Recapturing American pride in Games

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Kyle Brennan

I really wish I was around for the Miracle on Ice, or the Los Angeles Games, or even Atlanta (I was around, but at 5 years old certainly not conscious).

The last two Summer Olympics have been fantastic. I remember Sydney a little and Athens more, but Beijing and London have turned my interest into my obsession.

I just wish most Americans felt the same way.

Sure, NBC’s ratings for the 17 nights of these Olympics were off the charts, with about a quarter of all TVs on in primetime tuned to the Peacock. NBC’s website blew away its performance from four years ago. Twitter was historically active through the entire fortnight. All signs point to most of the country thoroughly enjoying the most spectacular event in the world.

But there are stats and then there’s that intangible, what-people-are-talking-about-in-real-life factor. And I just don’t know if the Olympics penetrate that realm in this day and age.

Maybe I’ve got an idealistic set of thoughts about what people talked about in the days before the internet. I imagine people talking about the Miracle on Ice at the office or the coffee shop the next day. I can picture people chatting with the bank teller or the cashier about Mary Lou Retton’s gold medal the morning after.

Maybe that never really happened and I’m thinking more about Pleasantville than I am about the real esteem in which our country held the Olympics prior to the last 15 years or so. I sure hope my reality isn’t fiction.

But wasn’t that part of the whole Cold War thing? Rooting for Americans in everything, hoping we would best the Soviets every time and cherishing those athletes who beat the communists? Maybe that’s another thing I’ve lost in my millennial generation transition, but I sure hope that was real and I don’t strive to get back to something that never existed.

I know people still talk about the Olympics. Maybe a few people see Gabby Douglas on the front page of the newspaper or Michael Phelps chatting on the Today show. Maybe then there’s a passing, “They were pretty good last night, huh?”

“Yeah.”

Is it just me, or is the national pride brought about by American successes at the Olympics gone — or maybe never really existed?

I’m thoroughly proud of every single American who brings home a medal and in certain sports (i.e. swimming) I root harder for the guys and girls with the Stars and Stripes on their caps, jerseys, leotards, singlets, and trunks than I do for the Red Sox (they’re not earning any more than I’m giving them).

Seeing Phelps touch the wall before anyone else — 18 freaking times in eight-plus years — gets my heart beating faster than the bonus section of my P90X plyometrics routine. I can’t even explain why.

Maybe I feel like a victory by him is a victory for me. Maybe it’s because I think our country is the absolute best in the world and seeing a countryman become the best Olympian ever validates my thoughts.

Maybe that’s total nonsense to you but it makes perfect sense to me.

I don’t usually read internet comment sections — frankly, I don’t care what most people think — but I caught one unfortunate statement at the end of an Olympics post on Deadspin last weekend.

The comment read something to the effect that we shouldn’t root for Americans just because we happened to be born inside the same border as them. Heck, we should root for the third-world athlete who doesn’t have the opportunity an American theoretically has.

No, we shouldn’t.

There are very few things I enjoy more than hearing the Star-Spangled Banner while our flag is being raised higher than any other. That doesn’t happen if I root for South Africa’s double-amputee Oscar Pistorius (God bless him, but I wasn’t rooting for him to beat any Americans).

We do Olympic sports right in the United States. Our athletes train as much or as little as they deem necessary. The government doesn’t pay for our athletes to train, nor does it provide the facilities, nor does it force athletes to train for years with limited access to school and their families.

Yep, I’m talking about China. I feel toward China like many of you probably felt toward the Soviet Union way back when. The Chinese try to manufacture athletes and it’s disgusting how they do it.

Diver Wu Minxia won the 3-meter springboard event in London. Right after she won, her father told Wu that both her grandparents were dead and her mother had been battling breast cancer for nine years. Wu didn’t know any of this because she was too busy being manufactured at the government’s diving training facility.

It’s disgusting and I’ll be damned if I think she’s the only Chinese athlete who’s won a gold medal under those circumstances. Therefore, I despise any Chinese athlete I see at the Olympics.

Meanwhile, Missy Franklin will go back to Colorado and swim on her high school team. She’ll keep listening to Justin Bieber and probably will go to McDonald’s with her friends pretty soon, if she hasn’t already.

I saw a meme (fancy term for funny picture with funny caption) on Facebook this week. It featured a menacing bald eagle over an American flag background with the following:

“Get called fat and lazy by other countries. Beat the crap out of them at the Olympics and then land on Mars.”

USA! USA! USA!

Kyle Brennan is a contributing writer to the Citizen’s News.