The pretty American

The pretty American

: An exasperated correspondent gets to the sports section of The Times, expecting a respite from politican spin, and gets this in a report by Selena Roberts:

A cyclist revealed what it’s like to perform without feeling the burden of the Bush administration’s policy on Iraq, without thinking about hostility by political association, without checking the preset limits on her freedom to express herself.

The cyclist didn’t censor her emotions at the end of Saturday’s women’s road race. She simply flashed an obscene gesture as she crossed the finish line.

And yet, she did not elicit worldwide glowering, morph into a microcosm of her country’s arrogance or become an example on the United States Olympic Committee’s most-wanted list of behavior miscreants.

That’s because she was not an ugly American. Judith Arndt was a German – no qualifiers attached…..

Not to despair, though. Track and field is still to come, and Maurice Greene is on the way. If there is a man unburdened by Bush politics, undisturbed by worldwide detractors, uncontrolled by the U.S.O.C. nannies, it’s Greene.

Says our sputtering correspondent:

Get it? Roberts makes a thinly veiled case that it’s George Bush’s fault if America’s Olympic team underperforms, reasoning (1) Americans can’t win and be good sports at the same time (good sportsmanship dulls the “edge”); (2) Bush’s foreign policy is creating pressure on American athletes to act like good sports; (3) therefore, Bush is hurting our athletes’ chances to bring home Olympic gold….

Shots at Bush coming and going. On the freakin’ sports page.

Yeah, the Olympics aren’t political. And neither is The Times. And I am Mark Spitz.

  • John

    I think we either got morons at the NYTimes imposing their political views, reporters not doing their jobs or in this case, both. If this ‘reporter’ had gone to the post race conference, she would have found out that the finger was meant for the German Cycling Federation for leaving Petra Rossner off the team. Rossner could have changed the race and allow a German woman to get the gold. If only the ‘reporter’ had done her job….
    See: for details.

  • Anthony

    Uh, if you think about it for a moment without projecting your associated biases, she actually has a valid point.

  • lost_in_cyberspace

    I think you all are reading this article all wrong.
    To me, the reporter is saying that the world (IOC) demands one standard (higher) of americans and another (lower) of others. Therefore the German gets away with her obscene gestures whereas if an american did that, all hell would break lose.
    Of course this piece is horribly written, but still I just can’t read it the way you all are.
    Any other opinions?

  • Dave

    “And I am Mark Spitz.” — must be the 50 years of drinking Coke!!

  • Patrick

    I agree that the author makes multiple points; she gets around to lamenting the double standard you mention and she also laments the seeming connection between poor sportsmanship and competitive “edge.” But she does open her piece by strongly implying that the American athletes “feel[] the burden of the Bush administration’s policy on Iraq” and suggests that, whether fairly or not, that harms them competitively by damping their swagger. Do you think the author’s two references to Bush quoted by Jeff are anything other than “shots”?

  • Mike

    What a ridiculous, horribly written story. What is she trying to say? She is all over the place, her only recurring theme is Bush’s policies effect on performance(what they have to do with performance in the Olympics is beyond me) and the winning “ugly American.”
    I’d hate to tell her, but there are bad winners and poor sports everywhere in the world, they are not limited to the U.S. The athletes are there to represent their country and are damn proud of it. She should stop apologizing for the U.S. and just get behind those competing instead of putting them down.

  • Nahanni

    The contests are rigged-be it with doping or corrupt judges. The IOC is a ultra political and corrupt body that bends it’s rules to suit it’s whims. The games themselves are too expensive for the average person to attend. Hosting the Olympics is a major expense which generates no real revenue for the host, and in most cases puts them deep in debt (Montreal is a poster child for this). That money could be spent on better things.
    I no longer support the Olympic movement. As far as I am concerned they can get their money elsewhere.

  • lost_in_cyberspace

    Patrick, no, I honestly don’t think those were cheap shots at Bush.
    Whether you support American intervention in Iraq or not, surely you must acknowledge the wave of anti-Americanism engulfing Europe at this moment.
    It’s a fact not an opinion that Europe is hugely anit-American and anti-Bush at the moment.
    Of course, we can debate how rational or lasting this anti-Americanism is, but I don’t think it’s a “shot” to acknowledge its very real existence.

  • Mike

    Those comments about Bush in the article had nothing to do with anti-Americanism in Europe (the extent to which I feel is vastly overstated). They were indeed cheap shots at his foreign policy, based on her political inclinations, and its supposed effects on the US athlete’s performance.

  • Patrick

    If Roberts had simply said that American athletes are feeling the burden of European anti-Americanism, I would agree with you. But by tying the anti-Americanism to a particular American policy (fine in a political article, but again, this is Sports), and by asserting that the athletes are burdened by the policy rather than by the anti-Americanism, and by identifying the policy as a Bush policy rather than as an American one, and by doing all that in the first half-sentence of the article, the author made it clear (to me, anyway) that she was more interested in spinning Bush than in reporting sports.

  • lost_in_cyberspace

    Guys, trying to separate the current anti-Americanism from anti-Bushism or anti-Iraq interventionism is an exercise in futility.
    This wasn’t an analysis of the current state of anti-Americanism. It was a look at how people’s current reactions to and perceptions of Americans are affecting conduct at the games.
    HOnestly, I think you are being hyper-sensitive if you find this article anti-American.

  • Mike

    lost, you are wrong as this pertains to sports. And that is how this whole conversation started. The conduct policy the USOC conveyed to the athletes was a result of the show-boating by the US track athletes after winning multiple golds, especially the pose-down by the 4X100 meter relay team (which I’ll admit was rather embarassing and uncalled for). But she fails to even mention that and instead links this conduct request and thus poor performance to be a result of Bush’s foreign policies.
    She makes a political statement where one doesn’t need to be made.

  • lost_in_cyberspace

    It was a result of both past behaviour AND current politics. And she does allude to the former with her references to the dream team’s impolite past.
    Although as I said before I think this article was horribly written and confusing.
    And while we’re on the subject of bad behaviour, I think the German cyclist’s was pretty appalling.
    Also love this confused quote:
    “We cannot accept her unsportsmanlike behaviour,” the German delegation leader, Klaus Steinbach, commented, “but now she will receive our total support.”
    Gotta love it.

  • Patrick

    Apparently I’ve sown some confusion, so for the record, I don’t think there’s anything anti-American about the NYT article. But I do think the original point — that anti-Bush spinning at the NYT extends even unto the Sports pages — is, in this instance at least, valid.

  • Joe S.

    I used to work with Serena at the Star Tribune. She’s not a political ideagogue at all. Her point is that athletes from other nations are freer to express themselves.
    She’s right. But that’s always been true, not just now.
    And I thought the article was very clear on this point: perhaps y’all are bringing your own biases to the table here.

  • lost_in_cyberspace

    You know the fact that she’s not political at all could explain why the political references are so confusing (to some).

  • Mike

    Let’s agree on this, 1)it is a poorly written article, and 2)it doesn’t belong in the sports pages.

  • Otter

    Her point is that athletes from other nations are freer to express themselves.

    Given that a Danish athlete just killed someone while speeding to watch his teammates play, and it doesn’t seem to have created much of a fuss — yes, if anything I’d say that’s an understatement!

    Can you imagine the response if an American had done that?!?

  • John

    If you will remember, the United States Olympic team wasn’t exactly beloved four years ago by fans attending the Sydney Olympics. Going by Roberts’ arguments, I would guess the Australiams must have been mad at the time that Bush was even running for the presidency, which of course put a terrible strain on our teams and individual competitors there and explianed why the men’s track squad acted like arrogant jerks during their events.

  • Andrea Harris

    Why are people complaining that Americans are held to a higher standard? When you think about it, it’s a kind of compliment. It certainly says volumes, though, about what the “standard setters” think of themselves and their own people. Oh well, so what — let others act like boors and children. Somebody’s got to be the grownup.