I have to admit: I felt a wee bit patriotic on July 4. Never mind that my last name is Lee, that I have an unhealthy fixation with udon, or that every article of clothing I’m currently wearing was probably made in a country that helped comprise the British East India Company. No, it is July 4th, a time when I can celebrate my American roots: my freedoms to wantonly waste tea to decry the redcoats or to go into a restaurant serving the cuisine of another country and blatantly mispronounce the name of everything on the menu. It is also a time to reflect on the joys of covering sports in this great land of ours. The United States of America brought to you by Cisco Systems.
In order to drum up the required enthusiasm for this missive, I turned on a Dodger game to watch America’s purported pastime. (Even though these days most sports fans will tell you July feels like it’s way past time for the football season to start… less than 50 days until the beginning of the preseason at last count.) Sure, listening to Vin Scully weave his legendary yarns always makes me marvel at his legend, even if it has been more than a generation since the Boys in Blue won a, uh, pennant. I had to check the spelling since the word has not been written in conjunction with the team in quite some time.
Even if the Dodgers have found a new way to blow a 7½ game divisional lead in five weeks before the All-Star Break, there seems something so distinctly American about the game of baseball that has nothing to do with sitting and eating for the better part of three hours. It’s as much a slice of Americana as a Rockwell painting, or those annoying silica gel packets. Once the sentimentality of reliving my childhood — watching the hometown schlubs on the field turn a two-run lead into an 8-2 loss to, of all teams, the Reds — wore off, I tried to take some new solace in composing a missive about covering sports in America.
With Lee Greenwood crooning “I’m proud to be an American” in the background, I felt a strange sensation. Perhaps, this was my second wind. Nope, I sat on a fork I had misplaced. Pressing on, I figured ESPN, the destination of the American sports fan would give me inspiration for this missive. Well, at the time, what I got was a soccer broadcast of the European Soccer Championship known to fans of the Beautiful Game as the “Euro”. That’s like my familiar college experience of “We’re throwing a party, and you are not invited.” Need I mention that the commentators were from the UK? That whole taxation without representation thing isn’t sounding so bad right about now. I’m now represented and getting taxed more heavily, by the way. It’s a good thing that 8.75% of zero is still zero.
No solace in football or fútbol, where can an embittered mensch like me turn to for a little Old Glory treatment? Well, the Olympics are just around the corner, as evidenced by the nation’s consciousness turning toward athletes they somehow forget about during the first three years of every Olympics cycle. The flag-waving and chest-pounding normally reserved for today’s Nathan’s hot dog-eating competition will soon be played out on a worldwide stage again. Intrigue abound. Even the women’s 100m final at the US Olympic Trials sparked some controversy.
Jeneba Tarboh, a name as American as hydrogenation, seemed to have won the third and final US spot into the event by initially being declared 3rd place by .01 second over Allyson Felix. When on further review — another American staple — it was determined the two runners finished in a dead heat, a “run-off” between the two was declared in Seinfeld-ian fashion. (My suggestion of the best two-out-of-three roshambo determine the winner went unrequited.) The only difference being this time it wasn’t for the affection of Lois.
However, on the day of this big race, Tarboh decided her heart wasn’t in it, so she decided to cede her spot to Felix. This has led to suggestions of a good, old-fashioned American piece of litigation on the horizon. But, we are not a nation of quitters. For crying out loud, Samuel Francis Smith would be pissed in more ways than just him not getting credit for being the first person to remix the English national anthem and not even being nominated for a Grammy. This was long before any talk of Skrillex.
One saving grace about sports in America, more than the Congressional inquests of athletes purportedly lying about doping or the President making picks about who would appear in the Final Four — it was a lot easier in George Washington’s day by the way — is the bounty of things about which to complain. If one tried doing that 300 years ago, you’d probably be thrown into a dark prison under the auspices of the Alien and Sedition Acts. Now that law has been done away with, unless you play in the NBA.
The Sweet Science is currently embittered. After years of kvetching, college football has capitulated to the fans and T.V. networks and oodles of dollars to create a four-team playoff starting in 2013. This should help ease tensions between the BCS and the hordes until someone’s team is the fifth team hanging around when the music stops. While the nation tries to come to grips with the fact that the once-stout space program is nearing budgetary extinction, Bud Selig has decided to follow suit by sending the Houston Astros to the AL West, where they will be buried for eternity. “Houston, we have a problem: You guys are 20 games behind the Mariners”.
Just for the heck of it, though, if you get the chance today, flip on the television. Salute Old Glory. Take in the green grass, the chalked lines, or the mustard stains and remember that for all of this country’s failings — please see “Mitt Romney’s hair gel” — America is pretty awesome. Unless your channel is tuned into the Kardashians.Google+