Hot Corner: American athletes falling behind rest of world in individual sports

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Just figured something out last weekend while watching Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal exchange bombs for four hours far more compelling than the average Super Bowl.

We are the most self-absorbed, celebrity-obsessed country on the planet. Yet somehow, in a majority of sports where rugged individualism is considered an asset, we stink.

I know there are exceptions. Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods and Tiger Woods, to name three. But Woods is an exception to every rule (a man of color dominating a ridiculously white, legendarily snooty game, for starters), so why should this one be any different?

Federer is so much better than any American male tennis player that it’s laughable. Andy Roddick, who is actually harder to like than the other athlete named A-Rod, is unworthy to carry the pocket square that adorns Federer’s Don Johnson blazer.

If you see any American-born women’s tennis heroes on the horizon behind Venus and Serena Williams, you’re either dreaming or drunk.

World Cup skiing? Please. If there were a Swiss teenager born with Bode Miller’s talent, they would eventually have to name the Cup after him. Here in the Good Ol’ U.S. of A., it’s easier to be a malcontent and a rock star.

Sylvester Stallone’s prophecy came true a generation late. The dominant heavyweight champion of this era is a giant Ukrainian with a Ph.D. Our country’s most viable contender is a 44-year-old, blown-up cruiserweight who was slurring his words and taking his irregular heartbeat to a faith healer 10 years ago.

I love the asinine and borderline racist logic experts use to explain away that one. “Ray Lewis could have been a heavyweight champion, but he became a football player instead,” they claim.

Probably there’s a shred of truth within that flawed analysis. To wit, the next time you see an American win a major marathon on native soil, you’ll be watching Bill Rodgers, Alberto Salazar or Joan Benoit Samuelson on ESPN Classic.

You think we’ve forgotten how to run? Hell, no. We just can’t bring ourselves to do it for 130 minutes at a time while nobody’s watching, when we could be paid $60,000 per second to do it in fits and starts while people shout and drink flat beer.

This would be fine if we whacked the rest of the world repeatedly in team sports. But the sweltering free agent of every hot stove season is a foreign-born pitcher trying to escape either anonymity or tyranny. And our current concept of a basketball “dream team” is lucky to compete for a bronze medal in international competition. Soccer? We’ll be a legitimate contender on the world stage by the Twelfth of Never.

Fear not, my fellow Ugly Americans. Just wait until football season. That one’s all ours. For now.

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