Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The Dream Team

The Olympics haven't even started yet and I am already not watching them. I probably have never had less interest in the Olympics than I do this year. NBC has finally beaten it into my head that they don't give a rip about actually showing any sporting events; they just want to show footage of some obsessed mother and father waking their anorexic 12 year old daughter up at four in the morning to go to a gymnastics practice run by some Romanian pedophile. That way you can see the human drama of the whole situation. You know what they say - behind every great teen-age athlete there is some truly sick parent who swares up and down on camera that little Suzie-Q insisted on three-a-day practices from the time she was two.

And you can just bet that Bob Costas has his fingers crossed for his Jim McKay moment, when disaster may actually strike the Olympic village. Being the live reporter on such a scene is like a golfer winning the Masters - like Jim McKay, Costas could count on being disconnected from the life support system 4o years down the road to come back for his once-every-four-year retrospective on the tragedy of the 2004 Athens Games, and always with that annoying trumpet music playing in the background. Lacking such drama, Bob Costas will no doubt suffer the fate of Jim Lampley.

Not that the sporting events are that much better. I like the track&field and the swimming, but you just have to cross your fingers that the events you want to watch aren't concurrent with rhythmic gymnastics or synchronized swimming. But the one sport I haven't cared to watch in years is Olympic basketball, at least since 1988, prior to the original Dream Team. Why watch an event where the outcome is predetermined? Oh sure, the argument at the time was that our college guys could no longer compete at the international level, and so to bring the glory of gold back to the USA we needed to send the best. One problem with that strategy - there is no upside - if the Dream Team loses, the loss ranks among the most historic upsets in Sports history, and if it wins, so what? So what if we send a college contingent, we may not win every four years, but when we would win, and we would on occasion, at least there would be some sense of accomplishment.

Look at the USA hockey team of 1980 - obviously the stuff of movies - and ask yourself if that one victory, with a group of college guys, was worth more than all of the Dream Team gold medals combined.

I may just be bitter because the one suggestion I had been making for years to increase interest in Olympic basketball has gone largely ignored. I was all for keeping the Dream Team, with one exception. My idea was to troll the country for a fat sub 5' 6" basketball player with real charisma, a guy who never rose above high school hoops, but remains a gym rat of sorts and lives on a diet of pure junk food. I'd want him to talk an enormous amount of trash loud enough for the camera microphones to pick up, but have no game to back it up at all. Take that guy, give him a uniform, and see that he gets at least ten minutes of playing time per game. And don't put it all at the end, otherwise no one will tune in until the 4th quarter (kind of like with any NBA game).

No way a guy like that would have meant defeat for those early dream teams. The stunt would be highly entertaining, and much in line with the proud tradition of American arrogance - see, we can beat your basketball team with an overfed Spike Lee - now imagine what our military would do to yours.

Sure, I've never written the idea down before, but I have mentioned it to a few people, and by now the US Olympic Committee has no doubt heard some variant of the idea - but still we get fed the same diet of NBA stars, minus those attending to pressing legal matters. The idea has only gotten better with time - today NBC could build a hole reality TV show around the search for the player, kind of like the apprentice, with Larry Brown ending each show saying to one would-be-Olympian - "You're Cut."

Or maybe it hasn't gotten better with time, since now there is a real probability that whatever team we send may still get beat, as hard as that is to imagine. The excuses have already started - the NBA season is so long, these guys don't play together long enough, the lane looks funny, the shot clock is longer in international play, the three-point line is easier, gyros don't sit well with American players, how can NBA players be expected to pass more than once per possession, how can American players defend against teams that pass more than once per possession, etc. etc. Stick my gym rat on that team and they would just point to him as another excuse for losing.

So now I offer my second viewer-friendly idea for the US Olympic Committee. Two words - Harlem Globetrotters. Even if they lose, and they rarely do, at least we know some crappy international referee (perhaps the son of one who gave the '72 Olympic medal to the Russkies) will get a full bucket of water thrown on them. Or maybe it will just be confetti - you never know with the Globetrotters - they keep you is suspense!

You want to talk about passing - these guys have been running the weave for close to a century. These guys rarely lose, and they usually play against teams dominated by white guys (if my memory serves me correctly here), so they are perfect for international competition. A funny looking lane doesn't matter to them. They'll probably wait until during the game to have gyros delivered right to the court. They don't care about the three point line - they've always preferred to take hookshots from half-court anyway. They protect the ball well on offense, using their shirts to great effect. And if the game gets out of hand - one of them usually has a whistle stuffed in his shorts that he can bring out to commence officiating and confuse the opponent.

You think NBA players don't know the international game? They'd be regular Einsteins in comparison to the international players trying to understand the Globetrotter's game.


Blogger pbryon said...

The key to a watchable Olympic sport is that it be competed against some objective measure, like a clock, tape measure, etc. Anything judged--even diving, which I find closest to being watchable--smacks of predetermined results.

6:31 AM  
Blogger Boz said...

Until wiffle ball becomes an Olympic sport, why bother? The fact that the NBC blanket (including Bravo "Queer Eye" doing rhythm gymnastics?) is covering this event takes the fun out of it. And let's not put Jim McKay, the best the industry has ever produced, in the same sentence as Bob Costas.

7:16 AM  
Blogger the giant said...


I also am a fan of putting the average US Hoopster on the Dream Team. A guy like Tim Lehihan (known to som eSouth Jersey natives) would be a perfect candidate in my mind - - about 5'6", 48 yrs old, completely dedicated to the game for decades, and he owns a hoagie shop. He might be the only guy on the Dream team this year who has a legit 3 pt shot.

Another idea, and this one is new, is to have the US send an All High School team. Have them start practicing together around Memorial Day, and get some high school coach (other than Clarence Turner) to coach them. Stress D, passing and team play and I'd bet they'd be way more interesting than the Dream Team. Have the team start out with about 20 players and give the coach descretion to kick off any players w/ bad attitudes before the Olympic Games start. Then have final cuts as late as possible.

Anyone know the odds on Dream Team losing??

8:21 AM  
Blogger Stax said...

John Hatch. Why have you removed the comments from your "Who is Stax?" post? Many thoughtful and insightful posts were made in response and they seem to have been removed. Don't become what you behold and do what the media Dems do.

8:20 PM  

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