JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - I guess we should just be amused when people who don't know anything about America try and come up with reasons why Americans are, well, Americans.
We are somewhat iconoclastic, doing things our way in our almost 240 years as a nation. We drive on the other side of the road than the British. Our horse racing goes the other way, specifically to create an independent state of mind for "the colonies."
We've developed our own sports, some of which we've exported to the rest of the world. Basketball is an international game. Baseball has a footing in Central and South America and in Asia. Football has a following, but it would be a stretch to call it "international."
My European friends call the games we play the "entertainment sports." To most of them, if it's not futbol, F1 or Moto (motorcycle racing) it doesn't count.
Other countries have their specialties. The Irish follow hurling religiously. Australia has it's own brand of football. And the French have a sport that resembles bocce ball called Petanque. In fact, their biggest tournament was played in Jacksonville in the past two years.
So I suppose I should have just laughed it off when Dutch speedskating coach Jillert Anema on an American cable network during the Olympics, blasted Americans for focusing on what he called "foolish sport."
"You have a lot of attention for foolish sport, like American football. You waste a lot of talent, athletic talent, in a sport where it's meant to kill each other, to injure each other. … And when you compete once every four years, with talent, with a few lone wolves, who are skating, you can't beat the world, it's no way."
I was amazed that the "reporter" asking him the questions let him get away with that, just smiling and saying his comments would be considered "blasphemous" in the US. She laughed when she said, "Americans love their football."
So he continued.
"You're [the US] is so narrow-minded, and you waste a lot of good talent in a sport that sucks," he added.
It would be easy to call Anema "misguided" but he was clearly using this platform to slam the States at will.
Perhaps he should have been reminded of Shani Davis' success in the past two Olympics. Or Apolo Ono's medal haul in Vancouver. Maybe he's forgotten about Bonnie Blair. Or he wasn't around in 1980 when the single greatest feat in Olympic history was achieved by American Speedskater Eric Heiden. Heiden won all five gold medals in speedskating at those games, from the 500 to the 10,000. That's akin to somebody winning the 100 meters and the marathon in the same Summer Games. He set 4 Olympic records and one world record at those games for good measure.
"Coach" Anema should be congratulated for the success the Netherlands scored in Sochi. Speedskating is a national sport in his country of nearly 17 million people. But he should also be reminded that it's a good thing we're not serious about speedskating as a nation.
With our more than 330 million people in the States, I'm sure we could find a few who might be able to rival the Dutch in just about anything. Imagine if there was no American football and those athletes turned to speedskating instead.
Our national team would be made up of guys like Maurice Jones Drew in the 500. Chris Johnson in the 1000. Megatron looks like a good fit for the 1500. Larry Fitzgerald could probably handle the 5000 with Tony Gonzalez or Vernon Davis in the 10,000.
So Coach, stay home and stay under the radar until every 4 years you can grab some global glory. Because if we decide we're going to be good in your sport, you'll be playing for second.
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