Is little brother Canada in an ego battle with big brother USA? The trash talk online may be an indicator. For patriots on both sides of the border, the Winter Olympics give reason to trash talk one another. Why do these Americans and Canadians get so uptight about their national identity based on their performance in the games? Why do they stir up such disdain for one another with their trash talk? As the USA and Canada play in the Olympic hockey semi-finals this week it is certain to fuel the fire of American-Canadian trash talk. Trash talk is just an indication we crave national superiority over one another.
To be clear, I love watching these national teams compete on the olympic stage in the spirit of the games but with sportsmanship. In his opening ceremony speech, IOC president Thomas Bach reminded us of the need for respect,
“You will celebrate victory with dignity and accept defeat with dignity… it is possible to strive even for the greatest victory with respect for the dignity of your competitors. Yes, Yes, it is possible – even as competitors – to live together under one roof in harmony, with tolerance and without any form of discrimination for whatever reason. Yes, it is possible – even as competitors – to listen, to understand and to give an example for a peaceful society.”*
So why the trash talk now? To be sure, Canadians have an advantage given our wintery climate and we tend to make a strong showing in the Winter Olympics. Perhaps it is the only time where we see an American/Canadian rivalry escalate. The little brother actually makes his older brother somewhat jealous and the little brother probably embellishes it.
It is ok for patriots to take pride in their nation’s performance but as soon as they assume national superiority over the other an arrogance enters. These trash talking patriots are insecure about their national identity and are eager to prove themselves the superior nation no matter their success. If the opponent does better there is a tendency to vilify and resent them. If their nation does better, they feel they have the right to gloat over their opponent. Since these trash talk patriots don’t feel secure in themselves, they use cultural differences and success in sport to buttress their sense of national superiority.
The Olympic ideal seeks to take us beyond our national absorption and respect all nations. In reality, our human hearts are incapable of doing this. We need more than ideals, we need humility. But how do we foster humility? Perhaps we need to see the bigger picture. God created all people equal and our worth is not based on our performance, individually or corporately. No nation is superior in God’s eyes. No cultural values or athletic performance make a nation superior and entitled to trash talk another. One team will win, but it doesn’t give either winner or loser the right to trash talk and disrespect the other.
A nation’s athletic victory is never assured nor eternal. Perhaps the desire for national supremacy is just our craving for a nation that will endure, that is the just, that is superior. Jesus gave us vision for such a nation. This unlikely king sacrificed his perfect life to forgive men, women and children of their sin. From every tribe, nation and tongue he will make them into citizens of a new nation, heaven.
It is easy to trash talk people you don’t look at in the eye. Perhaps these trash talk patriots need to spend time meeting one another. I don’t want to insult my American friends, even if I would prefer my team to win. I can be a patriot without trash talking my opponent.
Why do you think we trash talk?
How can we foster more respect?