What ever happened to 'us' at the Olympics?

The US hockey team's mammoth upset of the Soviets at the 1980 Winter Games remains an all-time Olympic moment mainly because it was an ultimate "us versus them" scenario.

The US hockey team's mammoth upset of the Soviets at the 1980 Winter Games remains an all-time Olympic moment mainly because it was an ultimate "us versus them" scenario.

Having just watched - and admittedly, not many did - Torino 2006, we're left to ask: Why do Americans care more about Simon Cowell bashing Kelly Clarkson wannabes than they do about their Olympians?

Back in 1980, the West saw the US as David to the Soviets' redoubtable Goliath. So when our boys beat their men, we all could scream, "We beat those damn Russians!" Well, it's hard to drum up support for "us" when "them" is now Belarus or Latvia. "Us versus them" is no longer very compelling.

And how can it be about "us" when NBC spends millions promoting individual athletes like Bode Miller, Apolo Anton Ohno, and Michelle Kwan? Even Lindsey Jacobellis, star of snowboard cross and a Visa commercial, blew a sure gold medal by showboating just yards before the finish. Her gracious attitude in defeat was refreshing, but it still gave anti-Americans fodder to label us feckless, sophomoric, you name it.

And then, of course, there was the daily soap opera at the men's speedskating oval between Chad Hedrick and Shani Davis, both gold medal winners, but PR losers. Their hatred for each other was palpable. They shared forced smiles on the podium after the 1,500-meter race (Davis having won silver, Hedrick bronze) and vitriolic comments at the subsequent press conference. With their actions, both were saying, "There may be no 'I' in team, but there is an 'm' and an 'e.'" That doesn't leave much room for "us," does it?

If you really think about it, "us versus them" is still prevalent. The only problem is that we have become "them," and it's hard to root for "them," even if you're one of "us."

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