There are no spoilers for Gemma Spofforth's race in the final of the women's 100m breaststroke at the 2012 London Olympics in this post. For results from that race, head to SB Nation's recap of the event.
In a few hours, millions of viewers will tune in to NBC's primetime (tape-delayed!) coverage of the 2012 London Olympics. Americans will see Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin, Michael Phelps, Rebecca Soni, and many more swimmers attack the water like most Americans attack (Olympic sponsor!) McDonald's Extra Value Meals, and, because NBC is, at its core, an American network making television content that appeals to as many Americans as possible so it can sell advertising space to American advertisers, you will see a lot of those competitors and hear a lot about them and probably learn why they are important. (America.)
I think we're a fairly patriotic bunch around these parts, and I know we love America, so I ask you to imagine flipping it: What if you were a Briton, or a British expatriate, and your nation was struggling at its first home Olympics? Tonight, you would be rooting for Gemma Spofforth.
Spofforth is the women's world record-holder in the 100 meters backstroke, a mark set at the 2009 World Championships, before FINA, international swimming's governing body, banned all manner of high-tech bodysuits that had helped swimmers shave seconds off their times and shred the record books. She'll probably hold it for a few years to come. But she's not the favorite heading into the event — Franklin might be, or Australia's Emily Seebohm — and yet she is the British hope.
She's also a Gator, having graduated from UF in 2010, and, frankly, I wouldn't have even thought of things from her perspective without knowing she is one. And that makes me think: Are there circumstances in which I will root for a person who went to my school before someone who competes under my country's flag?
Yeah, there are.
I was rooting for Spofforth today because I'd rather see a Gator I don't really know than an American I don't really know (I don't know Franklin from Eve) win; my kinship to the Gator Nation, I realized, trumps my allegiance to the flag. I guess I also think that there will be other chances for Americans to win medals, because there always are, and not so many chances for a Brit like Gemma (which, by the way, is such a British name) to win in front of her home fans.
And so I rooted for her. I won't tell you if my heart leapt or fell at the end of the race, but I rooted for Gemma Spofforth today.
My question to you: Are you going to do the same? Did you? Are you rooting for Gators before or over Americans? I'll be in the comments all night, and I'd love to hear your thoughts.