This year’s sports post

I’ve actually been a sports fan most of my life, though I don’t see much cosmic or political significance in it. I’ve followed the Olympics, with sadly diminishing interest, ever since 1956. (Since track was the only sport I was any good at all in, that makes sense). Starting in 1968 or so, murder and political boycotts took a lot of the bloom off the games, and once that kind of thing stopped happening, American network TV took over with uninformed coverage and stupid human-interest stories. (I still occasionally think about the dream Filbert Bayi / John Walker 1500-m. matchup that the African boycott squelched.)

And Portland here is a big enough town to send some people to get medals now and then, but small enough that you might have met them. Years ago I met Rick Sanders, a two-time wrestling silver medalist, as well as one of the coaches of this year’s fencing gold medalist, Mariel Zagunis. (A coworker knows her father). So it’s sort of a hometown thing for me too.

Today I saw a nicely-written story that reminded me why I used to care. Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj came up from a 1500-m. gold to to defeat Ethiopia‚Äôs Kenenisa Bekele (coming down from the 10,000-m. gold) in the 5,000 meters. Kenya’s 19-year-old Elind Kipchoge, who challenged but couldn’t hold on, got the bronze. El Guerrouj has been a champion and record-setter for many years, but until this year had been unlucky in the Olympics. Three good performances and several little dramas all right there.

— But all that was really just a way for me to get to the neocon Max Boot‘s wretched Olympic article, which was as stupid as you could possible have hoped. The Olympics is apparently now on the list of international institutions that people who call themselves conservatives have to pee on, along with the U.N., NATO, and French wines and cheeses.

Boot is a real man who only likes football — and real Americans only watch American sports. As a freemarketer and a patriot Boot is required to make it clear that the nationalism and the commercialism don’t bother him, but as a macho man he has to say that he can’t stand the foofoo human interest stories the networks have smeared onto the sports. For Boot the Cold War was the only thing that ever gave the Olympics any interest (e.g., the over-hyped hockey victory in 1980), and he even says that if al-Qaeda ever enters a team he might become interested again.

Along with David Brooks, Boot is on the short list of conservatives who supposedly don’t completely suck, but don’t ask me why for either one of them. I think it’s just because it would scare people to realize that there really isn’t anyone at all on that list.