I beg your pardon, but I won't be pulling for the USA in the 2006 Winter Olympics. I don't know who I'll root for, but when it comes to head to head competition I want to see the USA lose.
It's not a political statement. Some might say I'm just being antagonistic...that I'm hoping to stir up a hornets nest by openly cheering for whoever stands the best chance of keeping the good old USA off the medal stand, but the truth is that I'm pulling for the underdog and in this post cold war world with no Soviet Union investing so heavily into Olympic dominance that means that we are the bully on the block.
Our athletes enjoy the best of everything. Training, nutrition, medical care, equipment and even commercial exposure. Team USA is exactly like the old Soviet juggernaut that used to dominate the Games. The rest of the world can't match the attention we are able to provide our athletes. Yes, most of that is provided by private sponsors who trade funding for exposure, but nevertheless it is a huge advantage.
I don't have a personal problem with our athletes, but somehow I think that Olympic success means more to smaller countries than it does to us. Even if that country is a traditional power in a particular sport, such as Austria in the downhill skiing events, they usually don't enjoy overall dominance throughout the games. At the end of the Olympiad the United States is always at the top of the medal count.
Americans don't revel in the Olympics for more than a week or two after the games. Every four years we suddenly take intense interest in random sporting events and we buy into the hype surrounding whichever athlete becomes the darling of the sports media. After the closing ceremonies our attention will turn to the spectacle of the NCAA tournament and beyond that we'll get caught up in baseball and the Olympic heroes we vowed to follow after the games will vanish into the anonymity of their chosen profession. We won't even remember who won the gold in the men's Super G. We'll only remember a handful of the names that the media bombarded us with.
Perhaps the only US athlete I'll truly pull for is Bode Miller and that's only because he has struggled with life in the spotlight. We wonder why he isn't more adept at conducting himself in the public eye, but we fail to realize that for the past four years nobody has paid any attention to him. Suddenly the Olympics are near and Bode has a camera in his face 24/7. Of course he's a flake. He makes a living racing downhill on skis! What did you expect? With so many people up in arms over Bode intimating that he parties hard and skis fast, I hope he wins the gold and passes out on the medal stand. He could blow chunks for all I care. We have players like Ron Artest making a mockery of the NBA and our sports media is preoccupied with a skier behaving like, well, a skier.
Aside from Miller I'd love to see some surprises in the Olympics this year. Maybe Senegal will take home the gold in the bobsled event, perhaps North Korea can upset the favorites in ski jumping, and Argentina can shake up the world by taking home the gold in both men's and women's hockey, with Venezuela and Chile rounding out the rest of the medal stand for a South American sweep in a sport dominated by North American and Russian players. And when's the last time Poland took home a medal in figure skating?
The Olympics are more fun when you don't know what to expect. We all like to root for the underdog and when it comes to the Olympics that is usually whoever the US is competing against.