I told him the only thing it seemed fair to tell him—that I would go back on my pledge, that after talking with him I would watch the Games. But, I joked (well, half-joked), that I was going to be watching nightly, waiting to hear that national anthem from France or China or Belarus. And if I didn’t hear that, he was going to hear from me. “I’m on notice,” he laughed.
I hope there is a prime time coverage of the athlete from Botswana, Amantle Montsho and we’ll see. Here’s the video of the Botswana national anthem in case NBC needs it! But I want to encourage Michael Callahan to call the pro basketball/athlete thing sports imperialism. That’s what it is.