Friday, August 22, 2008

Are the Olympics Good for America?

Are the Olympics Good for America?There's been a lot of chatter about how China sees the 2008 Olympics as an opportunity to put its best foot forward, for them to impress the world with how modern and progressive the Communist party can be but I'm really less concerned with what our neighbor to the east is doing and more concerned about how lately the United States seems to embarrass itself on the world stage every time we get together for this little party.

If China is suffering a public relations "situation" then America must be in a public relations crisis. Since 1776 has there been a time when the country was so widely criticized and reviled?

The thing is the Olympic games offer a unique chance to put aside political issues and to meet with neighbors on equal terms where anyone can walk away with a victory medal but the United States so often flaunts its celebrity status to the point that I can't help but say I don't blame the other countries if they hate our guts. I'd hate our guts too for two simple reasons: we lack humility and we lack class.

There are still plenty of quiet times where the American Olympians are gracious in both victory and defeat but too many of the athletes--the ones that get most of the press--are so arrogant it's embarrassing. To see Valeri Liukin miss his daughter's medal ceremony because he was busy arguing with the judges makes me blush. To see track and field stars like Michael Johnson with his golden shoes or Jeremy Wariner with his sunglasses strutting their stuff in an ostentatious display reminiscent of the latest rap star or NFL god makes me wince. To see David Payne get in the camera and swagger after winning his silver medal or to see winning athletes take a now-customary victory lap or, worse yet, drape their sweaty bodies in the American flag as if it were a towel because they're just too busy thinking about how good it is to be them makes me want to cringe in the corner for shame.

I want to see athletes that aren't just physically gifted but are emotionally mature enough to accept a victory or defeat with humility and good sportsmanship. To see more of them thanking their competition for the chance to excel, acknowledging the work of the judges and organizers that made their moment possible, being grateful to live where there's good health care, nutrition and technology to keep them in such amazing shape, realizing they don't succeed in a vacuum and that if it weren't for the excellent collegiate programs and support for sports they received at every point in their training they wouldn't be standing there on the podium. I don't just want winners, give me heroes. It's a tall demand but that's the kind of representatives America desperately needs at these games.

For those who think this arrogance is limited to Americans I'm not so ethnocentric as to think we have the monopoly on bad form. It was thrilling to watch Usain Bolt's miraculous victories in the 100 and 200 meter men's finals but after ten minutes of watching him wriggle on the ground in glory, point at himself, gesture and yell "I'm number one!" it was sickening. His amazing accomplishment was diminished by all of the smacking his chest in victory and clenching his fists in power before draping himself in his country's flag only to let it drag on the ground while he squatted down for a photo op next to the clock bearing his record-breaking time.

Where have all the humble athletes gone?

When did it become vogue to triumph relentlessly over one's opponents, to pout when you didn't get what you considered a fair score or to argue and protest things into the ground? After Usain Bolt's 200 meter victory the silver and bronze medalists (Churandy Martina of the Netherlands and Wallace Spearmon of the U.S. respectively) were disqualified for stepping on the lane lines.

NBC grabbed Spearmon just as he found out that he'd been disqualified and asked him what he was going to do.

"Protest!" he said, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

"You're going to file a protest?" the reporter asked.

"Sure!" Spearmon said.

Apparently everyone from Al Gore to Wallace Spearmon thinks that if the rules don't go your way, litigate.

Consider Paul Hamm, the U.S. gymnast in the Athens 2004 Olympics who received the gold medal over Yang Tae Young because of a judge's error in scoring. No one argues whose fault the error was, it was an embarrassment to the entire IOC and three judges were suspended as a result but the scores had to stand based on the rules.

Fair enough and you could argue that Paul Hamm was technically within his rights to keep his gold medal though it properly belonged to another--the rules were absolute on that point--but for him to keep the medal after the discovery of this error shows a lack of honor for the game that is humiliating not only for the Olympic spirit and the sport of gymnastics but for all those Americans Mr. Hamm represented at the games. What does his medal now symbolize? The triumph of technicality over performance? Of loopholes over legitimacy? Bad form Mr. Hamm, bad form.

Honor, humility and decency have become the exception rather than the rule. Why oh why, when America is being criticized and derided all over the world, isn't the United States Olympic committee (or whoever is babysitting these athletes when they go to these games) falling over themselves to ensure that every American Olympian gets a lesson in "Sports Etiquette 101"?

Why do the media continue to glorify athletes even when they show poor sportsmanship? I wish someone would speak up--if not for the honor of the game at least to save the rest of us some severe shame.

If our athletes aren't learning how to be good sports in college then maybe it's in the national interest to train these de facto ambassadors how to gracefully win or lose. They've got to get the message from somewhere because they're not getting it at the NCAA level and they're certainly not getting it from watching professional sports where egotism sells tickets.

America so missed the boat on this one, here we had a chance to show up to the biggest event outside of the World Cup and to treat our competitors with integrity, modesty, humility and respect and to show them what we're really made of--that we're not just about speed, strength and power but that character still means something. Too often NBC showed us the chest-thumping bravado that must have the rest of the world rolling its eyes.

Where's the penalty box when you need it?

Sponsored by Dimples and Dandelions--for the Serena and Lily Bedding Collection for Children

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Jayanth said...

hi Mitchell,
i give my full support about what u have expressed....cheers..

Pumpkin Pie said...

I am so with you on this one. I haven't watched the games because it doesn't mean much to me. The cheating doesn't sit well with me either.

There is too much pressure to win and winning is ALL that matters.

It is against the values I stand for and the values I teach to my children. So, we don't watch the games.

Isunji said...

I couldn't agree more... I think that's why I haven't been pressed to watch any of the olympics so far. I used to love them when I was growing up. They used to be so much fun... now, not so much!

Edi said...

I guess I'd rather see number one athletes strutting around and excited b/c they have accomplished something so intense and physically challenging then to see Hollywood stars strutting around, wearing sunglasses at night or indoors etc. etc.

Don't forget at the end of something intense the athlete is full of adrenalin and I think that may account for some of the antics...and perhaps some of it is for "show" b/c you know if you are a "character" you are gonna get more recognition and media attention...and maybe an endorsement.

Having said all that I don't think poor sportsmanship is challenging something when you broke a rule - and everyone needs to have some humility...

Alice Wills Gold said...

It's so brave to say the things that you say.

So often, these athletes get so much attention that they forget how to be good sports.

We have no one to blame but ourselves.

I couldn't agree with you more on all of your points..this is why I have rebelled in my own way.

I have stopped attending professional sports and I have watched very little of the Olympics.

Does this make me unpatriotic? Yes. But, if we have to worship athletes to be patriotic, I fear for the state of our union.

God bless us all.

P.S. I am so skeptical that I can't even enjoy wins anyway. Any time that Michael Phelps has won by such a huge margin all I can think about is the announcement we will be getting down the road that he was indeed high on something during all of those gold medals....we have just had too much of that in the past and it has made me a total unbeliever.

And, as far as I am concerned the real American heros were not in the Olympics or watching the Olympics last night. They were at their PTA meeting, putting their kids to bed, and/or coaching a young team of players.

Kacie said...

I was furious at Bolt when he won the 100m and started celebrating before he even crossed the finish line.

Sure, he won. Sure, he set a new world record. But celebrate after, ok? Arg.

Dara Torres had a wonderful display of sportsmanship, and it made me love her even more: During a swimming preliminary event, one of her competitor's swimsuits was ripped. She alerted the judges to the situation and told the other competitors to hang loose while the swimmer could get changed real quick.

Dara ended up winning her heat.

She later said something like, "In the pool, they're my competitors, but out of the pool, they're my friends."

Right on!

Babystepper said...

Bolt disgusted me. Instead of remembering how fast he was, I'm going to remember that ridiculous display of immaturity.

The whole games can be a little ridiculous these days. All the cameras right in their faces for one thing, and the way they behave in front of them for another.

thordora said...

This was a fabulous post. I agree, sadly. I've always wanted the olympics to be something they aren't. :(

TJ said...

about the flag thing.....many track and field winners do the same thing with their flag, so it's not just us. it seems to be something of a tradition.

i cannot imagine working so hard to win and then actually winning. nothing wrong with celebrating. its the ones that take it to the extreme.

regarding the liukins: the scores thos gymnastic judges were handing out were suspect in some events. the high scores that the chinese seemed to be getting when there were some very obvious mistakes. he had probably gotten tired of it and was getting frustrated. again, when you've been working so hard to get something how can you just ist to the side when there might be a chance that something was done wrong?

i have no idea how it feels to be in the olympics. so as much as the excessive acting is obvious to be irritated at, some of the other things i don't get irritated with. and seriously, the chinese gymnastic girls are incredibly young. when everyone else follows the rules, and then they walk out, how can it not be obvious that the majority of those girls aren't old enough to be out there?

these athletes have accomplished an amazing thing. they got to the olympics. i wish we saw more of this stuff rather than all the crap we see about paris hilton and britney spears.

Mandy said...

The slapping of the chest always gets me. I don't get it when they slap their chest and then point up like their thanking God and then continue to slap their chest. Kind of irronic isn't it? I miss the humble Olympic 40 something swimmer (can't remember her name) that helped all the teammates and opponant's regardless of what country they are from! I agree humility goes a long ways.

Barbara H. said...

Although I agree in general with what you are saying, I think this is a wrong characterization of Valeri Liukin. I mentioned in the T13 comment that he was not arguing with judges, he was talking with the USA women's team coach, trying to figure it out, and it was not during the medal ceremony, it was before. According to he was not planning to protest because there was no way to.

~TAMY 3 Sides of Crazy~ said...

"I don't just want winners, give me heroes. It's a tall demand but that's the kind of representatives America desperately needs at these games." What more can be said - you found the epitome' of what SHOULD be happening in life itself as well as the Olympics.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you for the most part, but I also really believe that if the media stopped showing it, the athletes would stop doing it.

Also, for every one person that DOES show that kind of bravado, there's the humble, respectful athlete that is a joy to watch.

Emanuele from Alba (Piemonte) said...

Dear Mitchell. Also in Italy celebrity is linked up to star system and sports are polluted of economic interests. Then the most important thing is teaching to young boys respect for who loose a race. As Mandy said humility and respect go a long ways. My physical trainer when I went to high school, Franco Menichelli, won a god medal in masculine artistic gimnastic in Olimpic games in Tokio 1964 and I never knew a people so respectful.

P.S Mitchell I dont' forget your blog. I'm trying to follow you and all posts.


Emanuele from Alba - (Piemonte)

Melissa Markham said...

A thoughtful post, Michelle. I am bothered by the way athletes are looked upon as heroes in our country and at the poor sportsmanship so many have displayed. I haven't watched the Olympics since I was a teenager.

Sounds like I haven't missed much.

Battery Chargers said...

yes olympics good for america ...Its help to increase the sports persons.

Kitkat said...

I think that you're way off base. Most athletes (American or otherwise) at the Olympics have handled themselves with dignity and grace. In track and field, it is customary to carry your flag after you win a medal, every country does it, not just the US. Also, in V. Luikin's time, they awarded double gold medals and so he was finding out what was happening. Almost everyone was confused, and I'm sure that if it was your child, you would have wanted an explanation.

Overall, I think that your post was ignorant and biased. These athletes train their entire life to compete at this stage and represent our country and you're criticising them while sitting on your lazy boy.

Derick and Becky said...

I like Shaun Johnson (sp) I loved how she always looked sincere! She was about the only one...

Dawn@Embracing the Ordinary Life said...

Truthfully I think we have been/ are raising a generation of people who think if they throw a hissy fit, or yell and fight, they will get what they want...And unfortunatly, they do!

On the other hand, I have seen many athletes give hugs to those from other countries...and I think I would be ecstatic if I worked as hard as some of these athletes do to win by a large...

We learn graciousnes by seeing graciousness by giving acknowleding it...but unfortunatly we give too much attention to those who do the opposite...and that's why we see it more often.

I believe that if one person were picking a fight with another, and one person were giving a hug to another...the media would go to the fight...cause that's apparently what sells...and isn't that sad.

Summer said...

I agree with some of the things you said. Too many athletes are arrogant and showy these days and it drives me nuts that their immature behavior is rewarded.

As for Valeri Lukin, he wasn't arguing about the score, he was trying to understand how it happened that way and though the camera edits may have made it seem like he was doing so during the medal ceremony, he wasn't. In any case I think when a score is obviously biased or wrong that it's ok to fight for the right result.

Also, pretty much every athlete carries or drapes their countries flag around their shoulders when they've been awarded a medal.

And as for China putting it's best foot forward. They sure started off wrong when they put gymnasts on the floor who were so obviously under age. I'm thrilled that new proof of under age is being looked into. If they cheated the Chinese women's team needs their medals stripped and to be banned from the next olympic games.

Scribbit said...

Okay let me catch up with comments--

seems a few have pointed out that Liukin wasn't showing bad sportsmanship at all just looking for clarification. I don't know that I buy that given that the medal ceremonies don't take place immediately but with a few minutes of buffer time for him to have learned all he needed about the rules. I never said he was planning to protest, the protest I mentioned was in regards to Spearmon's bronze medal disqualification. Just to clarify.

Yes, everyone drapes themselves in their flags--just as Bolt himself did--but that doesn't make it right. Saying "everyone does it" never is an excuse for anything so that doesn't sway me. It's still disrespectful of their country's flag and no one points it out--bugs me. It's pretty much the number one rule of how to properly treat the flag (next to not burning it) :)

But they probably don't know it. Maybe that's why they ought to get some training?

I think what I want to emphasize again is that there are many who do show good sportsmanship but unfortunately they are the exception--especially in the track department--and the media shares a huge amount of responsibility or blame because of how they continually show all the bad behavior and give it air time. No oe is calling them on it.

allysha said...

I sort of agree, and sort of don't. I can see why Nastia's dad was upset. I was upset. (And perfectly willing to admit my American bias!)

I think the judging had some problems and while of course we all hope to achieve perfect graciousness in all situations, I know I would have a harder time if I felt like there had been an error in the judging in a competition I had worked my whole life for.

I wasn't impressed with Spearmon, but I can sympathize, seeing as he had just barely learned that he had been DQ-ed and after thinking you'd won silver that would be disappointing, so I don't entirely fault him.

But you're right about the bravado; I have been uncomfortable with the pomp of Mr. Bolt. He is amazing, but humility would make it more so.
It's why I was always really happy for Michael Phelps. He seems like a genuinely nice guy and not too full of himself.

And amen on the flag thing.

I've been impressed with the interviews I've seen with the Basket Ball team. They seem to have shown much less swagger than they do at home. I will admit: I have not watched any games. But I'm impressed that Kobe Bryant speaks a lot of languages.

That said, I'm ready to get to bed at a normal hour. The Olympics are almost dead; long live the Olympics!

detroit dog said...

great post!

I think Dara Torres is the epitome of class and great sportsmanship. Shawn Johnson was great for just being a hardworking kid happy about whatever she could do. I really don't believe Michael Phelps was anything special beyond his swimming speed. There was a lot of chest-beating and screaming on his part.

The Chinese and Japanese are wonderful for taking their respectful bows after every performance.

MommyK said...

I really disagree with you on this one. Michael Phelps is from my neck of the woods and I've seen many many interviews with him and his mom. He's just your average boy who has done amazing things through his own hard work and dedication. And if one more person suggests that he is on steroids, I think I may scream.

I really really like seeing the athletes celebrating when they win. Watching the men swimmers whooping and hollering when they won the relay was just really nice to see. This reminds me of Garrison Keillor's column after Memorial Day when he criticized bikers as being uncouth and tacky because they chose to ride their bikes in a display of patriotism instead of sitting in an art museum like Keillor did.

Rolling around in sand or chest beating or screaming to celebrate a win isn't immature or egotistical. To me, it represents joy and a job well done.

As for the US looking bad, I think if anyone looks bad these Olympics, it is the Chinese.

Erin said...

I don't know about this. I agree with you to some degree--I think humility is important, certainly, as is being gracious in both victory and defeat. But I also think there have been so very many examples of excellent sportsmanship at these games. Athletes hugging or high-fiving their competition after a race; athletes being incredibly gracious and sweet in the annoying "how do you feel that you totally blew it at the Olympics?" interviews.

When Lolo Jones tripped on a hurdle and lost her chance at medaling, she went into one of those interviews and gave a very collected and gracious response to all of the questions thrown at her. Later, they had footage of her crying in (she thought) private. I was so impressed with her ability to keep it together until she was alone, when she thought it was safe to let it out.

Maybe some athletes are arrogant, but many people are arrogant. I'm not excusing them, I'm just saying--there are, to my mind, many more moments of grace and kindness in this Olympics than the other way 'round.

Munchkins and Music said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chocolate on my Cranium said...

You knew you'd be getting good discussion with this post! :)

Like some of the others I agree on some points and disagree on others. With Valeri Luikin you also have to remember that he was acting as coach, not just father. I actually told my girls that Nastia could have started throwing a fit or acting like my own girls were acting and saying "That's not fair! What kind of stupid rule is that?" To me she acted with some grace. What would you have done?

As far as the celebratory exulting arms raised, chest thumping, have you seen the study comparing the reactions of blind and sighted competitors? You can read about it here. It seems we are all naturally disposed to behave that way when we win something. Although I do think one can have some self control and limit the amount of celebration, be more sportsmanlike, and celebrate the success of the other athletes' hard work.

I totally agree with you on the flag carrying. My own children know you are not supposed to wear the American Flag or even use it as a cape or blanket. It's actually very disrespectful!!!

Part of the problem with unsportsmanlike behavior lies with parents teaching their children through example. You know what I mean if you've ever been to any Little League or Soccer game. Some of those parents are pretty ruthless and brutal, yelling and arguing for all the kids to see.

Munchkins and Music said...

At least we aren’t being shady. What about the allegations about He Kexin's age. They are investigating her age because she may be too young to compete!!

For these Olympians this sport has been their life for the last 4 years. Can you imagine training all day every day? It is really hard! So when an Olympian goes out there and wins a gold medal, I think they have the right to be chest thumping and jumping up and down.

Also, I have seen a lot of the USA Olympians give a hand shake or a pat on the back to their competitor when they lost or won.

Janelle said...

I can't say that I've ever known an athlete (even pre-NCAA level) who didn't have a big ego, with the possible exception of my sister (though certainly not my brother).

In these games, I've been impressed with Nastia Liukin (though not her father) and Shawn Johnson. When Nastia won the women's all-around, yes she basked in the glory for a few minutes, yes, she stood on the mat with her arms in the air while everyone cheered for her, but I think she was entitled. She seemed to carry an air of humility and overwhelmedness (real word?) at that moment. Then Shawn Johnson tapped her on the shoulder and hugged her with a huge smile on her face. No tears from Shawn, no animosity or jealousy that the public saw. These girls were friends, and treated each other as such. They rejoiced together. After the cameras were gone, who knows, but in that moment, there was shared joy.

Scribbit said...

Sorry Munchkins, the argument that "well they're doing it too" or "they're doing something worse" doesn't sway me. So the CHinese may have cheated--I'm not Chinese and their behavior doesn't reflect on me. The American athletes (the ones who didn't display good sportsmanship, there were many who did) represent all Americans and it's their behavior I'm writing about.

Poor sportsmanship isn't limited to the Olympics, you can find it at every level of sports competition right down to Little League and t-ball unfortunately. It's all over high school and college sports and just serves to reinforce itself in the next generation watching.

I'm glad that those who disagree are comfortable saying so, but I stand by my assertion that those who showed so much arrogance and bad sportsmanship as I've described (and I've noticed there are a lot of comments about the Liukins--and Nastia acted pretty honorably I thought, if you recall it was her father who was acting immature--but no one seems to mention the case of Paul Hamm, David Payne or Wallace Spearmon) are an embarrassment to us when we desperately need to put our best foot forward in world affairs.

SEJL said...

I have to say that I totally disagree with you. I believe for the most part you are making a large generalization based on a few events. While some of the USA athletes have not been the most gracious in their victories and defeats, many have.
Disrespecting a flag is not acceptable, I agree, but celebrating is. Since when was it unacceptable to celebrate a victory? Heaven forbid anyone show emotion when winning or losing an event that they have worked years to get to.
I have never competed in a sporting event near the caliber of the Olympics, but I can say that in the events I've competed in on a local level I've celebrated my victories and defeats on and off the field and I'm sure some jumping up and down and raised arms were a part of the celebration. But forgive me for that, I am only human after all.

Amber said...

I have watched hours and hours of the Olympics and I think some of the examples you cited are the exceptions, not the rules. Bolt and a few other athletes were over-the-top but overall, there has been awe, wonderment, jublilation and most importantly gratitude about their Olympic experience!

An Ordinary Mom said...

There are a few things I agree with in this post, and quite a few things I disagree with ... shocking, I know because normally you and I see fairly eye to eye.

The Valeri Liukin thing has already been pointed out to you (he was talking to the head American coach, Marta Karyoli, trying to understand how the third tiebreaker rule). Afterwards both he and Nastia were very gracious and they understood rules are rules

And as far as Paul Hamm giving back his medal? I kind of disagree there, too. It is very hard to change the outcome of a scoring competition after the fact because we don't know how the circumstances would have changed during the competition, too many variables are at play. After all, Hamm could have changed the difficultly level of his routine knowing he needed to gain a tenth of a point more.

Great discussion here!

Mommie Daze said...

Liukin's arguing, discussing, questioning - whatever it was - doesn't bother me as much as his daughter's obvious pouting. I saw two different nights where she won a medal, but not the gold, and from the expression on her face, anything less than gold clearly was not good enough for her.

After the all-around competition I watched an interview with Nastasia and Shawn Johnson. Johnson was pleased to have a silver medal, and was genuinely happy for her teammate Liukin who won the gold. I'm afraid I did not get that same feeling from Liukin when she had to play second fiddle to Johnson. Johnson is definitely the better sport.

Athletes around the world in all levels of competition need some lessons in being good winners and losers.

Tracee said...

Sounds like you're talking about the male American athletes here.

I noticed none of the cited shameful moments were female winners.

Great post by the way.

Heather said...

I can't fathom some of these athletes' reactions when they win silver or bronze though. Take Jeremy Wariner (track and field)-- he had a mini-tantrum because he got second place. Silver sounds really good to me. Why can't they be happy?

Chris said...

Michelle- You're really brave to post how you feel about this. Bravo for that!

I'm not that into the Olympics but I think good sportmanship is becoming less and less important and that's a shame. It's not just at the Olympics but at the soccer fields and hockey rinks. Parents are teaching their children that winning is everything. It's not good when they see it on TV too.

Anonymous said...


Two Olympic posts in a row. Maybe you shouldn't watch them if you have nothing nice to say? You have the right to your opinion, sure. But your disparaging comments are just as bad as the actions of a few American athletes. Could you do what they have worked their whole life for?

Laura said...

This is good discussion, but I think that there may be a little too much emphasis on the negative.

My family always has a wonderful time watching the Olympics. We cheer, we clap, we consult the world map... We discuss behavior (the good and the bad) and we learn lessons from all of it. We've found that the Olympics shows us humanity in all it's forms - the ugly and the beautiful. We're born into sin...and so we see the sin. We are 'wonderfully made' and we see what men are capable of in God's design. If we're looking for perfection in man, our pursuits will always be in vain.

I also think that it may be an overstatement to say that those showing good sportsmanship out there on this world stage are the exception. There have been so many categories of competition in Beijing over the last 2 weeks, most of which haven't been televised on NBC. On top of that, we're still only seeing the top of the heap in those events that we do see. Think of all the graceful "losers." Think of all the events and people we have not seen.

I agree that there has been some nasty behavior. There has probably been some misinterpreted behavior. There has certainly also been some commendable behavior. But isn't that what life shows us all over? We take life and we hold it up to the light and learn from it. Can't we also do this with the Olympics?

Come's good fun to watch people flying through the air! It's fun to teach my kids where Uzbekistan is! It's fun to watch 2008 men playing the drums with glo-sticks! It's fun to say Libby Trickett again and again (I agree!). We can celebrate all this and learn from the rest.

Bobbie in AK said...

Good post. Although I don't agree with it all. I would hate to lump all the Americans in the same category, as there have been some very gracious US athletes.

However, there was one track and field star who got under my skin so badly - I can't remember his name but I remember the comment. Basically, he said there was no comparison to himself and another semi-finalist who ended up getting the exact same time in their heat! He was so cocky! I ranted about poor sportsmanship and how horrible he was for the rest of the evening. It was shameful.

I wish all athletes would be like Shawn Johnson, Dara Torres, Michael Phelps, Misty May-Treanor and Kari Walsh to name a few. Proud of their accomplishments and hard work without the overkill.

Pencil Writer said...


There's a local grocery store here in town (small town) that has the slogan (which all their employees wear from time to time on T-shirts provided by their employer) that states "It's All About You." Now, they are one of those businesses that try to do it right--the customer being important to the success of the grocery store. They still have bag boys that take your groceries out to you vehicle, they will order items you request to have on their shelves, etc. But, unfortunatley, I'm afraid, kind of like you, that that phrase, "It's all about you" has infiltrated the conscientiousness of too many people in this good ole USA and been magnified all out of proportion.

I'm with you. Dignity, integrity, humility. We needs lots more of those qualities--everywhere! Less focus on "I't ALL about ME!" Cause, folks, it ain't.

Carinne said...

I agree with you that some of the athletes are quite arrogant - mostly the track stars - specifically sprinters. Kendall was telling me that so much of sprinting is mental and you really have to be over confident that you can do it. Not to say that I approve still - but its makes sense and I don't really think that arrogance in sprinting is limited to the USA.

I'm also going to point out that while you're complaining about the US - you forget that the very worse (and most publized) example of unsportsmanlike conduct wasn't from the USA at all. It was the guy from Sweden who got the bronze in wrestling due to a technicality and threw it down in protest. He's getting it stripped by the IOC.

I'm going to agrue with you on Nastia too. She put out a very kind and gracious statement about it all. I saw nothing during the broadcast where I thought her father was being overly pushy or rude or not sportsman like.

I also disagree on Paul Hamm. There was a lot of discussion on this when it happened 4 years ago. I agree with the consensus that gymnastics is a JUDGED sport and therefore subjective at times. You have to be at the mercy of mistakes. There are many times during many sporting events when judges make bad calls that can decide the game. The results still stand. Umpires, referees, judges all make bad calls that can influence or decide the outcome. That's a risk of sports. There were many bad scores in gymnastics this Olympics - some that gave the US lower medals than they should have. (Swedish guy is an examplet) DOesn't matter - the decision was made and the results stand. That's the rules - Nastia got a silver because of a technical rule. Paul Hamm got a gold because of a technicality.

I agree with you to a point, but you focus too much on a FEW of the poor athletes. Michael Phelps, Dara Torres, Laura Wilkinson, the volleyball teams, Nastia Luikin, Shawn Johnson and many more were all wonderful to watch, gracious and good in loosing and winning. PLus, when someone has worked their WHOLE lives to succeed in the Olympics - and then they fail - its only natural to be upset. We see them RIGHT when they realize they aren't goign to fulfill their dreams.

I just don't think it helps or does any good to bad mouth our own country and its representatives. I'd much rather my kids take away from the Olympics the feelings of pride, the knowledge that if you work hard you can succeed, a feeling of being apart of something big. Why focus on a few little - not so nice - things and be miserable?

Daisy said...

Two words: Dara Torres. Classy, talented, and hard working. I'm proud to see her representing us.

Doll Clothes Gal said...

Great post and I agree with your points of view. I think the media drive much of what happens in the US; particularly our popular culture. I think they have become too powerful in this country and don't have the morals or responsibility to use that position respectfully.

Amber (Bringing Good Home) said...

I haven't been able to watch any of the games this year - we've turned off our television... but I have seen a few of the headlines and even I have noticed that it seems like gold is the only one worth winning and silver and bronze don't matter anymore. What a shame!! Medaling is nothing to sneeze at!! Perhaps our athletes don't know how to lose (or how to place second or third) because society is constantly telling them that winning is all that counts. Just a theory...

Erica Douglas said...

As a Brit, I think Shawn Johnson is an excellent ambassador for America. Gracious when winning and in defeat, and a team-player to boot, the way she comforted Sacramonie after her errors in the team event was heart-warming. Can't wait to see her at London 2012, I'll be cheering her on.

Angela Fehr said...

Unfortunately, it is the bad behaviour of the few that leaves the lasting impression. I'm Canadian, and haven't watched much of the Olympics, but when I'm watching the Olympics and the coverage doesn't include a Canadian competitor, I always find myself rooting for the USA not to win.
I've noticed a big difference in the coverage of the Olympics based on whether it's a Canadian station or an American station reporting, as well. The US stations focus almost exclusively on US athletes, whereas the Canadian coverage is more well-rounded, and covers even events that they don't have medal hopes for.
Whether it's the case or not, the impression that other countries carry about the US is that the USA considers itself the point around which the rest of society revolves, and this mindset and the reaction to it (by the other countries) is seen in international events like the Olympics.

carrie said...

I agree. I'm not a fan of sports for the most part, but I remember watching olympics growing up. Now I think the sportsmanship is just another earmark of our "rights centered" attitude in this country.

And the fact that they highlight only a few of the sports and pump them up so big. What about all the lesser known sports? I wonder if those participants have better attitudes because they are somewhat out of the spotlight?

Good thoughts. And brave of you to post this!

Sixth & Elm said...

I get discouraged when I see athletes going over the top too, but I don't think it is limited to Americans - there are just more Americans celebrating since you guys win the most. But I think it is this generation of young people from developed, privileged countries. They are being raised to believe they are entitled, and that rearing does not lend itself to humility when they get what they believe is their due. It's an epidemic among sprinters, jumpers and other fast-burst sports - I wonder why? You don't see many flaunting marathon winners.

There have been some US heroes - Michael Phelps giving up his spot to his teammate in the 2004 Olympic relay and Dera Torres making sure a competitor's suit was fixed. But they are in the minority. Too bad.

I like watching our Canadian athletes win in the summer Olympics, because they are so shocked every time they get a medal they don't even think to be arrogant. It's a different story in the winter though - I hope we can show some humility when the Olympics are here in 2010.

Gabrielle said...

Well said! Humility, grace, gratitude....have they never heard of these traits??? I agree there needs to be a re-schooling, Sportsmanship 101...

Heather said...

I agree. 100%!!

CassyT said...

Did anyone mention Shawn Crawford, who told his agent, "I still lost" when he was moved up to 2nd place after the 2 DQs in the Men's 200m?


Krysten & David said...

Carinne, I completely agree with your comment. Couldn't have said it better myself.

I wonder one thing however; your post is sponsored by Busy Body Book. Is your post your un-biased opinion or is it somewhat the opinion of the sponsor? One would wonder with such a negative post like this, when normally you are fairly upbeat in your posting.

Wild Squirrel said...

Reminds me of an old saying: competition seems to bring out the best....and the worst in people.

Scribbit said...

Okay so a lot of people out there still back the behavior of those who have shown bad sportsmanship during the games and to them I offer this: if celebrating in this manner as so many of the sports figures do--with the "I'm number one!" and chest thumping antics then picture other famous events.

How would we react if the Nobel prize winner jumped around and around on stage and shouted about how great he was and did the same things we see from sports figures? What about at a presidential inauguration? Surely become president is as much of an accomplishment as winning an Olympic medal and we wouldn't tolerate that from a public figure.

What about at the Academy Awards? (they're not even held to as high a standard as the athletes). I want to know why people excuse this kind of poor sportsmanship in sports but not in other areas? I think it's purely because sports are idolized like nothing else.

I'm sorry if I offended anyone but I stand by my criticism of the behavior I've mentioned and I'm surprised that so many excuse this kind of thing in the name of competition.

And the accusation that I'm "bad mouthing" the country (faint suggestion of being unpatriotic?) is confusing--so you're saying that what some of these athletes I've mentioned have done is okay and by calling them to task (I wouldn't let my own kids get away with that kind of thing frankly) I'm the one who is out of line? That really surprises and disappoints me.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'd just like to comment.

You don't think presidential candidates gloat? What about Howard Dean? Every candidate does nothing but yelling from sea to sea about how great they are.

And....Usian Bolt donated $50,000 of his own money to China's earthquake relief fund. Not everything may be as it appears. The media is trying to make a story out of everything. They have to find an angle and a controversy to make it interesting. They show us all the worst they can find.

and, just because a few gloat doesn't mean the whole olympics are a shame on the US.

Krysten & David said...

For what its worth, Is there not a huge, I am the number one man party after a person finds out they are to become the next president? May not be slapping ones chest but still, in your face if you ask me.

Tim Appleton (Applehead) said...

Throw down that hammer! It is nice to read the discussion that you have started.I also like that you keep discussing in your comments.

Cuddle Cottage said...

And did you hear about the US pole vaulter, Jennifer Stuczynski, claiming she was going to "kick Russian bu**" ? She was referring to Yelena Isinbayeva, who beat her and set a new world record . . .

Robin (PENSIEVE) said...

Michelle, I saw this the other day but didn't have time at that moment to really think-read it; now I have along with the comments.

I have followed the Olympics loosely this season and (fortunately for me) missed every one of the indecencies you mentioned. Of course I heard about much of it after the fact, when it's broadcast for millions, it's inescapable.

Wanna hear my thought I don't think has been mentioned? Well, vaguely and indirectly it was in one of your last responses--it can be traced to a parenting issue! You mentioned you wouldn't allow your children to act like that, neither would I. They should be taught and trained and guided from their earliest years the "rules" of conduct and sportsmanship. It's difficult to lose with grace and perhaps more so to win gracefully; my children have heard guidance in these areas from their youngest days.

Also, the celebrity status of athletes does them no favors--with million dollar paychecks, they're in essence rockgods, completely idolized. Many receive a king's wages before they're old enough to make wise, mature decisions.

I guess no one wants to hold them accountable and they begin to believe their own press(??). Think about young actors/actresses out of control with too much money and power too soon. Train wrecks :/.

Regardless, I don't blame those outside our Country for hating us either...which grieves me.

BTW, VERY well articulated and presented.

Scribbit said...

Amy at The Little Things wrote a post with some of her thoughts on this issue (she doesn't agree with me but says some things very well)

Original Sin

Suzanne said...

Hear! Hear!

Inkling said...

I am totally with you on this one. We are babysitting three kiddos tonight, and their parents told us that they were fine with us letting their kids watch the Olympics all evening. (And that was after I suggested we play outside all evening. But these folks did sign up for cable just for the games.) Anyway, I couldn't help but cringe and wonder if these children, all under the age of 7, would end up seeing an athlete throw a temper tantrum in public.

You are right. We need heroes again. I'm tired of celebrities. And I'm really tired of people not understanding the level of honor and respect that ought to be shown to a flag that used to mean something.

Like I used to tell my students when I wanted them to do their best instead of focusing on their neighbor's performance, "it's not a competition," I sort of wish the Olympics could be about something else than watching winners worship themselves, sore losers, cheaters, unscrupulous judges, and ethnocentric announcers.

Yes, my name is Arizona said...

I just read about a Cuban Tae Kwon Do athlete who kicked a referee in the face and spat on the ground when he was disqualified. How's that for sportsmanship? I agree that athletes should conduct themselves in a sportsmanlike manner. They too often don't.

Yes, my name is Arizona said...

And celebrating a victory by raising your arms in the air and smiling and waving is one thing, but chest thumping and yelling "i'm number 1" is quite another. The former is classy; the latter is cheesy and immature.

Keren said...

The issue with Paul Hamm is more complicated than it looks. Yes, the start value was improperly assessed, but the South Korean delegates did not protest until everything was over. At that point, they were asking for the gymnastic judges to review the routine he did and see his start value was lower than it should have been. But the judges made another mistake in regards to that routine. They missed a deduction worth .2. That isn't mentioned ever. The other gymnasts weren't going to be afforded the opportunity to make sure the judges got everything right on their routines. South Korea should have filed their appeal earlier, then he could have won his gold medal and then people could talk about how Paul Hamm was robbed because the judges missed an important deduction.

Anonymous said...

YES! Totally agree. But I think the problem is broader--our culture as a whole glorifies winning and pumps up these young athletes and celebrities. We don't teach humility, and it's not something that comes naturally.

jbs said...

i couldn't agree with you more! my family was also having this conversation of ridiculous bravado after Bolt won his race in record time. don't get me wrong... he should be proud- but his actions were drawn out and silly.

i might also add to your observations that Nastia herself (not just her dad) was pretty embarrassing. i couldn't get over how cold and angry she looked while watching the other athletes compete in the uneven bars. it literally made me fume. how ungracious. we watched so many of the other girls hug and congratulate their competition... but not Nastia. she was too busy scowling with her arms crossed. instead of telling your daughter she was robbed, maybe her dad could celebrate his daughter winning the silver. what a concept.

cndymkr / jean said...

Another great post. You hit it perfectly. While many of these athletes are fantastic, too many forget they are just human and need to show a little more sportsmanship.

Sharlene said...

I think the Olympics are fantastic for America. These people worked their entire lives for that moment and to be full of adrenaline and celebration is not a bad thing. I am not a fan of the chest pumping or excessive celebration but I am of the european american tradition and culturally us white folks tend to think subdoing emotions is best. Other cultures react in different ways because that is the norm. There is nothing wrong with showing emotion. I will step into the taboo and say alot of these track and field stars you speak of are african american and I think we all know that african americans tend to be more outwardly emotional. There is nothing wrong with that. Just because it isn't my thing doesn't mean it can't be someone elses. It is their moment and they can express themselves as they wish as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. I think we also have to keep in mind that it usually takes a certain type of personality to push ones self to the levels that these Olympians reach. I think we need to stop focusing on the negative and celebrate the positive that the Olympics bring to this country. i would much rather have my kids idolize Michael Phelps over Britney Spears any day!

Leslie said...

well spoken

Anonymous said...

Thank you Karen for that Paul Hamm information, I remembered that there was more to it but had forgotten just what it was. I felt so bad for him because all those people thought he should give up his medal because they only had half the story.

Aelwyn said...

I think one of the issues here is that in our culture "celebrity" has replaced "hero". Instead of our putting true, honorable character/behavior on a pedestal, we worship arrogance, physical perfection, etc. Combine that with the current sense of entitlement, and we have a mess!

I love our country, but we have some things that we need to fix within our culture. I would far rather have my child admire someone like Mother Teresa than someone who can play a part in a movie well, is extremely beautiful, or can run fast. Where are our values?

jubilee said...

Thought I would add my two cents.

I think an underlying issue IS a hero vs. celebrity mentality. One focuses on others and the other self.

A person can be proud of themselves and celebrate certainly. But if they have an "it's all about me attitude" it will reveal itself over and over again -- and in the most embarrassing ways.

Jason said...

The World Cup in 1994 was great for America so I can only assume the Olympics would be the same