How To Determine Who You Should Root For In The Olympics: Rules Which Are Certainly Jingoistic, Possibly Racist, Maybe Even Sexist, and I Just Don’t Care

The Summer Olympics are upon us, and many of you are wondering who you should root for. Do you root for Belarus over Honduras in soccer? Do you root for the Chinese in gymnastics? What about Uruguay in Beach Volleyball? Should you just turn the whole thing off and wait for football season to start?

It is a confusing time, but I am here to help you. Over many decades of watching international sporting competitions, I have developed a system of rules to determine which countries I should root for and against. Actually, “system of rules” is too small a description for what I am offering here. It is more a system of ethics, providing a rock solid basis to determine who you should root for. You won’t go wrong using these rules. Your rooting interests may not medal, as this is not a system for betting, but you will not be humiliated on either a moral or geopolitical basis.


There are no exceptions to these rules. There is no room for interpretation. These must be followed without exception:

Principle Number One: USA! USA! USA! – You always root for the United States of America, as long as they are participating. It does not matter how long a shot they are to win, place, or draw. If someone is sporting an Old Glory patch, that is who you root for, and you do so openly and lustily and vigorously.

Principle Number Two: World War II May Be Over, But All Is Not Forgiven – Under no circumstances may you ever root for Germany or Japan, unless they are competing against each other in the finals, and no other countries are available to support, and even then, you should probably just not watch at all.

Principle Number Three: Rule Britannia! – If the USA! USA! USA! is eliminated, you must root for any remaining English Speaking Nations, subject to the secondary rules set forth herein. For the purposes of this Principle, all former members of the British Empire, and all current members of the British Commonwealth, are considered English Speaking Nations, whether or not English is currently the lingua franca of that nation.

Principle Number Four: No Tyrants – Hey Cuba, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, no “We’re Number One!” foam fingers for you.

Secondary Rules: Assuming the Foundational Principles are not applicable, the secondary rules come in to play. The secondary rules require some interpretation, and therefore there is some wiggle room. However, they must be followed in order:

Rule Number One:  Always Root For The Subject Nations Against Their Former or Present Rulers – If two athletes or national teams whose home countries were at one time in a colonist/colony relationship, or which at one time one nation had subjugated the other, you must root for the ruled against the ruler. For example, you always root for Poland against Russia, always root for Ireland against England, and any of the current members of the Commonwealth get the nod over the United Kingdom. You must root for the Congo over Belgium, Viet Nam over France, Mexico over Spain, Sint Maarten over the Netherlands, and if a country can be described as a “Former Soviet Republic” you root for them against Russia. This rule can get tricky, particularly when it comes to European countries facing off against each other, as they seem to have ruled each other at various times.

Rule Number Two: Always Root for The Underdog in a Given Sport – If neither the Foundational Principles nor Rule Number One are applicable, you must root for the underdog in a given sport. By way of example, let’s say that China is facing against Brazil. If the sport is soccer, you root for China. If the sport is table tennis, you root for Brazil.

Rule Number Three: Root for the Country with the Most Attractive Women – Using our China versus Brazil example, and assuming further that neither country is favored over the other in a particular sport, it comes down to whether you like Asian women or Brazilian women.





Those are the Principles and the Rules.  Now let’s run through some examples so you can see how these work in practice.

USA against Germany in Men’s Soccer: This is an easy one. Foundational Principles One and Two are applicable, as is Rule Number Two, requiring that you root for the USA. Even if we change the sport to baseball, you still must root for the USA due to Foundational Principles One and Two, even if the USA would be favored in that particular sport.

Australia versus Italy in the Modern Pentathlon: Foundational Principle Number Three is applicable, and you bust out the Foster’s and Vegemite Sandwiches and Radio Birdman records and root for Australia.

Germany against Japan: This would be sport dependent. If the sport is tennis, you root for Japan; If the sport is men’s gymnastics, you root for Germany; In both cases, you are rooting for the underdog in the given sport. However, you are never happy about rooting for either Germany or Japan.

Italy squaring off against Ethiopia: It does not matter what the sport is, the Ethiopians get the nod, due to Secondary Rule Number One.

Italy versus Spain: Assuming that neither team is favored in the particular sport, I would invoke Secondary Rule Number Three and root for Italy because of Monica Bellucci, and if any of you counter with Penelope Cruz (AKA Duckface) you will be banned from reading this blog.

Burkina Faso lining up against Sweden: I suppose it is possible that Sweden may be the underdog in a particular sport, but in most instances you will be rooting for Burkina Faso due to Secondary Rule Number Two.

2 Responses to How To Determine Who You Should Root For In The Olympics: Rules Which Are Certainly Jingoistic, Possibly Racist, Maybe Even Sexist, and I Just Don’t Care

  1. bladdamasta says:

    Very much enjoyed this post. Have been trying to apply the theory to the Australian context.

    Principle No. 1: Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi
    Principle No. 2: Not so worked up about that one – probably Principle No. 3 is more important for Aussies and quite different to what you might expect
    Principle No. 3: Anyone but the Poms. You’ve got to understand the rivalry between Australia and England (in this instance – Great Britain) – we simply hate them and in a way simply hope we finish higher than the Poms in the medal tally. Nothing else matters
    Principle No. 4: Cheer for the New Zealanders unless 1) we are up against them or 2) They are looking likely to finish higher in the medal tally

    Happy with Rule No 1.
    Happy with Rule No 2, but that means you’ll find plenty of Aussies cheering against the US in many sports. For example, the perverse joy the Aussies (and I reckon just about everyone in the world) would have if the US Basketball team loses cannot be underestimated

    Tough time zone for Aussies in this Olympics. Probably have to get up at 5am to watch any major medal event

    • seanrude says:

      P1: Makes sense
      P2: You need someone to root against, no matter what. Maybe England/Great Britain can fill that role (and just to clarify, is it just the English, or do you have ill will towards Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Channel Islands as well?)
      P3: which would let you keep rooting for the rest of the English speaking world, including the Americans.

      As for R2, if you adopt the rest of the English speaking world pursuant to P3, you will have to root for the Americans, even in basketball. And I have no idea if it was intentional, but thank you for not referring to this version of the US Basketball Team as the “Dream Team” as there was only one Dream Team in basketball, and that was the 92 team with Magic, Bird and Jordan. I will make a deal with you: You root for the Americans in Basketball (unless they are playing Australia) and I will root for your country forever and always in rugby (unless they are playing the Americans, although I imagine the Australian Hoops team would put up more of a fight than the American Rugby would)

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