(WSJ.com) – Assorted TV commentators keep opining that the Olympics are all about the brotherhood of man, rather than national ambition or patriotism. But don’t tell that to the fanatically nationalist Chinese — or to Kobe Bryant, the NBA star who is playing with Team USA in Beijing.
In an interview Friday on NBC, the world’s most famous basketball player told Chris Collinsworth how he got “goosebumps” when he received his Olympics uniform. “I actually just looked at it for a while. I just held it there and I laid it across my bed and I just stared at it for a few minutes; just because as a kid growing up this is the ultimate, ultimate in basketball.” The Los Angeles Laker went on to call th U.S. “the greatest country in the world. It has given us so many great opportunities, and it’s just a sense of pride that you have; that you say, ‘You know what? Our country is the best.'”
Mr. Collinsworth seemed either startled or impressed by such sentiment, and asked, “Is that a cool thing to say in this day and age? That you love your country, and that you’re fighting for the red, white and blue? It seems sort of like a day gone by.”
To which Mr. Bryant replied: “No, it’s a cool thing for me to say. I feel great about it, and I’m not ashamed to say it. I mean, this is a tremendous honor.”
Cynics will claim that this is merely about marketing, with Mr. Bryant hoping to use the Games to burnish his public image. On the other hand, he and his rich teammates on the basketball squad are giving up their offseason to play for nothing save possible medals. Mr. Bryant has also been an enthusiastic spectator for other U.S. Olympians, waving the Stars and Stripes at various events.
To the kind of Americans who consider themselves primarily “citizens of the world,” nationalism at the Olympics is déclassé, even embarrassing. We’re with Kobe.
Copyright ©2008 wsj.com, August 18, 2008. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted here August 21, 2008 for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from The Wall Street Journal. Visit the website at WSJ.com.
1. Describe Kobe Bryant’s attitude toward the U.S.
2. Were you surprised by Kobe’s feelings about playing for the U.S. Olympic team? Explain your answer.
3. What is your reaction to NBC reporter Chris Collinsworth’s questioning of Kobe’s love for America? Be specific.