Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Wall Street Journal Apology to the Dutch

Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters (H. Avercamp/Wikimedia)
The Wall Street Journal writer Matthew Futterman apologizes in an open letter to the Dutch for "trivializing your work in Sochi":
"Dear Dutch: Please Forgive Me."

As I mentioned  in my post "The Dutch Olympic Skating Success & Misconceptions in the Media", I found his earlier comments a bit denigrating to speed skating and unfair to the Dutch wins in Sochi. Apparently mr. Futterman received many more less friendly responses from Dutch readers, and felt compelled to respond:

"Sunday night, after the Netherlands won yet another speedskating medal and swept the podium in the women's 1,500-meter race, I wrote a column for this newspaper in which I suggested that all those medals from one country in one sport were making things kind of boring for "anyone not wearing orange underwear." (The Netherlands has 20 total medals, tied with the U.S. for most overall, but 19 of them have come in long-track speedskating.)
Since then I have been bombarded with hate mail from the Netherlands, like this:

"Hello crying baby…Come to Holland/Netherlands then I will give you my 50-year-old Dutch fists on your ugly face."

 I seem to have created the mistaken impression that I dislike all things Dutch and that the U.S. speedskating debacle has made me bitter and jealous. I promise neither is true. I really love all things Dutch."

Mr. Futterman then continues his apology by listing things he loves about Holland, such as

Amstel Bier, Dutch soccer and that he lives in the former New Amsterdam (i.e. New York.)  He also mentions the  "awesome" ice skating paintings by Bruegel . While Bruegel the Elder is a great painter he is technically a Flemish renaissance painter. A better example would have been Hendrick Avercamp,  a Dutch painter from the same era, and well-known for his Dutch skating paintings - proving the point that many sports are culturally embedded -.

Anyway, I accept mr. Futterman's apology, and hope we can all keep in mind the founder of the Olympic Movement, Pierre de Coubertin's mission to spread the Olympic spirit all over the world - the spirit of mutual understanding, the spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play, and then move on to more important matters than sports and orange underwear.

Matthew Futterman


  1. I am Dutch. I live in the US and Mr. Futterman is a former colleague of mine. As the Americans might say, the Dutch got their underwear (orange or not) all bunched up over nothing. Matt was being humorous in his first column, and in his apology. He truly does like all things Dutch, but the people who wanted to punch him in the nose need to either get a sense of humor, a better understanding of the English language, or both. If you truly understood the American language, you would have known that it was all in good fun. Certainly not worth sending hate mail over.

  2. That last comment should have been posted under my name. Not my daughter's. BTW Bruegel may have been born in Breda. I know the Dutch consider him a Belgian, but he lived in what was then the lowlands that belonged to Spain, which were all considered Dutch. It wasn't until after his death that the 80 years war began. My point is, Matthew Futterman may know more about Bruegel than the Dutch. Incidentally, he is a great guy. The Dutch would really like him.