I know it’s cornier than a Norman Rockwell painting, but I love it when an American wins an event — any event — at the Olympics.
I love the flag-raising ceremony; I even sing along to our National anthem. I especially love the look on the athletes’ faces as the reality of reaching the pinnacle of their sport sets in.
I’ll even admit I prefer it when an American wins one of those only-at-the-Olympics events. It’s not that I don’t enjoy watching a group of NBA all-stars drop the gym on the ballers from East Shortwhiteistan; but I know they’re headed back to prime-time television, multi-million dollar contracts and endorsement deals for shoes which pay more than most of us will make in the next few years. However, watching an American competitor in a sport which usually shows up on ESPN14—THE CATORCE!—between the late night bowling highlights and the early morning curling results standing on a podium in front of the whole world for that one shining moment — well — USA, baby!
So I waved my own internal Stars’n’Stripes upon the gold medal-winning performance of Gabby Douglas in the gymnastics competition. Granted, gymnastics gets a lot more attention than badminton (oops, spoke too soon!); but how many of us can honestly remember the last time they tuned in for the pommel horse at the Unitard Summer Invitational (or whatever non-Olympic competition makes up the rest of the gymnastics calendar)?
Douglas is a typically tiny little sprite who, like most gymnasts, makes up for a lack of height with a fearless attitude, the athletic skill and grace of a Bolshoi ballerina and more energy than Aaron Sorkin on his 2nd eight-ball of the weekend. And Douglas adds something else to the mix: an unshakeable and unmitigated belief in God. Following her victory, she took to Twitter: “Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things he does for me.” Gabby shared the breathless joy that can only exist in triumphant youth. And then, all hell broke loose.
Evidently, quite a few liberals amongst us are just as patriotic as the rest of us; unless our athletic avatars tarnish their medals with the stain of faith. According to Salon sourpuss Mary Elizabeth Williams:
“I’ve often wondered what it is about Christians like Douglas that unnerves me so… Douglas and her ilk seem to espouse a faith based on what is commonly referred to as ‘The God of Parking Spaces.’”
“Commonly?” By whom? Moveon.org? Gabby Douglas is an exceptionally devout girl with an exceptionally bright future in front of her. Which part of that can Williams possibly find so offensive?
I understand the reasons for watching the Olympics extend well beyond the usual jingoistic expressions of sports fandom. Anyone who has seen Usain Bolt rocket through the 100 meters like a gazelle on amphetamines knows what I mean. Just as art can be appreciated for its own sake, so can athletic accomplishment. As an aside, those skimpy outfits the women’s beach volleyball players wear fall into both categories.
So, who are these miserable curmudgeons like Williams? They’re the people who sneer at us for chanting “U-S-A,” but don’t bat an eyelid when the Europeans bellow their way through most of Wagner’s Ring Cycle while watching a 1-0 soccer match. They’re the people who refer to soccer as “football” and football as “American football;” even though they’ve never been east of the Hamptons. They’re the people who just can’t bring themselves to be patriotic; even for a moment. We know who they are; we also know how they vote. To paraphrase Ms. Williams: they’re “commonly referred to as ‘liberals.’”
I would caution Gabby Douglas to ignore spoilsports like Williams and her leftist friends. But I doubt she needs the boost. She’s wrapped in Red, White, Blue… and gold.
– Ben Crystal