We're good at EVERYTHING, aren't we?

It occurs to me that as a collective country, we have come as close as possible (I think) to completely maximizing our potential for athletic greatness. Most people never think about it, but even taking into account our population, our money, and our propensity for competitiveness, our overall record is pretty effing impressive.

In the sports that we love the most, we are of course at or near the top.

American football: We're the only country that plays it, so we're # 1 by default.
Baseball: The number of nations that play it is slowly growing, but the list is still relatively small. However, the # 1 slot would easily be between us or the Dominican Republic. Cuba and Japan would fight for # 3, I think.
Basketball: Easily # 1, by a long, long, long, long way. However, it'll be interesting to see what the landscape is like 20 years from now, as not only are Argentina and Lithuania threating to become Really Effing Good, so is China, and new countries are picking it up at a relatively rapid rate.
Ice Hockey: At any given time, the USA is # 2 - # 5. The list of countries that play it internationally is much longer than you think (England, Holland, Mexico, etc etc etc), so we're definitely among the very elite.

But, take a look at all the sports we don't care about as a collective whole (at least if you believe ESPN and the rest of the mainstream media)...and you see just how effective we are at using the talent available.

Soccer: 14 years ago, our national team was getting destroyed by opponents' reserve teams. Now, we're at or near the top 10 in the FIFA Rankings (remember, just about everyone in the world plays soccer), and we're legitimately one of those teams that are dangerous to even the Brazils, the Germanys, the Italys. In 20 years, we will be the best team in the world...bet on it.

Tennis: Andy Roddick. Pete Sampras (he just retired, but still). Andre Agassi. Venus Williams. Serena Williams. Lindsey Davenport. New phenoms coming up all the time. Thank you, drive through. While we distressingly don't win the Davis Cup every year (we certainly have the talent to), Americans win more than their share of Grand Slams, in both singles and doubles.

Gymnastics: We always have medallists in the major competitions, it seems.

Figure skating: See gymnastics.

Water polo: From what I gather, we always beat the mid-level teams and below, but lose to the top-tier teams. Considering NOBODY knows this sport exists in the States, being somewhere in the top 15 or so isn't bad at all.

Rugby: You can argue that our ruggers are where our soccer team was around 1988-1992 or so. However, the only caveat is that we did really well in this past World Cup -- a hard-fought win over Japan, a Norwood-esque miss costing us against Fiji (a very good mid-level team), and, with a little luck, we could have beat Scotland (one of the best 6 or 7 teams on the planet). We also gave France (top 3, at least) a scare for the first half. I think we'll only get better, as awareness of the sport and the infastructure and coaching begin to improve.

Curling: Unless my memory's really off, we've won Olympic gold (at the last one, I think, although it may have been Nagano).

And you can probably think of more examples, too. It's amazing how it only takes a relative few people to decide they want to start something up, and within an amazingly-fast time period, we're either dominating or very, very competitive. Contrast that to a country like India, who's pretty OK at cricket, and as far as I know, not much good in anything else. With a billion people, why can't they find 16 good soccer players? Why can't they rise above mid-level in cricket? Why can't China get above "1st-round victim" in soccer?


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