American sport mired in misery
WASHINGTON – These are the times that try the souls of American sports fans.
NFL owners and players are mired in a lockout approaching its fourth month over how to divide $9.3 billion in annual revenue, the first shutdown since 1987 jeopardizing the September start of the 2011 campaign.
The NBA appears poised to follow the gridiron stars off the cliff into an owner-player deadlock, with the collective bargaining agreement set to expire on Thursday.
And that’s after German star Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas to a title over a Miami team with US standouts LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, one of Major League Baseball’s most historical clubs, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday and US squads have been humbled in the World Baseball Classic, both editions of which have been won by Japan’s stars.
The National Hockey League’s Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg, Canada, earlier this month and the Phoenix Coyotes remain wards of the league with their home city paying $25 million dollars a year to help offset losses.
US men’s golfers have gone five majors without a victory, the longest drought in history, and Europeans hold the top four spots in the world rankings while on the women’s side, only two of the top 10 are Americans.
“The world is a smaller place, so I think we’re going to have to get used to it,” US 2012 Ryder Cup captain Davis Love said.
“Look at the leader board every week on (the US PGA) tour. It’s a third US and a third European and then a third Asian or South African, Australian guys.”
US golf veteran Jim Furyk says non-US players moving to US homes and playing on the American tour are sort-of Americans.
“I think American golf is probably a little better than what it’s been given credit for, but obviously it’s a worldwide game,” Furyk said.
“A lot of these international guys, I think of them as members of our tour.
“Vijay (Singh) is a neighbour of mine. I don’t really think of Vijay as from Fiji. He has lived in Ponte Vedra 20 years. He’s not American but I don’t really think of him as being foreign, if that makes sense.”
Last month saw the first week since tennis rankings began with no American man or woman in the top 10. Venus and Serena Williams have been injured and each crashed out in the fourth round at Wimbledon on Monday.
Where players like Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi once ruled, the top US men are now No. 9 Mardy Fish and the fading No. 10 Andy Roddick, whose 2003 US Open crown is the most recent Grand Slam singles crown for an American man.
“We come from a country that’s used to winning and winning at a high level and at almost every sport,” Fish said.
“Tennis fans are used to seeing Americans win and play each other in Grand Slam finals. So it’s tough to come from an era where Sampras and Agassi are playing each other five or six times in major finals.”
Fish blames the vastness of the US sports scene for dwindling the talent for tennis.
“Our most important sports, or our most popular sports, are getting our best athletes,” Fish said.
Only once in the past eight seasons has an American racer captured the IndyCar Series season crown while US drivers have taken only two of the past 13 Indianapolis 500 titles.
Two of the first three Women’s World Cup football titles were won by America, but 2011 host Germany has taken the past two titles, the US settling for third place each time.
Mexico last weekend captured a second consecutive Gold Cup title by defeating the host US men in the final.
Heavyweight boxing, once the realm of such American legends as Muhammad Ali and Evander Holyfield, now sees Ukraine stars Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko holding two major titles and Britain’s David Haye owning the other.
Rugby and cricket continue to struggle for attention in America while swimming and athletics gain regular attention only during the approach of the Olympics.
American men suffered their worst Olympic track and field showing in history at Beijing and once-mighty Michael Phelps, a 14-time Olympic champion, has been beaten in recent meets as he trains for the 2012 London Games.
Americans submitted a bid for the 2022 World Cup last year but saw Qatar win host rights in a vote by FIFA officials.
Two years ago, Chicago was a candidate for the 2016 Olympics only to be the first city eliminated, the International Olympic Committee eventually naming Rio de Janeiro the winner.
So where in sport is US rule unchallenged? Try the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), where American drivers have dominated and US star Jimmie Johnson is in the hunt for a sixth season title in a row.
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