On goats

After I finally left the Holland House last night, the utter lack of cabs in this city meant I stood on the corner and talked to some Dutch folks for 30 minutes in a cold drizzle. I told them I was an American. "No, really?" they said, mockingly. Guess my white sneakers gave me away.

They were very nice, and we ended up taking a cab together, and I offered one of the guys a place to stay next time he comes to the District, and our conversations about Americans were very predictable. We talked about soccer; they said Americans are too hungry for scoring, and that every 0-0 result can be thrilling and unique. We talked about language; they were disturbed, as they should have been, that I speak only English. We talked about Shani vs. the Hottie; they said Hedrick's boasts in the media came off as typical American arrogance. It was straight out of the American-sports-journalist-talks-to-European-sports-fans-at-3-in-the-morning-while-being-rained-on handbook.

(Let me now post this, from Italian reader Federica, just because it's interesting. I don't want to regurgitate the whole Shani-Hottie thing, but enough Europeans have tied Hottie Hedrick into international politics that it's probably worth a read:

Hedrick does make the U.S. look bad. He fits perfectly the stereotype of the arrogant American, and is a bad image of the famous 'Olympic spirit' that, unfortunately, I haven't seen enough. He said they would have probably beaten Italy with Davis in the team race, but also sport, like history, is not made by 'if'. How does he know? He seems not to give credit where its due, to our team in a country where skaters and money for that- and many other 'minor' sports- is little (damn, damn soccer!), and a meaningful victory. That's sport.

On the other side, Shani Davis is and represents the good face of the U.S. And you could see it by the applause of the non-American audience: they applauded him more than Hedrick, maybe also by knowing about those nasty, stupid racist e-mails Davis gets on his website (I read it on an Italian paper). Davis was the perfect representation of the Olympic spirit and what being sportsmanlike really is about. He was wonderful in his hugging and shaking Fabris's hair, in his compliments, in his not-faked smile.

By contrast, when Hedrick went to Enrico to shake his hand and Enrico instead hugged him, Hedrick was cold and didn't really 'join the hug' (no, this is not typical woman need for romance or sweetness, but the real love for sport and what it means). So, I will quote Enrico's interview I heard: " Davis told me he was proud of me and happy I won (bravo Shani). He gave a good example of what sport is, an example to follow, he was really nice" I agree, and that hug is an Olympic moment, for me.

So, as you can imagine Italians are more focused on our historical victory than the Hedrick/Davis thing, but I bet Davis is the good guy for us, whether he made some mistakes or not- but I leave that to gossip, sport is something else....For every Hedrick and Miller you have, you have a Davis and a Joey Cheek.....

One word on the Dutch supporters: while I am complaining about the lack of really sportsmanlike spirit, they represent it incredibly well. They cheered Fabris, with smiles, they were applauding in general every winner even if s/he wasn't Dutch, in spite of their disappointment. Their journalists and managers, differently from Hedrick, didn't have anything to say about Italian team victory. They said Italy deserved it, period, and said they were happy for us. And they had more reason to complain, since they've fallen, didn't they? The Dutch, with their 'Casa Olanda' [Holland House] open to everybody and their spirit about sport, win the medal for me, and have to teach something to both Italian and American supporters, together with all the others. They do know what sport is, and pay less attention to borders. Bravi.

And re: my prior entry about goats and chevre and all that, an alert reader just sent this link about a Sudanese man who is being forced to marry a goat. Believe it or not, the link will not send you to the Onion.)

And since Bode was the origins of the goat talk, check out the AP interview in which Bode says "I just want to go out and rock, and man, I rocked here," and also that he "got to party and socialize at an Olympic level." And God bless him for that.

By Dan Steinberg |  February 25, 2006; 2:54 PM ET
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Having met both and spoken to each at length, I believe the assessment of each is somewhat off.

Posted by: Tom | February 25, 2006 06:37 PM

Good to hear that some fellow Italian is totally fed of soccer and soccer talk/tv/whatever. We're being held in ransom by a minority, a large, very vocal, influent minority - but still a minority! - of people who seem to dread the perspective anyone can be interested in something else than soccer is a major sin. Let's hope these Olympics will be the start of a big backlash against Soccer Gestapo.

To Tom: you've met both of them so I think you're assesment is closer to truth than ours, but believe me, for the average italian right now Davis is a talented good chap, and Hendrick a talented moron.

Posted by: Luca Signorelli | February 26, 2006 09:27 AM

Luca, basta calcio! is my second name. How odd and stupid it is that the Dutch were asking for Fabris' autograph, and here he could walk around with no one knowing who he was besides his family and people from his village? That he or whoever it was had to call la Gazzetta to say he won European championships, and I have to find it out on an American newspaper? It's absurd. I have little hope that the Olympics will make skaters' lives easier, and not only skaters'. We can't realize we have good athlets only when they win the Olympics. There are fencing world championships in Torino in September- you bet there will be formations of journalists complaining daily again ;)- so, for some days some more folks will know: that there is something called fencing; that we're bloody good at it; that no, Totti has nothing to do with it, thank the gods of the Olympus. But by now, the most known fencing player is that stupid one who is making a fool of himself in that stupid reality show- and he won a medal, didn't he? And they know him because he dates that (censorship) pseudo-actress. Poor Italy. Now I am sad. Ciao.

Posted by: | February 26, 2006 07:57 PM

I forgot: what a name! Luca Signorelli. Terrific painter.

Posted by: | February 26, 2006 08:00 PM

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