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Checking nationalism at the door

By admin Published: August 23, 2006

Sapporo, Japan -- Journalists are trained to be coldly objective, a trait that sometimes can make it seem to fans like we actually are rooting against the teams we cover.  But it is a bit of a different challenge, and a new challenge for me, at an event like the FIBA World Championships.

Above all else, I am American.  It crosses regional, political and religious lines.  When I watch the Olympics, I root for the Americans.  When it comes to business, I'd prefer it if American companies do the best.  And when they play the Star Spangled Banner before every game here it means something because the are only a few dozen Americans in the building.

Yet as I watch and break down the way Team USA plays, I feel a duty to stay in the middle.  It can be a challenge, much more so than covering the Cavaliers.  Especially when you know there is a pretty solid percentage of people in the building, much less the assembled media, who dislike you because of your nationality.

There are media members here who openly root for their team.  There is one guy, a TV personality from La Sexta in Spain, who has been going around and telling the U.S. players about the greatness of Espana and Pau Gasol for the last week.  The other night when the Slovenians lost to the Italians in a close game, it appeared as if the gathered Slovenian media had lost the game themselves.  From a journalist perspective, it is a mockery.  From a citizen's perspective, it is probably honorable.

I can only imagine how it is to cover a war, where such loyalties are tested tenfold.  But it is an interesting position to be in, nonetheless.  Deep down I course I would prefer for the Americans to do well, but I have to be critical and brazenly honest in reporting on their play.

In other Japan news, I learned a new game today...Park Golf.  It really a cross between putt-putt and croquet.  You use a mallet and hit a plastic and rubber ball the size of a tennis ball over holes that range from 30-70 yards.  It is smashing good fun and tricky because you really can't get the ball in the air and you have to judge how it will roll.  It is very popular in Sapporo, but is apparently more favored for senior citizens.  I got in 36 holes today with ESPN's Chris Sheridan and we were the only two under 65 years old on the course.

We got plenty of looks, especially after Chris actually made a hole-in-one on a 40-yard hole.  It was quite a shot and he went bowing up the fairway as the always polite Japanese applauded.  What a show off.

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