Monday, August 21, 2006

Laughing At China

I caught a bit of Team USA routing China yesterday at the FIBA world championships and I had to laugh. It suddenly dawned on me that, for some reason, I find humor in watching Chinese athletes fail. It's not that I have anything aginst the Chinese. I don't. Honest. I have no gripes with them at all. Not for racial nor political reasons. And I love Chinese food.

That said, there is something so damn funny about watching their athletic teams play the role of the Washington Generals, which happens quite a bit. I'm not exactly sure why I find it funny, but I have a theory. I think it's because they take it all so seriously. Everything. That's not to say that other nations don't take their sports seriously. They do. Hell, just look at the overhaul of USA basketball in recent years after the embarrassments began to pile up. But China takes things very seriously. I mean, Yao Ming's parents were purposely paired together to breed a basketball stud. That's just...weird. And when Yao recently wanted to take a rest from the Chinese national team, the shit hit the fan back home. Of course, his request made sense. The NBA season is taxing and it wasn't long ago he broke his foot and he could surely use some time off. But China was hearing nothing of it. I'm guessing Yao's family back home would have been tossed in jail had he not donned the Chinese jersey.

And then there is the whole population thing. 1.3 billion. That's massive. So you'd think that with all those bodies to choose from, Chinese teams would be formidable, or at least pretty damn competitive. Sheer numbers would seem to make it so. But they're not. The basketball team is currently 0-2 at the FIBA world championships. The soccer team has only once qualified for the World Cup out of the very weak Asian region. The baseball team failed miserably at the WBC, losing to Japan and Korea by a combined score of 28-3 and even being humbled by Chinese Tapei 12-3.

That's a lot of failure. The government must be infuriated.

Yes, I realize China does well at sports like men's gymnastics and diving and some others. But let's be real here. Who really cares about such sports?

Like I said, I think it's the fact that China takes sports (and itself in general) so seriously and yet continues to lose to nations with much more carefree attitudes (and much smaller populations) that cracks me up. There's just something about people who take themselves with the utmost seriousness at all times only to come up short that is...hysterical. It reminds me of a roommate I had a few years ago. He took video game football very, very seriously. In fact, it was borderline strange and worrisome. He spent hour upon hour playing - college, pro, whatever. He would build teams and play season after season and then he would talk trash about how dominant he had become and tell me of all the awful things he would do to my team when we played. He was addicted and a braggart. I, on the other hand, also enjoyed playing (and still do) but was far from serious about it. I only sporadically kept up with seasons I would start and prefer, really, only playing other human beings. In the end, the only time I played was usually against the roommate. And to be sure, we would wage some epic battles. Epic.

And I always won. Well, almost always. And it was hilarious because the roommate took it all so damn seriously that when he continually lost to a mere amateur such as myself it would send him into a rage. I was almost frightened for my safety on a few occasions. He would unleash a litany of curse words and storm around the living room demanding a rematch and more than one controller was broken after being tossed violently into a wall. All the while, I would just sit there smiling. It cracked me up.

Well, that sort of reminds me of China. While most countries sit back and let athletes, for the most part, dictate their own destinies, the Chinese attempt to build winners mechanically. It's all mandated and controlled with a heavy hand. Sports are obviously viewed as a way to demonstrate their perceived and desired superiority.

And they keep failing.

I just find this funny. But maybe I'm an asshole.


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