Friday, August 08, 2008

More nationalism, patriotism mullarkey

Today marks the opening of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beiijing.

Bring on the excessive national pride and the blind faith in some kind of pure version of sport that the Olympics allegedly represents.

Such cynicism, I know. But frankly, I am feeling kind of cynical about these Olympics. There's the immense political controversy over the host, there's the apolitical reaction by most athletes, in part, I believe, because of their need to believe in some pure version of sport that has been peddled to most Americans much of our lives. And then there is the problem of losing some of that blissful ignorance the more you begin to find out about what really happens within the IOC and other sport governing bodies.

I don't want to rant or moan about some of the systemic and institutional problems, though. (Well I do but that would take a lot of time.) I do want to expand on a controversy I wrote about earlier this week: American "traitors."

Seems like China's softball coach Michael Bastian is not the only one who went overseas for an Olympic opportunity. The WNBA's Becky Hammon is playing for Russia. (The article linked here is not that great but it does contain the relevant points.) And her decision to do so is not being received very well. I wonder if this is about playing for the "commies" or just not playing for America. Of course Hammon, according to sources, was never even considered for team USA despite the fact that her stats stack up very well against the other point guards who did make the team.

The fact that she could make some money out of it--if Russia medals--also has some people's panties in a wad. Of course WNBA players are professionals who make very little money, comparatively. There will be plenty of Olympians making money during and after Beijing depending on how well they do. Think Michael Phelps is going to be hurting for cash when he comes back stateside?

The people who find Hammon's participation on team Russia egregious should take a step back to see the larger picture of commercialism, nationalism, globalization, and the Olympics.


Diane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Diane said...

Several weeks ago, I watched an in-depth television feature about Hammon, and I was really pleased to see how many people condemned Anne Dovovan's idiotic attack on her. Donovan completely embodies the fake patriotism that is so in vogue these days.

Some critics of Americans who leave to play sports for other nations accuse those players of putting the desire for money above everything else. Now, where did they learn that?...

Helen said...

FWIW, I care not one iota that Becky's choosing to play for Russia. Nor do I have issue with her not being selected by the USABBall committee (nb Carol Blazejowski said that Becky had turned down "several" invites -- one of the few comments I've seen by a committee member on the process).

Becky's been a late bloomer, never had much international experience, and has an iffish A-to-TO rate, and an offish season so far. But there is no denying she is fun to watch and has a huge audience appeal.

(A more interesting decision is - if you're looking at the PG position and not the 2 - the Lawson over Whalen decision)

I'm more interested in why Kelly Miller and Deanna Nolan didn't get as much attention, Becky's (who is incredibly media savvy) constant (and willing) need to defend herself in the media and her "surprise" at the reaction, and whether, in the end, she's going to get the Olympic experience she's looking for.

Hey, I'm no blind patriot -- Watergate and a father in the foreign service pretty much settled that -- but I am a sap. Watching the athletes (or, seeing the photos) walking in to the arena behind their flag makes me tear up.

Which makes me wonder how becky feels walking into the Bird's Nest. And, if Russia does manage to pull it together and win, how she'll feel hearing the Russian national anthem.