Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Olympic Basketball, the World vs the NBA...sorry, USA

While it’s not involving the Canadian Olympic Squad, it is going to be quite hard to ignore the US Men’s Basketball team in Beijing (and not just because of the overexposure and endless coverage they’ve already received, which will certainly continue). In the sport of basketball the one country you watch and follow thru all the trials and tribulations is “The Dream Team”, just as hockey focuses in on Canada and Russia and footy will always have an eye on the Brazilians, Italians and the English. And as a result everything that happens will be carefully analyzed and dissected, much the way a victory that was deemed too close for comfort is presently placing the team under scrutiny.

What transpired Tuesday night against Australia will go down as one of two
things: The night TEAM USA was exposed as a flawed, overconfident team, or the
night Team USA received a wake-up call.
Mark Sheridan, ESPN.com

While clearly an underrated team entering the Olympic tournament, the Australians - sans their lone NBA player Andrew Bogut - pushed the US in the final warm-up contest before everything becomes official. While it was the last game in preparation, once again this is the “Dream Team” we’re talking about here! Or at least it was…it seems many down south are yet willing to relinquish their claim to dominance of the round ball. Just ask the superpowers of any other sport that has gained worldwide popularity and I’m sure the response would be much the same – it’s not always easy to maintain that top seeding, and the results cannot be assumed every time out.

International Basketball today is a drastic contrast to the first few Games involving NBA players, where Basketball was a cakewalk for the Americans. Maybe those blowout strolls thru to the podium really was the worst possible scenario, an overinflating boost to the psyche of the American sports mind. It seems that it has certainly made it far more difficult for many US B-Ball fans to acknowledge the talent and credibility on the world stage of countries like Spain, Argentina, Greece, and a handful of former Yugoslavian States. Let alone fathom the idea that their NBA players may pack up and leave for teams in European Leagues, and potentially, the biggest fish of them all may even cross the pond to fresher (read: far more profitable) waters…

The game yesterday brought everything full circle, and the criticism was harsh for a meaningless victory, the last meaningless victory before everything becomes real. Possibly this was out of hope that if they’re grilled now, no arrogance will remain within the American squad when it comes down to the important contests. Possibly this was out of a refusal to accept nothing but the Gold, and reclaim the collective consciousness that the Americans rule the sport of Basketball with an iron fist. Possibly this was just calling out a squad that isn’t as great as its billing as they revealed some of their flaws on a night of horrific outside shooting and lackluster defense (lackluster really being a compliment in this case…).

An attention grabbing story before, during and after the Olympics for sure, the path that the USA Men’s Basketball team takes will be almost impossible to ignore. And as stories go I hope this one too ends in a “tragedy”, nothing severe but just another US stumble at the finish line – and not to see the team go down in flames, or to watch the Americans lose out on another Gold, not anything like that. But I want to see the loss so that maybe, just maybe, the world will gain another ounce of respect out on the floor.

6 comments:

sager said...

Someone else said it first, but if the USA had been playing Spain yesterday, they lose by 20.

Should we adopt Spain as our official basketball nation for the games?

Btw, the official website for the Olympic basketball tournament is worse than useless ... it doesn't list the schedule or the rosters, that I can see. You have to go somewhere else to find it.

sager said...

No word of a lie: FIBA.com lists José Calderón's current club as Toronto Raptors, NBA (USA).

Mike said...

I'll actually be cheering for Spain myself, mainly yes because of Calderon but it's hard to cheer against a guy like that, and the Spaniards really do have a quality team they've put together. It'll be interesting to see what happens with this tournament...

Andrew Bucholtz said...

I'd cheer for Spain, but I'm still mad that they beat my beloved Germany in Euro 2008...

sager said...

Isn't that always the way in Canada ... you can't have a conversation about basketball without someone swinging the subject around to soccer.

Fiasco, Bucholtz!

Duane Rollins said...

The official Olympic site is God awful, yes. To get the line-ups you have to go to "schedule and results" on the left column, then click on the sport you are interested in, then click on the country's team that you want to see.

I actually contemplated a full post on this subject, but the Olympics have really dropped the ball on the Internet end of things. Not just in China, but the last couple cycles as well.

Thing is, at the time the 2000 Games were widely praised as having some of the best Internet coverage available. The problem is that the IOC took the template they used in Australia and are pretty much still using it eight years later. It was a little noticeable in Athens, more so in Turin and it's just embarrassing now. Hopefully, they will take a look at things in time for Vancouver.