Thursday, August 19, 2004

COMMENTARY: The Swiss are stealing US sports!


ATHENS, Greece – Consider this our national comeuppance. Think of American pride getting pelted, repeatedly, with pies in the face. That's where these Summer Olympics seem to be headed.

We didn't even qualify in baseball. We have evidently forgotten how to play basketball. And now this – now, the ultimate indignity.

We can't beat Switzerland in beach volleyball? Is nothing sacred?

Switzerland! Is there enough sand in the whole country to fill an hourglass? Is there enough beachfront to fling a Frisbee? Is there no sport left that America can call its own, or are we becoming the world's leading exporter of athletic excellence?

These are trying times, people. Yesterday, the men's beach volleyball team of Dain Blanton and Jeff Nygaard had their cuckoo clocks cleaned by Switzerland's Patrick Heuscher and Stefan Kobel.

Switzerland! A landlocked mountain nation known for its neutrality has suddenly gone all belligerent on the beach. We shouldn't be losing to Switzerland. Not in the Summer Olympics, anyway. You might be willing to concede yodeling, chocolate and money laundering, but not this. America ought to dominate any activity associated with sun, sand, skin and sports.

They didn't film "Baywatch" in Zurich, did they? There are no beaches in Gstaad. Lake Lucerne is lovely, but it's hardly a volleyball hotbed.
With all due respect for alpine athletics, America ought to stomp Switzerland in beach volleyball. We ought to be stalking shutouts.

Maybe we have gotten soft. Maybe American ingenuity is tapped out. Maybe the Joystick Generation is more interested in video games than real games. Maybe we need federal legislation that requires adolescents to experience fresh air at least once per week.

Or maybe the world has gotten smaller than we suppose. Maybe foreign athletes raised with the rigors of cross-country skiing and the stultifying tedium of soccer have recognized the aesthetic superiority of our sports. Maybe they have redirected their obsessive, scientific training regimens to activities Americans still regard as recreational. Maybe they have done to beach volleyball what Microsoft did to Apple – refine someone else's better idea.


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