The Ugly Americans have resurfaced - again - in the unlikeliest of places.
Maybe that's not true. Maybe it wasn't so unlikely. Isn't it the likelihood that, in the face of a storm that calls for sportsmanship and empathy, the teenagers, men and women proudly — and sometimes cockily - wearing the stars and stripes would show none?
So it was Monday, when the American women's soccer team was essentially handed a victory over Canada in a controversial semi-final marred by dubious officiating. If we can put aside the refereeing for a moment, if that's possible, we're left with a couple of storylines. The first: Christine Sinclair, taking over the game with three goals, dominating the offensive end of the pitch, asserting her will over and over and over.
Unless, that is, you ask American goalkeeper Hope Solo, who, rather than acknowledge Sinclair's outstanding performance, chose instead to diss the Canadian captain. And, at the same time, throw her own teammates under the bus.
"We made her look good," Solo said. "We didn't win those air battles."
These were not air battles, one should note, that involved the goalkeeper. These were two headers batted past defenders and past Solo into the American goal. Sinclair's opening goal was a thing of beauty as she took a pass, deked out two would-be defenders and then booted the ball past a diving Solo into the goal.
To most everyone watching, it was an exemplary performance of skill by one of female soccer's superstars. To Solo, her defenders made her look bad.
There's more. Alex Morgan, the beneficiary of extra time, who ended the game with a picture-perfect header of her own, had a perfect opportunity to be the gracious hero in a 123-minute slugfest that appeared headed for penalty kicks until Morgan's goal. Morgan, a former teammates of Sinclair's in the defunct Women's Professional Soccer league, opted to follow Solo's lead.
"I don't think they were a fit as we were," Morgan said. "I saw them on the ground more … [My goal] was the last second of the game, it was about who is the fittest, who is the strongest, and we showed that."
Pia Sundhage, the Americans' coach, said she felt no empathy for the Canadians. Abby Wambach gloated about getting in the head of the referee. On and on it goes.
There are times to be competitive. There are times to leave it behind. In victory, grace and empathy are paramount. Refusal to admit there was ever a competition may play well among the ego-driven and bombastic. But on a world stage, again it's plain ugly.