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Shrewsbury, Massachusetts – Chauvinism is not an admirable trait, I understand that, yet I’d be less than honest if I denied that’s exactly how I feel about being an American. It surely stems from my World War II childhood when being a flag waver was not only encouraged but expected, and at this advanced stage of life I’m not about to change. Old Glory flies every day from the front of my home as it has since long before the 9-11 attack on New York’s World Trade Center, for I don’t need a reminder of what a great country we have or how proud and thankful I am that my grandparents had the moxie to come here from Europe more than 100 years ago.
What brings this to mind is the Olympic Games currently being held in Rio de Janeiro where our terrific athletes of Team USA continue to win medal after medal, showing the world that besides being the most decent, inventive, entertaining, creative, happy, diverse, and mighty nation on Earth we’re also the most athletically gifted.
That’s not to say that I want the athletes of all other nations to lose since I enjoy and admire competition and physical prowess, it’s just that I want our young men and women to take at least one medal in every event, and am thrilled that our team currently leads in gold, silver, and total medals after having engaged in so many swimming, gymnastic, and track and field events.
To be truthful however, when the U.S. isn’t competing or has only one or two athletes in an event I do want certain other countries to win, such as Canada, Great Britain, and Australia, while there are a host of nations whose athletes I consciously want to lose, places like Russia, Germany, and Eastern Block countries such as Poland Ukraine, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. My grandparents ran away from those backward areas for good reason.
Analyzing what I just wrote it would be easy to assume that I only care about our English speaking Caucasian cousins but that would be drawing a wrong conclusion since I enjoy seeing winners from China, Japan, Sweden, Italy, Brazil, and many others as well. Whether from America, Europe, Asia, or Africa, it really makes no difference to me with the exception of the mostly Eastern European nations I mentioned above. Do me something, I’m as prejudiced as the next guy and I don’t forgive or forget.
The thing I like most about Team USA, other than the fact that its members keep winning, is its ethnic, racial, and religious diversity, best exemplified by the women gymnasts… Black, White, Latino, Christian, and Jew. Our athletes perfectly reflect who we are as a nation by continually combining individuals from all over the world who blend into one spectacular cohesive entity.
Of course there are some Olympic events such as water polo, volley ball, badminton, or canoeing for which I have no interest, and think that the pro sport of basketball should not even be included. After all, who’s going to beat our pro basketball players, so to my way of thinking they shouldn’t even be allowed to attend. The event could easily be replaced by women’s mud wrestling, but I guess that’s just chauvinism of another kind on my part.
Far and away my proudest Olympic moment was in the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City, during a time when Black athletes were boycotting and protesting most everything. In the midst of all that turmoil, after George Foreman had won the Heavyweight Boxing Championship he quietly took out and waved a tiny American flag which I thought spoke louder than all the demonstrators before or after. Without saying a word, Foreman’s eloquent and patriotic gesture made all the others seem irrelevant.