This weekend I was chilling on the couch keeping my son away from the TV as much as possible and absentmindedly watching the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou. The Chinese team was busy slaughtering some unfortunate nation at ping pong. I wasn't really paying any attention at all because watching the Chinese compete at ping pong is like watching a calf square off against a tiger. But hey, sports are sports and I'd rather watch any competition than another Journey to the West re-run.
The Asian Games are pretty small potatoes, even within Asia, but just like the Expo that recently ended, the fact that the Asian Games are in Guangzhou means China lends a bit more hype to an otherwise boring competition. With all of the self-important pomp that comes out of China these days, you can bet your bottom dollar that an international event like the Asian Games will elicit some interesting commentary.
I was just about to turn the TV off and go see what my wife was cooking up, when the announcers switched to swimming and showed the Chinese team beating the Japanese. I stopped and watched, slightly interested.
China loves to beat Japan at anything and I remember back during the AFC Asian Cup when the Japanese football team humiliated the Chinese national team for the umpteenth time. Listening to the announcers list the events in which China had triumphed over Japan, I could feel the tension. I knew they were just itching to jump up and yell, but they didn't so I turned to leave.
That's when a local Cantonese commentator took the stage and gave the speech of the weekend.
Since China had taken all of the medals at the Beijing Olympics two years ago, she said, it would be nothing for them to take most of the medals here in Guangzhou. In fact, China's dominance was something to be lamented. It would be better, she mused, if China allowed more "normal people" to participate in the Asian Games in order to give other countries like Lebanon and Brunei a chance to win something. As an example, she listed a relatively unknown dance sport couple from China that had swooped onto the scene and won gold.
Now I'm interested.
I love the underdog (I am a Buffalo Bills fan, can't help it) and now that China has basically announced its inevitable dominance with a shrug, my son and I have a nightly date with the TV. When I heard that a North Korean had lost the weightlifting competition to a Chinese athlete, I was incensed. This morning I look and see that the DPRK pulled out a victory in the same sport, different weight class. Now I'm smiling again.
Last night I ignored my wife's calls to eat because the Korean ping pong team led by Seok Hajung was putting up a fight. Seok eventually collapsed and the Chinese won, but that's OK. Just winning a few games against the juggernaut is enough for me. I'm looking at the medal count and although it's clear that no nation stands a chance of winning even half of China's medals (54 gold, runner up so far is South Korea with 19), for me it's not about winning golds, it's about those little victories.
I'm savoring South Korea's 3-0 victory over China in football and Japan eeked out a gold in the 100m breaststroke? Awesome!
It's not personal. I applaud the hard work and dedication of any athlete and the look of pure joy in a gold medalist's eyes is inspiring, no matter what nation they represent.
But I hate the Lakers; can't stand the Patriots, Steelers or Cowboys; never liked the Bulls when Jordan was with them and even though I like to see the US win, I secretly waved an Iranian flag when the two met over football during the World Cup preliminaries.
Let's go Bhutan!