Americans don’t need to win it all

I’m probably like a lot of people this week, spending a few spare minutes each night, tuning into the Olympics.

I’m probably like a lot of people this week, spending a few spare minutes each night, tuning into the Olympics.

If I wanted, I could take the week off and watch the Olympics nonstop, from dawn to dusk (and beyond, I’ve discovered, since waking up one midnight on my couch and seeing Michael Phelps dancing around on my set, wearing his trademark sag bathing suit. How anyone could pull their Speedos down that far and not have their buns hanging out is a feat of engineering.)

We’ve got the Olympics covered, even if our suits don’t cover it all.

The one thing I’m absorbing during these 2008 Olympics is the amount of on-air whining that erupts, every time the U.S. doesn’t win something.

Notice I said “win,” as opposed to getting a silver or a bronze medal.

I can’t believe the number of times I’ve seen American athletes practically having heart failure when they come away with “just a silver” or, God forbid, a bronze. The headlines on my e-mail news service allude to Americans “squandering” their chances, although they’re still standing on the award podium, tearfully accepting those lesser-colored awards. And their flag (our flag) is still waving – just not over everybody else’s.

And then there’s Bela Karolyi, the self-appointed foghorn of the gymnastics world, who throws on-air fits whenever the judging doesn’t favor our gymnasts. Hello, Mr. Karolyi: gymnastics has been, and always will be, a sport judged by people we may not like or agree with.

Karolyi’s wife Martha Karolyi is just as aggravating, but not on the air as much, thankfully. The last time I heard a comment from her, as the U.S. team coordinator, she was blaming American star Alicia Sacramone’s fall from the balance beam on the Chinese officials, whom she said kept Sacramone waiting too long to start, which interrupted the gymnast’s focus.

Good grief.

Americans have been dominators in Olympic sports for so long that we’re not even aware others have the right to win, too. And at times, that can make us truly annoying to watch. If we’re not winning, then there is a problem. That’s the message I keep hearing whenever I turn the set on. Our medal-counting show hosts are saying it, our coaches are saying it, and the athletes themselves are expressing it.

From where I’m sitting, it’s about time someone tried to eat our lunch. Frankly it’s boring to watch us win, over and over again. I want to see an actual competition, where someone from another country, who doesn’t have all the things we have, pulls past one of our well-fed, superbly conditioned athletes, and makes Olympic history. It’s those people I root for, because they represent what America is supposed to be: a place where anyone with big dreams and the desire to achieve them can win. Even when the opponents they’re up against are bigger, better-coached and have more spending cash than they’ll ever see.

It’s also time for Americans, when they lose, to demonstrate good sportsmanship to the rest of the world.

It’s easy to be nice when you’re winning.

Being gracious when you’ve lost (or maybe just didn’t get that gold medal) - is the true indicator of a role-model athlete. In these days of blood-doping and performance-enhancing drugs, our sports industry is in dire need of role models.

And numbers are just that - numbers. They get eclipsed, eventually, by someone faster and stronger.

Strength of character never does.

Laura Pierce is editor of the Kent News. Contact her at lpierce@reporternewspapers.com, or at 253-872-6677, ext. 5050.


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