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"The Least We Could Do..."

From an AP story on the reception given American athletes in Athens:

A handful of athletes, such as NBA star Ray Allen, cited fears of anti-American violence as a reason for skipping the Olympics. High jumper Matt Hemingway, son of a Marine who served overseas, questioned such attitudes.

"Anybody who said they didn't want to come because of security, they just didn't want to come," said Hemingway, of Buena Vista, Colo. "Considering what our soldiers are doing, risking their lives, the least we could do is represent our country at the Olympics."

One could argue that Hemingway's comment is a non-sequitur -- that military service has nothing to do with athletic pursuits -- but I think he makes a good point.

Most athletes in Athens -- American or otherwise -- will come home without medals. Many of them are from sports without huge followings, so we will never know their names. Many of them have little or no support and so have had to endure untold sacrifices to achieve the simple goal of attending an Olympics, of representing their nation at the world's premier sporting event. In that context, the thought of an elite NBA player turning down a chance to do so -- and, with a robust team, to almost certainly win a gold medal -- because of "fears of anti-American violence" or just wanting a summer break, seems incredibly lame.

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