The other day, I reread the first column I wrote for the Odessa American because I remembered it was about the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and I was very upset about the fact that we hadn’t won the “true” medal count.
Don’t tell me we have the most medals, list us first and pretend that matters. Don’t tell me we still got second and ought be pleased with ourselves for that. Don’t tell me the Chinese girls cheated and are younger than they claim to be and our poor 16-year-olds didn’t have a chance.
We lost, and I don’t care if it’s basketball, diving or dressage, we ought to bring home the gold. We ought to win. We’re American. That’s what we do; that’s who we are.
Despite waifish protestations to the contrary, there are still winners and losers in the Olympics, and while trampolining, artistic gymnastics and dressage (obviously I find this the funniest IOC-sanctioned sport) ought not count in the totals as much as track and field or swimming and basketball — despite that, they do, and we have to accept that. After accepting that, the USA must then go out and dominate all other nations on earth.
I’m not a sportsman, but I am deeply patriotic. My obsession for athletics extends only to a handful of sports, and some of those can only capture my attention every four years. Most others, not even that.
But the medal count – the list of how all other countries on every other continent should just follow Antarctica’s lead and forfeit in advance while Mexico and Canada and Jamaica just apply for annexation – I check that several times a day during the Olympics. And I turn to my trusted calculator and use the following formula:
Gold medals are three points; silvers are two; bronze are one.
As of this writing, the United States has 219 points. China is in second with 188 and no real expectation to close the distance as the Summer Games say bugger off to London.
So we did it! We’re the greatest again, and it feels good. Because if we can run, jump swim and get rulings from referees that go our way more than any other nation, that means we can produce more material, consume more, and blow people up around the world at our leisure better than four years ago.
And it’s strange because for all of the problems we’ve had, as less-than-ideal pretty much anyone would call our president and Congress of the past four years, we seem a whole lot better off now than four years ago. We’re “out of Iraq” and more importantly, Iraq is out of the news. We managed to depose a Libyan dictator without committing U.S. troops, and there’s reason to believe the same will happen in Syria. Afghanistan is winding down, and if we aren’t as potent as scary as we were in August 2001, well, we’re still pretty darn scary, and 2013-2017 promises to be inhabited by a president unafraid to drop bombs from unmanned drones on any suspected terrorists and their associates/families.
And that’s somewhat bitter and cynical sounding, and yes, we’re not well liked at the Olympics or in the rest of the word, but we’re #winners, baby. Hashtag and everything.
And it feels good. And no matter how little it means or what it represents, I still dare you not to feel good about it. Because I sure can’t stop myself.