Being the typical American family — 2.1 kids, house in the burbs, yappy dog — the Olympic Games have been running in the background pretty much non-stop at our house. In the evening, after work, I settle down with everyone else and watch what Bob Costas and company have for me that night.
Maybe it’s just the fact that after three days both fish and avuncular TV anchors stink, but the NBC talking heads have gotten on my last olfactory nerve.
It’s the un-American accumulation of studied nonchalance that has been bothering me. I want these guys to care if America wins and demonstrate some love of country. It seems to be beyond them. For example, I watched Cris Collinsworth interview Kobe Bryant. Kobe Bryant is, without qualification, my least favorite NBA basketball player. He is a preening narcissist and an annoying ball hog. I never bought his humility schtick around winning the Most Valuable Player. Every time he opens his mouth I feel like he’s lying.
That said, I saw the interview and managed to dislike Cris Collinsworth more than I do Bryant. For me that’s quite a feat.
You can watch the video here. Here’s the gist:
Collinsworth: Where does the patriotism come from inside of you? Historically, what is it?
Kobe: Well, you know, it’s just our country, it’s … we believe is the greatest country in the world. It has given us so many great opportunities, and it’s just a sense of pride that you have, that you say, “You know what? Our country is the best!”
Collinsworth: Is that a “cool” thing to say, in this day and age? That you love your country, and that you’re fighting for the red, white, and blue? It seems sort of like a day gone by.
Kobe: No, it’s a cool thing for me to say. I feel great about it, and I’m not ashamed to say it. I mean, this is a tremendous honor.
That conversation came on the heels of Bob Costas looking like he’s receiving an enema every time Bela Karolyi screeches in delight over the American gymnasts succeeding. Costas babbled uncomfortably about “journalistic integrity” and literally leaned away when Karolyi exuberantly praised the American girls’ stellar performance. As an American, even an American sports journalist, it’s not wrong to want an American to win. It is wrong, just for moral clarification, to pretend that the Chinese aren’t cheating. Failing to report politically incorrect news demonstrates a definite lack of journalistic integrity, since NBC reporters like Bob seem worried about journalistic ethics.
And then there was the Collinsworth interview with Michael Phelps’ mother. He tried to be distant and objective, as if this isn’t a personal human interest story. Michael Phelps winning is extremely personal for Michael’s mother. She was a bundle of nerves and who wouldn’t be? She is proud of her son and her country and, yes, she laughs and cries and cheers. It might seem strange to jaded newsmen, but Michael Phelps’ mom thinks it’s better when Michael and Americans win. One would think the news anchors would feel the same way.
The Olympics is a sports competition. There are winners. There are losers. It is perfectly legitimate to want America to win everything, every single time. It’s nothing personal against the other competitors or the countries they represent. If they are better, smarter, faster, and work harder, then by all means may the best man win. The game shouldn’t be rigged to achieve a certain outcome, as the communists are wont to do, or to achieve the dream of American Olympic world domination.
It would just be neat if Americans were in contention in every event. It won’t happen. But big deal. The Olympics is about dreams.
The Olympics is not a communist utopia where there are no winners and losers. The Olympics is about a safe, fair place where politics — yeah, right — are presumably set aside for the love of excellence. It is perfectly natural to be an American and want Americans to win. Just as it is perfectly natural to be Chinese and want a Chinese competitor to win. As long as the competition is fair, play and play to win.
When it comes to the NBC anchors’ skin-crawling discomfort with any athlete demonstrating love of country, enough already! If it weren’t for this country, sports broadcasters wouldn’t be paid ungodly sums of money to put their taut-faced vapidness before a screen to talk about American greatness. They need to show their country some respect — a little awe and adoration would be nice, too.
And another thing about Collinsworth’s reporting. He enthused about how great the American young people were and how well they represented our country. Does any American expect anything less? It is not surprising to Americans that these kids who work their butts off and show discipline, dedication, and devotion to their sport would be anything less than disciplined, dedicated, and devoted while in China. What is surprising is that Collinsworth is surprised or would feel compelled to report this.
The NBC reportage brings to mind the tone of Barack Obama, whose take on ignorant Americans not knowing languages has been debunked this Olympics. Kobe Bryant was doing interviews over in China with other countries’ press corps. Kobe spoke fluently in Italian and Spanish. He is just one American athlete who knows more than one language. There are more. The winner of the women’s gymnastics gold medal knows Russian. In addition to being multilingual, the American Olympic team is multiethnic. The Olympic team is made up of Americans who are legal immigrants and they retain their heritage while becoming fully cultured Americans. Proud Americans. They are not multicultural. They are unicultural.
The American Olympic team is the story of America. Far from being stupid white-bread rubes, Americans are worldly because of their bloodlines — they come from everywhere, yet they are culturally American. It is called a melting pot for a reason. America does not discriminate based on race or gender. Americans discriminate though: be the best.
That is why Americans hire Chinese coaches for diving and a Chinese immigrant coaches one of our greatest gymnasts. We attract the best and brightest and most idealistic and hardest working. That is the American spirit.
This is all stating the obvious. And it is possible to report the truth and demonstrate patriotism. It is right and good to recognize that America is great because America has earned it. America is great because the individuals that make America are great. The people who made the American Olympic team are great because they’re free — free to pursue their love, free to develop their talent, and free to achieve. They are proud to be American and Americans are proud of them.
So it’s okay, NBC anchors: you can cheer America’s greatness. In fact, it’s time to start doing just that.