Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Anti-Americanism Rampant At European Sporting Events

July 4 is upon us, so today is a day to honor and cherish the United States of America. Baseball players and fans will do so in ballparks across the nation, finding extra meaning in today’s rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner. However, U.S. athletes do not enjoy the same freedoms when traveling across the Atlantic. This summer, European sporting events have been consistently hostile toward American athletes.

The latest example came on Monday, when Shenay Perry was routed 6-2, 6-0 in the fourth round of Wimbledon by Russia’s Elena Dementieva. With Perry’s elimination, no American male or female was still alive in singles play. Perry was philosophical about the defeat. She remarked, “It would have been great to make the quarterfinals, but seriously, even I’ve never heard of me!” Like the Founding Fathers more than two centuries ago, Perry sacrificed so that others may benefit. In her case, the defeat allowed fans to enjoy a Russian Hottie Fest between Dementieva and Maria Sharapova.

Saturday’s third round particularly showed how unwelcome the Americans were in England. Playing in the last Wimbledon of his great career, Andre Agassi fell in straight sets to Rafael Nadal. The second-seeded Spaniard, practically unbeatable on clay, rudely decided to play great tennis on grass. That same day, defending women’s champion Venus Williams and two-time men’s runner-up Andy Roddick were also eliminated. The Brits shed no tears for them. After Roddick won a point during his defeat to Andy Murray, the public address announcer informed the spectators, “Advantage Mr. Roddick.” Normally he would stop there, but the announcer continued, “But he’ll lose anyway. Mandy Moore was too good for that wanker.”

Last month’s French Open was just as unfriendly toward U.S. players. No Americans made the semifinals after Venus Williams fell in the quarters. James Blake, the last American man, was eliminated in the third round. The tournament has a history of hostility toward U.S. men, being the only Grand Slam singles title eluding Pete Sampras and Jimmy Connors. Many tired stereotypes exist about the French, particularly when it comes to being rude to American visitors. However, such an image came to life after Blake’s defeat, when a group of beret-wearing men stormed onto the court and attacked Blake with baguettes while praising Jerry Lewis.

Europe’s anti-U.S. antagonism was not confined to tennis, as shown by the World Cup held in Germany. Feeling confident with a #5 world ranking, the Americans were promptly dismissed after two losses and a draw. To their credit, the Italians did have a guilty conscience about the America-bashing, even putting a ball into their own goal to make the U.S. feel happy. However, the group stage ended with the USA heading home in humiliation. It is unclear why this squad received such hostile treatment in Germany. At no time during the tournament could this team be considered offensive.

The harsh treatment of American athletes in Europe undoubtedly stems from the continent’s disapproval of the Bush administration. European protests have been constant throughout the Iraq war. President Bush is often viewed as a bully, unilaterally pushing his own agenda while failing to join other nations in supporting measures such as the Kyoto Protocol. Just this week, the President infuriated Portugal by expressing his condemnation of Lisbon marriages.

The anti-Americanism is likely to continue at the Tour de France, which is no longer a sure bet to bring victory for the USA. For the first time since 1998, the Tour will crown a champion other than Lance Armstrong. The doping-related expulsions of co-favorites Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso have seemingly enhanced the chances of Americans Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer, and George Hincapie. However, they are unlikely to overcome a controversial new rule. During the race’s concluding stage on July 23, all U.S. cyclists are required to ride tricycles into Paris.

Americans will hope for friendlier treatment that same day at the British Open. However, fans of Scottish golfer Colin Montgomerie have other ideas. Desperately wanting Monty to win his first major, his supporters have successfully lobbied for golfers from the United Kingdom to receive one mulligan per round. Monty’s backers are also rumored to have sent false e-mails to Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, indicating that the tournament has been moved to October.

Despite the harsh treatment they’ve endured in Europe, American athletes can appreciate the freedoms they enjoy at home. Today they can celebrate the Declaration of Independence, ratified 230 years ago in Philadelphia. Where antagonism toward athletes would never be acceptable.