Bernard Lagat doesn't represent me.
He'll be wearing the red, white and blue of the United States in Beijing, and any Olympic medal he wins in the 1,500 meters or 5,000 meters will go toward the U.S. medal count, but he doesn't represent me. I don't want his stinking medals. Bernard Lagat is a terrific runner and he might even be a terrific human being, but he's from Kenya, which means he's Kenyan. Not American.
|Kaman, Hammon, Holden, Redhage, Greene and Blatt: Americans who are playing for or coaching other countries' teams. (Getty/AP)|
Not much about this world is black or white, but the Olympics were. There was us, and there was them. Once every four years, we could root for us. And with all our heart, we could root against them.
Now, them and us are the same. Thus, the Olympics are no longer beautiful. No longer black and white. They're gray, and gray is worse than ugly. Gray is boring.
How am I supposed to get fired up about beating Russia in men's basketball when I look at the Russian team and see some dude from Boston as their head coach and another dude from Pittsburgh playing point guard? That's not Americans beating Russians. That's Americans beating Americans.
David Blatt, who played at Princeton, is the Russian head coach. J.R. Holden (Bucknell) is the Russian point guard. How they can live with themselves, I'll never know. Holden has been quoted along the lines of, "The United States has never invited me to try out for the Olympic team, so what am I supposed to do?"
Here's what you're supposed to do, J.R. You're supposed to make like 275 million other American citizens and watch the Olympics on television, or not watch the Olympics on television. Go camping for two weeks. Build a swing-set for your kids. But do not, under any circumstances, play for another country.
"Traitor" is a harsh word, but I'm using it today. If you're an American and you're competing for another country in the Olympics -- which means you're competing against America -- you're a traitor. There's still some black-and-white left in this world, and that's one such area, as clear to me as the columns in a newspaper. Compete against Americans, and you've betrayed my country. Which means you've betrayed me.
And the same goes for athletes like Lagat. If you're representing the United States, but you're from another country, you're a traitor to that country. So are two other elite distance runners, Mebrahtom Keflezighi of Eritrea and Khalid Khannouchi of Morocco, now running for the United States. Welcome, in all sincerity, to my country. This isn't an anti-immigration rant. It's great here, our borders are largely open, and as far as I'm concerned everyone is welcome to legally live where they want.
But not just anyone is welcome on my Olympic team.
Nor should Chris Kaman be welcome on the German basketball team. He's not from Munich -- he's from Michigan. His parents were born here. His grandparents were born here. Apparently, more than 100 years ago, his great-grandparents were born in Germany. So this makes him German? No. This makes him a sellout.
On Aug. 17, Kaman and his German team are set to play the Americans. God help you, Chris Kaman, if you do anything that day to beat America. Then again, you're only Chris Kaman. So never mind.
Becky Hammon, born and raised in South Dakota, shouldn't be playing basketball for Russia. Unlike Kaman, she has no ancestors from her new Olympic country. None. But for years she was passed over by the U.S. team, so she signed with a professional team in Moscow, which made her eligible to be a Russian Olympian. And she accepted.
If Hammon hadn't said yes, another American in a similar position -- most likely Deanna Nolan or Kelly Miller -- would have gone in her place. So you're all traitors. But on Aug. 21 when Russia has a potential showdown with the United States, only Hammon will be trying to beat America. May you have your worst game, Becky Hammon. And seeing how Russia has offered you $150,000 for silver and $250,000 for gold, may your new country fall short of the medal stand. Judas.
It makes me sick. Remember Nick Horvath from Duke, originally hailing from St. Paul, Minn.? Now he plays for that St. Paul suburb of New Zealand as a member of the Kiwi team that didn't qualify for the Olympics. The only thing worse than playing for another country's Olympic team is playing for another country's crappy, non-Olympic team.
So I'm also talking to you, former UCLA forward J.R. Henderson ... sorry, J.R. Sakuragi, as you now call yourself after becoming a Japanese citizen. Live your life how you want to live it, but when it comes to playing for a country, you chose the wrong one, Sakuragi-san.
It's an epidemic of disloyalty. Shawn Redhage of Lincoln, Neb., will play for the Australian men's basketball team. Demond Greene of Fort Hood, Texas, plays for Germany, and there's a nauseating YouTube clip of him in that German jersey blocking a dunk by American Dwyane Wade. (There's an even worse clip of him breaking his leg.)
|wnt2play: You were terrific when you were the basketball guy here. Now, you seem to have crawled up your own a-hole. Jingoistic IN SPADES! Adolescent fascination with trash sports, trying to prove yourself in the "ring" at age 38 by acting 14. You are at the beginning of middle age; get over it.|
|Gregg Doyel: My wife is from Chile. Literally. Born there, was naturalized here after moving to this country ... I'm not jingoistic. The Olympics, to me, are about what can MY country produce. My country didn't produce Lagat. Simple as that.|
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It's not just Americans selling out. Kenyan runners have literally sold out, accepting money from Bahrain and Qatar to run there. To appease Kenyan officials, Qatar promised years ago to build a track stadium there. Nothing has come of that promise.
Nobody seems to care about any of this. Blatt, the Boston-born basketball coach, was accepted by Russia despite being from the United States and despite once being hired to coach the Israeli national team. Lagat will be running for the United States in Beijing after winning Olympic medals for Kenya in 2000 and 2004.
Not even baseball, the most American of sports, is immune. In 2004, ex-Mets manager Davey Johnson coached the Netherlands in the Olympics. He won't be coaching the Netherlands in Beijing. He'll be coaching the United States, which really pisses me off.
For the sake of Olympic competition, Davey Johnson is no longer an American. He's Dutch to me.