U.S. having trouble finding its sport
By BERNIE LINCICOME
Scripps Howard News Service
Curiosity prompts an inquiry into beach volleyball, it being one of the few native games where we might still be the best. How, I wondered, is the good old US of A doing at volleyball?
Alas, I must report that, like baseball, like basketball, we are stiffs, slugs, also-rans. We no longer rule a game we invented. We are only No. 5 in volleyball. Hey, we are No. 5 in soccer. I said soccer.
Just to review. Baseball, our national pastime, belongs to Japan.
Basketball. Our game. Belongs to Argentina. The MVP is Canadian. The next MVP will be German. The best player might be Chinese.
Ice hockey. Their game but played here. Belongs to Sweden. Or Finland. Only they know the difference.
And Lance Armstrong has quit sticking it to the French for us. The next big bike guy from those who know is from Kazakhstan, or one of those Stans. Maybe his name is Stan. After Lance, it does not matter.
The America's Cup, named after us, an ocean boat race prize we did not even know we had until we lost it, well, the America's Cup belongs to Switzerland. Switzerland.
There is not even an ocean in Switzerland.
We are, speaking strictly of sports, the third world. Or the fifth.
The Williams sisters seem to have other things to do than play tennis, Andre Agassi might be finally finished and _ here's Switzerland again _ Roger Federer is taking dead aim at Pete Sampras' record.
We do still have, of course, Tiger Woods. And we will spring a Ben Curtis and a Todd Hamilton every so often at the British Open. But the Ryder Cup is parked in a pub somewhere, full of Guinness or pink gin, probably.
Piled up like this, it can be a bit discouraging. Take baseball. Sure, we have the best player, Alex Rodriguez, one generation removed, but there was Cuba and Japan playing for the world title, or a world title anyhow, the only world title up for grabs.
The Cubans boasted that they did it for love and the Japanese _ OK, mostly Ichiro _ complained that we spit too much and our dugouts are dirty.
But is there great indignity to all of this indignity? Nope. Here's how we see it. That's the way baseball should be played. Long ball, schmong ball. What did that get us but Barry Bonds and all his baggage?
Let's start hitting behind the runner again and appreciating the tense drama of a 2-1 ballgame. Even beaten, what we are saying is we deserve it.
And basketball. Do we really think that Mike Krzyzewski or Jerry Colangelo is going get us back where we belong, in front of the Italians?
Athens is still too fresh a wound to believe that. Dream Team? Not unless you count sleepwalking. Kobe Bryant to the rescue. And Shane Battier. And as I said, the best players are Canadian, German and Chinese.
Ice hockey. Sure, I guess, strictly speaking the greatest trophy in the game, Lord Stanley's Cup, is in Tampa, Fla., getting to rest there an extra year.
But the most recent international dust-up had us whining about having to make our own airline reservations, while Teemu Selanne was losing teeth and Peter Forsberg was playing on one leg.
I don't know how the world can have such a low opinion of us when we are always helping them up to top of the awards podium.
It can't be this bad, can it? Scanning the unofficial list of international competitions the conclusion is, to reprise Jimmy Buffett, worse than I had feared.
Of the 40 or so world records in track and field, male Americans hold four, two by Michael Johnson, and none set in this century.
The last significant international team game we won would be, what? The 2000 Olympic basketball gold medal. Barely. Our women softballers are so good that the Olympics won't let them play anymore. Even when we win, we lose.
The Boston Marathon is the property of Kenyans and Ethiopians, the Indianapolis 500 was won by an Englishman and the Kentucky Derby favorite could be a horse owned by a Dubai sheik.
This is, I suppose, what we get for playing games beyond our borders. Or playing games with people who care more about our games than we do. So thank goodness we still have football, or American football as it is known everywhere but America.
The lesson is here. Let no one challenge the Grey Cup winner to meet the Super Bowl winner just for the money. And may the NFL's Europe gimmick remain just some sort of minor league training camp.
We are this close to having things measured metrically and the next great quarterback eating crepes instead of beef.
I'm not kidding.
(Contact Bernie Lincicome of the Rocky Mountain News at www.rockymountainnews.com.)