Tuesday tribalism (and news, not all about Duke)

We’re Americans, with a capital ‘A’, huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We’re the underdog. We’re mutts! … We’re mutants. There’s something wrong with us, something very, very wrong with us. Something seriously wrong with us – we’re soldiers. But we’re American soldiers! We’ve been kicking ass for 200 years! We’re 10 and 1!

– John Winger (Bill Murray), Stripes

America may be the biggest and most powerful country the world has seen since Britain decided to quit naming most of the world after its monarchs, but we still love the underdog. No one’s making a movie about the big school with the great facilities that won the Indiana high school basketball championship as expected.

Once upon a time, Mike Krzyzewski and Duke were the underdogs challenging the long reign of Dean Smith and North Carolina in the ACC. No one had a clue of what was to come. True story: In a freshman dorm at Duke in the fall of 1987, someone said it was a shame we had all arrived after all the good basketball. And no one doubted it.

That’s changed a bit. The well-mannered runners-up with the unruly trend-setting crowd have become champions once, twice, three and now four times. By 2001, most people were sick of seeing Shane Battier on ESPN, no matter how likable and admirable the guy was. And seriously, what was up with that “Who’s your daddy Battier” chant?

Duke is also seen as a place of privilege, and as a standout Salon piece points out, Americans have mixed feelings about that. They’re not even consistent in how they apply that prejudice to basketball. Why would Duke be any more evil than Georgetown, another private school where the rent is a lot higher than it is in the crime-infested neighborhoods around Duke?

Continue reading Tuesday tribalism (and news, not all about Duke)

Combat Games: New era of sub-Olympic competition?

Everybody wants to get a sport into the Olympics, but the line is long and slow-moving. The IOC hasn’t even put women’s ski jumping in the Olympics, preferring to leave a couple of ski jump ramps idle for a few days rather than admit that girls can jump, too. If you’re getting in the line now — attention, MMA fans — you’re not getting in the Games anytime soon. The Summer Games are too big, and they’ll eventually run out of permutations of ice and snow for the Winter Games. (But wouldn’t you love to see “snowboard combined,” with halfpipe determining the starting order for snowboardcross?)

And that’s why something like the Combat Games makes sense on many levels in addition to getting some extra use out of some Beijing venues. The Combat Games will have the Olympic sports of boxing, wrestling, judo and taekwondo, along with several other forms of martial arts. One drawback is that the program is focused a little too heavily on Asian sports — grappling, which actually could get into the Games as another discipline of wrestling, isn’t listed. But the concept is good.

They’re also looking at the Mind Games (chess and … something else) and the Beach Games. Not bad.

USA TODAY colleague Jeff Zillgitt and I used to talk about inventing the Pub Games. Darts is a rising sport, and pool could use a boost.

Maybe the line has to be drawn somewhere, but it’s hard to argue with the idea of giving existing Olympic sports another good stage alongside smaller sports that deserve a chance to be seen. Just work on the mascots.