I must say, it's not often that I watch Olympic Games competition and take a definitive rooting interest against athletes from the United States, but such is what happened during the shocking victory at Athens by the Puerto Rico basketball team over El Gigante del Norte, Puerto Rico 92, USA 73.
USA basketball certainly had this coming. After an irritating loss to the USSR and bronze metal finish in 1988, and an international rules change, the American basketball federation decided to do something really bad, and not only open up the national team to professional players, but make it exclusively professional players. What no one realizes is that the original dream team-- the one that lived up to its name (Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Jordan and Pippen, Malone and Stockton, etc.) in 1992 lost an exhibition match against American college all-stars. No, nothing was on the line but fun, but when even the best players play at less than their best, they are takeable by an inspired opponent.
And so, we move to the current incarnation-- a USA team that came in 6th as the host country at last year's world championships in Indianapolis, losing three times. Because of that, it was thought that any number of teams might knock off the heretofore unbeaten NBA montages sent to the Olympics, including Serbia & Montenegro, Lithuania or Italy. Puerto Rico, though a solid team, was not figured to be one of them.
But just as our colony in Iraq has been routing us (fantasize about either denying that fact, or making excuses all you like-- but the decision was made to go in undermanned, underequipped, firing all the Arabic translators because they were gay, taking no steps to win the peace or win the political or propaganda battles, assuming we would be welcomed with flowers, etc.), our colony in Puerto Rico stepped up, and just dominated the multi-millionaires suited up against them. Just kicked our ass. In every way. And I must say, during the intervals that the Loquacious Pup allowed me to divert from children's programming to watch the game, I just stood mouth agape watching a team of committed amateurs crush our team of mediocre, spoiled professionals. But watching the game, you could just see it coming. It's certainly not a dearth of talent-- no team led by Tim Duncan and Allan Iverson and coached by Larry Brown could be accused of that. It was a failure of intelligence and imagination: a team that features but one player in the NBA's best 50 three-point shooters went one for dozens from that range-- but kept taking that ill-advised shot. Remind you of a certain nation's behavior in the ... military and diplomatic arena?
Here's the thing. Prior to the 1988 loss (since it was during the Reagan Administration, must have been seen as a serious stain on Great Leader or something) we were really good with amateurs. But because of it, we changed the national psyche to a sort of "Powell Doctrine" of basketball: only NBA professional overwhelming power would do. And yet, back when we relied on committed amateurs (and we accused the USSR and Soviet bloc of fielding professionals), prior to 1988, our amateur teams were undefeated, but for the 1972 Munich Olympics asterisk (when an "international official" named "Dr. Jones" made the teams play the final few seconds three times until the USSR could win).
Look, sports are great. Although I was never a particularly adept athlete myself (high school math team, was a back-bench oarsman on the college freshman crew, mid to back of pack distance runner as an adult; I have occasionally thought of moving to some Caribbean country or territory that fields a team, and trying to find some sport with really soft qualifying rules), I certainly do enjoy watching the best athletes at their game. Here's the thing: there are certainly sports that are as corrupt and arbitrary as an awful lot of "free market activity" or Florida elections (ha! you didn't think I'd let that go!), such as, oh, figure skating, or on occasion, diving or gymnastics. Which is why those are not my favorite sports.
But... most of the Olympics is based on pretty objective criteria: most weight lifted, fastest time run or swam, farthest jumped or thrown... top athletes training for years (if not decades) for their few moments of glory-- watching them perform at their best. Or of course, rowing-- fastest time down the 2,000 meter course-- head to head. No arbitrary decisions, no corruption. Luck, to be sure (equipment could always fail, or water conditions can favor one or the other), but the race will not be decided by the referees, but by the athletes.
Again-- this is the fantasy of what free market capitalism is-- particularly the American incarnation of it. It's nonsense of course: too large a part of American "free market capitalism" and the American political system are much more like Olympic ice dancing (or the Republican primaries): an exhibition. A few people can put on fabulous performances, and entertain the crowd, and may be there is a difference between number 5 in the world and number 37 (or maybe there really isn't). But in the end, the Russian pair will win, maybe another Eastern European second, France third, the best anyone else can hope for is fourth, etc., etc. Mostly a rigged game.
No one reading this had any doubt it was coming back to George W. Bush, did you? Even in a game rigged so that he could go to Andover, Yale and Harvard Business School, he could do no better than C's, and learned absolutely nothing (other than evidently how to scam the system and running businesses into the ground). The American people did not select a champion of an Olympic decathlon or pentathlon-- we selected a champion of Olympic ice dancing. With the arrogant attitude of our Olympic basketball team. The results of such a meritless primogeniture selection-- for Gawd's sake, the least appealing of the Bush brothers (and that includes Neil and Marvin)-- should surprise no one.
Well, the American people have a choice, again, and it comes back to the ice-rink. John Kerry was a pretty fair hockey player in his day (well, he was rumored to be a dirty hockey player, but the American people should kind of like that)-- but there are statistics in hockey that are unassailable: goals, assists, saves, penalties, wins, losses... The prima dona in the White House now? Ice dancer.
The choice couldn't be clearer.
Oh my gosh....that is too funny and so true.
Posted by alicia at August 16, 2004 11:26 AM
Ice dancer, cheerleader . . . . Think we have a theme here.
Posted by mamayo at August 16, 2004 12:33 PM
What Games ...?
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