Sure, when you watch the Olympics these next few weeks, you could root for the athletes from your country. Or from the country your family originates from. Or whomever's playing the U.S. men's basketball team. You could. But let's root a little deeper.
There are currently 204 nations that are eligible to participate in the Olympics and 80 of them have never won a medal. Not in the Summer or Winter Olympics. Not a beautiful gold, a so-so silver or even a shameful bronze.
This list features 11 of those countries I've picked as underdogs worthy of your rooting interest in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Here are those 11 countries and my reasoning as to why you should cheer for them. (Politics aside, of course. We're in it for the sport, not the geopolitical resonance.)
Why root for them?Because they've got a guy competing who weighs 481 pounds. Back before the 2008 Olympics I wrote about 11 Olympic Sports Morbidly Obese People Could Win... and I excluded judo. (I don't remember why. Four years feels like a lifetime ago.) Ricardo Blas Jr. is competing for Guam in judo (in the 100 kg and up division, obviously). He's the heaviest Olympian in history. Are you not going to seek out judo now on CNBC or whatever network they relegate it to JUST to see this guy go at it?
Why root for them?Because they're the eighth-largest country in the world by population (152 million people) and have never won anything. That's more than 2 percent of the world's population living in a country that's never brought one home.
Meanwhile here in the U.S., we've won 2,549 medals; that's roughly one medal for every 123,185 Americans. That doesn't sound whopping -- but I'd compare it to filling the Grand Canyon two-fifths of the way up, which doesn't sound that impressive, but keep in mind it's a very big canyon.
Why root for them?Because their most notable Olympic highlight to date was when Charles Barkley gratuitously elbowed one of their basketball players in 1992 en route to an approximately 250-point Dream Team stomping. They're sending a team to compete in women's team handball this year -- seems like a great little backdoor niche where they can grab a medal.
Why root for them?Because right now they're pretty sure the New England Patriots once went 19-0, the Buffalo Bills are four-time Super Bowl champions and the Oklahoma City Thunder thwarted the Heat's quest for its first of eight titles. So it would be really cool if they could get the chance to celebrate an actual victory with some accurate t-shirts.
Think he's trademarked "Fear the unibrow" in Kiribati?
Why root for them?Because they've been trying since the 1936 Olympics -- the one where Jesse Owens made Hitler eat his hat -- and still haven't won one. That's 76 years of futility. We're talking Golden State Warriors territory there.
Why root for them?Because they're sending a woman for the first time -- instead of doing what they used to do and sending the Sultan's brother to compete for them. (Seriously.) Her name is Maziah Mahusin, she's competing in track in the women's 400 meters, and... well... she only got in because of the Olympic program that allows countries to enter "unqualified athletes in [track] and swimming." But it would be a real shock-the-world moment if she won.
More on the Sultan's brother. His name is Prince Jefri (insert Joffer here). He competed in men's skeet shooting in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics and finished at the bottom of the pack. Also, this guy embezzeled $14.8 billion from the country, ran a harem, has three wives, and still owns a yacht simply named Tits. Oil, man. Oil.
Why root for them?Because of all the countries on the list, they have the best shot at actually winning a medal. And it's thanks to a 49-year-old carpetbagger from Australia.
As I'm to understand it, Glenn Kable was one of Australia's best shooters (Duck Hunt, not basketball), but was left off the 2000 Olympic team. So he moved to Fiji, started the Shooting Association of Fiji, and now competes for them. He didn't medal for Fiji in 2004 or 2008, but has been on a bit of a hot streak lately, so this could be his year.
Why root for them?Because if you're a country that's athletic enough to have your men's soccer team qualify, you should be athletic enough to dig up someone who can snatch up a quick medal in rhythmic gymnastics or the new women's boxing event or something. (Yes, sexists, they added foxy boxing to the Olympics for 2012. Yes, the one where two chicks wail on each other. No, it won't happen on a tennis court.)
Why root for them?Because they never won anything back when the country was called Upper Volta. Which is an amazing name, as it somehow simultaneously sounds like it's describing female genitalia, an indie rock band, a constellation, and a country Kurt Vonnegut would've made up.
This post was originally published on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 11:00:00 AM under the category Sports.