'U-S-A'chants are sounding hollow lately

September 21, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

Fads come.

Fads go.

Fads become en vogue again.

That's the way the world spins. It's here today, gone tomorrow and back later on.

Just ask Deion Sanders.

For nearly a quarter of a century, patriotism through sports has been accepted in this country.

You can't turn on an international event without hearing someone chanting "U-S-A ... U-S-A" - a mantra which became accepted in our culture when the 1980 Olympic hockey team knocked off the Soviet Union in a moment which will last forever.

The chant has served its purpose well. In the first 10 years, it was a rallying point for all athletes to represent the colors well.


In the next 10, it was a great reminder to a public which didn't have time to watch that the U.S. was still the best in the sporting world.

But in the last five years, the chant of a generation has lost its zing. It's become as pass as Michael Bolton, the run-and-shoot offense and wooden-head drivers.

Some of the problem may stem from our teams and the way they perform.

Most recently, it has fallen on the U.S. Olympic men's basketball team and, now, the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Both were examples, in their own ways, of pride gone AWOL.

At the Olympics, there seemed to be a total disregard for what the team was representing.

Twelve guys in shorts, who probably have more money than all of Hagerstown combined, didn't seem to understand the program they were supposed to get with.

They didn't act like they were honored to be wearing the colors of this country. This "Dream Team" wasn't bothered when the U.S. lost an Olympic pool game, which was unheard of.

They were failing miserably - both on the court and in public relations - in the marquee event of the Olympics, a sport which the United Stated invented and dominated for years.

The attitude and lack of honor smacked tradition in the face on the way to the bronze medal.

Then came the Ryder Cup lesson. It was another case in which U.S. athletes thought reputation would force the competition to step aside.

The U.S. didn't play well, which is acceptable. Losing isn't dishonorable if you look like you tried ... just ask your parents.

However, the Ryder Cup experience didn't seem to motivate some of the more prominent U.S. golfers. There wasn't much emotion and the players were passive in their approach and their play in an event the country once dominated.

There were U.S. team members who seemed to be playing for the right reasons - the honor of playing for and representing their country. Most of those players were newcomers to the event.

Many of the U.S. golf stars gave the impression that the team concept in an individual sport like golf was too difficult to understand. It changed when defeat and humiliation was near, but it was too late - the U.S. lost by nine points, their worst defeat ever.

In both cases, the teams leaned on the "U-S-A" chant for motivation and waved for it like they were turning up the volume on their radios. They wanted the verbal backing for the wrong reason. It wasn't for pride but to artificially raise an excitement that their play failed to create.

It's time for the U.S. to look in the mirror when it comes to athletics. After spending all those years as the team to beat, it has become lazy and complacent

The generation that created that honor has passed. The one that inherited it isn't concerned about keeping it. And no one knows what the next group will bring.

Come, gone and return? It's possible it could happen again if our mainstream athletes act like they care again.

But until it happens, the chant of "U-S-A" won't cause goosebumps anymore.

In fact, U-S-A will stand for Usually Second Again.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at

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