2008/08/25

Well, we all seek our consolation where we can

Matthew Engel really, really, really dislikes America: Fool’s gold consoles unloved America (free registration required)
...a Scandinavian [journalist] sat opposite me in the press room [after the US lost the Olympic softball final to Japan]. We exchanged conspiratorial smiles: the Americans had lost and that always goes down well with everyone else at the Olympics...

American unpopularity at the Olympics is hardly new. It is a natural response to a great and sometimes overweening power. But it has grown: many sports journalists remember the we-know-bestism that pervaded the badly run Atlanta games in 1996; and the effect of George W. Bush’s presidency on America’s global standing is well-attested.
Of course, you remember that it was these same members of the US softball team that a) ran the Atlanta Olympics and b) single-handedly elected George Bush, so who wouldn't be happy that these evil young women lost. I'm surprised that Mr. Engel, a journalist of 35+ years experience and his no doubt just-as-sophisticated-unlike-us-hick-redneck-Americans colleague only smiled and didn't cackle with glee.
My own theory is that the US has never quite grasped the give-and-take character of world sport. Countries devoted to soccer, cricket and rugby play regular international fixtures; they win some and lose some, and learn to live with that.
Yep, countries devoted to soccer are world renowned for their gentle dispositions. I suppose that there is hope, as some of the European fans seem to be trying to teach our more boorish fans how to properly conduct themselves. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
Others stand aghast as they try to follow the logic of NBC, the television network that is the Olympics’ chief paymaster. It is basking in a ratings triumph for these games, so I suppose they are not interested in bleats from me. The fact remains that they declined to show live both the opening ceremony and the 100 metres, the two seminal moments of the games. The desperate had to turn to the internet. Meanwhile, the remotest reaches of the world were sharing the experience.
I'll admit, I'm just a simple redneck from eastern North Carolina, not a brilliant, sophisticated European journalist with more than 30 years experience, but what the heck, I'll try to explain NBC's logic, at least regarding the opening ceremony: The US East Coast is 12 hours behind Beijing. The West Coast is even further, 15 hours behind. So, if NBC showed the Opening Ceremony live, it would have been shown at 8:00 am Eastern time on a Friday. You know, the sort of time when many people are either already at work, traveling to work, or getting ready for work. Instead, they decided to show the Opening Ceremony at a time when most Americans would actually get to share the experience. I somehow was able to enjoy the event despite that fact that it was not live. (I wonder, does Mr. Engel refuse to listen to recorded music because he isn't sharing the experience with those who were there when it was recorded?)
The consolation for Americans is that they believe they are triumphant. The medals table is unofficial and, indeed, frowned on by the Olympic Charter, which insists the games are "between athletes . . . and not between countries". Nonetheless, its format is well established: the number of golds decides the placings, with minor medals used to settle ties. At least, it is well established outside the US.

The American media add up the golds, silvers and bronzes, giving them equal weighting, which is ludicrous. By an amazing coincidence, this puts the Americans on top, well ahead of China. The normal method has the US far behind. But guess which way plays better in Peoria?
Finally, some straight talk that we can all get behind! It is about time that someone in the media told all those silver medalists the truth: You are just the first losers! And you bronze "winners"? You suck. Only the winners in this world count. Devil take the hindmost! To hell with the Olympic Charter! The country that won the most gold is the best!

I could be wrong, but I'm fairly certain that the US press has a) honestly reported that China won more golds this year and b) always listed the countries by total medals.

I'm also a little uncertain as to why it is "ludicrous" to list them that way, but then apparently I'm just not smart enough to see this self-evident truth. Presumably, by Mr. Engel's reasoning, if country A won five gold medals, no silver or bronze and country B won four gold, 10 silver and 10 bronze, then country B should be shamed at its feeble effort - to suggest otherwise is "ludicrous".

If Mr. Engel can find that we have reversed our usual method, to console those poor devils in Peoria, bereft with grief over the opprobrium of the rest of the world, I'd be willing to accept his point.

This attitude reminds me of the ugly and small-mindedness of those Americans who wanted to rename french fries. It is petty and small for a man of his age to not only take glee in the tears of a group of young women who did nothing but be born in the wrong country, but to proudly boast of it. Mr. Engel, you say that we are "fools" - I say that I revel in the your hatred; we must be doing something right if jerks like you hate us.

7 comments:

Duffy said...

Bravo Sir! Remember that since he's a journalist he has the luxury of lounging around at 8:00 on a Friday morning to watch whatever he pleases.

I'll add this quote from "The Americanization of Emily":

Lt. Cmdr. Charles E. Madison: You American haters bore me to tears, Ms. Barham. I've dealt with Europeans all my life. I know all about us parvenus from the States who come over here and race around your old Cathedral towns with our cameras and Coca-cola bottles... Brawl in your pubs, paw at your women, and act like we own the world. We over-tip, we talk too loud, we think we can buy anything with a Hershey bar. I've had Germans and Italians tell me how politically ingenuous we are, and perhaps so. But we haven't managed a Hitler or a Mussolini yet. I've had Frenchmen call me a savage because I only took half an hour for lunch. Hell, Ms. Barham, the only reason the French take two hours for lunch is because the service in their restaurants is lousy. The most tedious lot are you British. We crass Americans didn't introduce war into your little island. This war, Ms. Barham to which we Americans are so insensitive, is the result of 2,000 years of European greed, barbarism, superstition, and stupidity. Don't blame it on our Coca-cola bottles. Europe was a going brothel long before we came to town.

Brn said...

Thanks duffy.

(Just to be clear, my argument here is that Mr. Engel is a jerk, not that all Europeans are.)

rosh said...

Ah Mr Brn: Criticism is the sincerest form of flattery. You should know that eh? There is no doubt, United States is by far, the best, when it comes to almost anything (well perhaps not cricket, which btw is't a sport :)

That said - I have to admit, the arrogance and fake attitudes can turn people off at times.

Congratulations to all those athletes who participated to bring the world together, set aside differences and make us believe for a moment, deep down, we are just people who can learn to appreciate and come together.

Anonymous said...

I am not one to suport Mr Engel, I know his writing from The Guardian newspaper in England - which you probably know is liberal / left of centre. Its readers and journos ae happy to weild disdain of the abuses and perceived arrogance and stupidity of the US (and Europe too for that matter) over the decades. Much as we Europeans love America, at least the idea of it, there has been much to make many enjoy a bit of schadenfreude at your expense and sport offers that huge opportunity...just ask any Euro football / soccer fan.

Peace.

kochumanavalan said...

Engels'outpouring of vitriol is merely the expression of an attitude towards your country that unfortunatley millions the world over cling to. Somehow envy seems too inadequate an explanation; as you said, "we must be doing something right." (I'm not American.)

I wish you'd commented on this dandy of a line as well:

"By an amazing coincidence, this puts the Americans on top..."

Amazing coincidence, eh?

kochumanavalan said...

Just checking for updates, friend (no pressure).

FYI, Al Ain's main flyover (the one leading to Murabba Roundabout (Lulu)) is now a pile of rubble.

Marcus Aurelius said...

Good to see you posting again Brn.

My brother and I were in a pub in Ireland and were told off by a woman "I don't want to talk to you". Okay, I am an accommodating guy and my brother and I were sipping our pints. Then all of a sudden she just opened up and spoke freely with us.

You see, she thought we were Lithuanians and Lithuania had earlier that night denied Ireland's world cup soccer dreams. Once she found out we were Americans, the soccer hatred faded away.