Hatin' on the HypeMy Sinophilia is reaching embarrassing proportions. Would it be too much to describe myself as "Chinese-American" (that's a joke--I'm about as white as it's possible for even an Irish-extracted lass to be). How cheesy is it that I teared up while watching the Chinese men receive their gold medals for gymnastics, and while watching footage of the young man who found and returned a ring lost by one of the U.S. beach volleyball players? I think it's good for my daughter if I am excited about and interested in things that are Chinese, but I do realize that it can easily become one more arena of maternal embarrassment (hers, not mine), and that it smacks of all kinds of racism, fetishism, exoticism, etc.
On the other hand, I think my response is appropriate giving the freaking hype on American TV, where it's "All (and only) US, All the Time." Seriously: I had to watch the oddly charming Canadian affiliate to get to see most of the men's gymnastics team final, and there was nary a word in the local paper, since all the coverage was of Michael Phelps. I am not trying to diss American athletes--they are a talented group of folks, who have worked hard. But it's been a shock to see the Canadians cover the games without all that jingoism and "America first" crap. It was fascinating to hear their completely invisible announcers describe the strengths and weaknesses of each gymnast, without pretending that the American team was genuinely a contender for the top medals. They were generous about each athlete's strength, measured yet fair about his weaknesses, and said things like "this young man is holding up beautifully under the pressure." Not only that, but they showed almost all of the rotations, not just the top three scorers or the "western" teams, as is so often the case with U.S. coverage.
In general, I've been pleased by the generosity of most of the U.S. announcers toward our hosts. The world seems to realize how much these games matter to China--the spectacle, as well as the competition--and to respect the effort that has gone into them. But please, folks, a little more breadth in the coverage would be great. And did I mention that the Canadian coverage has far, far fewer commercial interruptions? I don't want to become one of those "bash the U.S. and love on Canada" liberals, and I can already anticipate the jokes about how the Canadians don't have enough viable participants to warrant the kind of hypernational coverage the U.S. demands, but a little perspective would be nice. I'm just sayin'.