These Olympics have seen a their share of easy targets, from traffic to the continuing dominance of the Chinese team. But the big obnoxious elephant in the room is beginning to rear its head again, and it's not pretty: the Ugly Americans are back.
The "Ugly Americans" term was coined at the 2000 Games when the gold medallist American 4x100 team pranced around the stadium with their shirts off, preening and making a mockery of the podium ceremony. Ironically, the poor display of sportsmanship was seen to upstage the incredible games of Marion Jones — who later had all her medals stripped for doping.
The four On-Your-Marx Brothers started the customary victory lap by waving American flags at the 106,000 spectators. Then it became their personal prance party as they strutted their stuff. Two removed their running shirts. They were enamored with their own, drawn-out body-building poses, flexed their muscles and stopped every few feet to put up another performance for willing photographers. One wrapped the flag around his head in a turban, another stood on the wall separating the field from the stands and did his impressions of Hulk Hogan.
What is "ugly"? Ugly is ignorance of sportsmanship: putting down your opponents, treating the Olympics like your own dominion, and thumbing your nose at anyone who dares to call you on it. It's assuming there's an acceptable level of inherent obnoxiousness and self-promotion acceptable in what's supposed to be the ultimate test of athleticism above all.
When China's Shiwen Ye set a world record in the 400m IM, surpassing her previous personal best by five seconds, the American whispers immediately turned to doping, despite affirmation from the IOC that Ye had passed her post-race test. Shockingly, no such utterances came about when Katie Ledecky, a 15 year-old phenom, posted an even better improvement over her previous PB. One question at a press conference was dismissed and the whole USA contingent moved on while, a week later, Ye's performance is still being questioned.
How else to explain Ryan Lochte, who inarguably failed to live up to expectations in London, making his name instead by wearing custom grills and peeing in the pool? (Leaving it all in the pool is supposed to refer to physical effort, not body waste.) Or the men's basketball team managing to feign indignation at the suggestion they ran up the score in a game they won by 83 points?
The women's soccer team scored a goal in their quarterfinal match against New Zealand — and promptly did cartwheels like a bunch of 7 year-old girls.
The understandably-upset New Zealand coach Tony Readings said his team wouldn't stage something like that.
"We wouldn't do it," he said. "When teams concede (a goal), they're disappointed, and they want to get on with the game. We wouldn't do it, but it's obviously something that Americans do. We've seen them do it a few times in this tournament. We can't let it affect us. We just get on with the game.
"It's something I guess they work on in training. We try to work on scoring goals and stopping Wambach and Morgan. We haven't got time to work on celebrations in training. If it makes them happy and they win games, then good on them."
Let's not forget the American team is ranked #1 in the world; New Zealand is a distant #23.
Of course, the American coach sees no problem with any of it.
"We score goals, and you're happy," said U.S. team coach Pia Sundhage. "What the players want to do, whatever they do, it has to be fun. If they come up with ideas, that's perfectly fine.
Need more proof? Gymnast Danell Leyva basically challenged Kohei Uchimura, arguably the greatest male gymnast ever, to a rematch in Rio — while the two were still on the podium.
The Olympic gold medal had been draped over Kohei Uchimura's neck for all of a minute when Danell Leyva leaned over and asked the man who is arguably the greatest male gymnast of all-time if he planned on being in Rio de Janeiro in four years.
"I told him 'you better,"' Leyva said.
However it was intended, if anyone did that to an American, they'd be crucified for spoiling the podium moment.
[Photos: Day 9 of Canada at the Olympics]
And how else to explain USA flagbearer Mariel Zagunis' comments after being beaten not only in a semifinal, but for bronze as well? There is a difference between an athlete's confidence in their ability and dismissing a competitor's superior talent after losing to them:
"Pretty much all my mistakes cost me the bout," Zagunis said, adding that any bout she ever lost had less to do with the skill, smarts and perseverance of her opponents than it was "my lack of concentration.
"Congrats to them for winning, [but] in my opinion, if I was completely 100 percent on mentally, then I would have been able to win again. It's happened to me before."
Words from the athlete chosen to lead the American team into the Olympic stadium.
It's a sad testament to sportsmanship when Serena Williams is the face of fair play and you're getting called out for conduct by Yao Ming.
If any other country had this kind of rap sheet just eight days in, they'd be excoriated. For the Americans, it's so par for the course, nobody's even mentioning it.
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The Americans are even ugly with each other.
US women's soccer goalie Hope Solo went off on former US soccer star Brandi Chastain, for daring to critique the team's performance, accusing Chastain of being "uneducated".
— Hope Solo (@hopesolo) July 28, 2012
Chastain, of course, scored the biggest goal in women's soccer history.