American Olympics

Uncertain Principles has a good analysis of why the U.S. basketball team is such an underachiever in the Olympics. How can this be, when the other Americans are such overachievers? Who would have thought that Meb Keflezighi (rhymes with “Officer Krumpke”) would have brought the U.S. silver in the men’s marathon? Who would have believed that absent Lance Armstrong, there’d be a U.S. gold in the time trial?

Yet despite all this, when there’s any question about American integrity, or the fairness of the competition, all the American announcers can do is mindlessly tout the opinion most favorable to the U.S. After the marathon’s (non-American) leader was shoved off the side of the course by an insane Irish priest with just three miles to go, Marty Liquori came on the air after the race and claimed it had no impact on the results. No impact? It’s hard enough to imagine running 26 miles at 5-minute-mile pace, but to think that Liquori has even the vaguest conception of what it’s like to be leading the race, to honestly believe you’re going to win, and then to be attacked by a lunatic in a kilt and green knee socks is inconceivable.

But back to the basketball team. Despite my previously professed addiction to Olympics coverage, I could only bring myself to watch the U.S. basketball team in fast-forward mode (thank you Tivo). I did slow down enough to witness the players’ shock that they might ever miss a shot, or that the officials could possibly call a foul on their team. Just imagine what might have happened if they had brought this sort of passion to the game itself!

I’m as much of a homer as any of the NBC announcers — even the motivational-speaking Tim Daggett (note to Tim’s agent: time to update the promotional photo), but I couldn’t bring myself to root for these guys. Watching them win would have been just as boring as watching them lose.

It’s a good thing there was more to watch in these Olympics than basketball — if there hadn’t been, I might have actually gotten some work done these past two weeks, because watching the U.S. basketball team is less appealing than folding my kids’ laundry, let alone editing a 300-page manuscript.

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