Financial Times columnist Matthew Engel ruminates on American elitism at the Olympics and the thrill other nations get from knocking American athletes off the pedestal. A fair point – after all, who outside of Boston wasn't praying to see the Patriots defeated last year, the smug smile wiped off Tom Brady's dimpled face? What baseball fan doesn't secretly openly enjoy watching the Yankees' $220 million train wreck?

Then Engel criticizes the way that we just don't get team sports and international competition, contrasting our must-win attitude with the casual, it's-all-for-fun-and-the-joy-of-competing attitude of our European cousins:

My own theory is that the US has never quite grasped the give-and-take character of world sport. Countries devoted to soccer, cricket and rugby play regular international fixtures; they win some and lose some, and learn to live with that…Neither (American) athletes nor spectators are well-prepared for the Olympics.

Right. I will keep that in mind the next time I am watching the World Cup, which is played for fun and in which the fans are not particularly concerned about winning.


  • I suppose if you have no hope of winning in most (if not all) events, it's best to focus on how the Olympics aren't about competition, and how you're not really *trying* to win, because that's missing the whole point of the Games. I remember my little league coach trying a similar strategy to boost my team's morale when we were getting our asses handed to us. It didn't work then, either.

  • hate to defend the olympics, but…

    j. – of course you're *trying* to win in a competition, it's just not *everything*. your coach was right. in my experience, the kids who win all the time are invariably jerks.

    ed – I think it's not the athletes we wanna see beaten, its the flag.

    it's a little like watching someone who is standing on your throat get stung by a bee. not exactly satisfying, but its as good as its gonna get, so we like to try enjoy it. sue us.

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