The most laudable part of the Summer Olympics is that it is one of the few times when the stifling sporting atmosphere in the United States actually opens up its window and lets in some air. For several glorious weeks, we turndown the volume on baseball, basketball and football–with a dash ofNASCAR–and get to glory in other athletic pursuits. We can consider thatswimmer Michael Phelps might be a better athlete than anyone in the NFL.We can debate whether Dara Torres, the 41-year-old swimmer whose firstOlympics was in 1984, is perhaps every bit the physical marvel that BrettFavre is. We can see Jamaica’s Usain Bolt and the US’s Tyson Gay race inthe 100 meters and reimagine speed. We can watch the Chinese womendivers and wonder how it’s possible for such tightly wound momentum toproduce such a small splash.
And with all this athletic and gender diversity on display, I am goingto write about men’s basketball. Yes, flagellate me with my ownhypocrisy as I retreat into the humid air of the mainstream, butSunday’s game between the US and China was historic and deserves its ownmention. It has been called the most watched basketball game in history,as more than a billion people tuned in to see the US defeat China 101-70. But the blowout score doesn’t begin to tell the story of the Chinese team, led by NBA All-Star Yao Ming, who kept the game close for about fifteen minutes. That is a remarkable accomplishment. Keep in mind, China practically didn’t have a team twenty years ago. They traveled to the states in 1986 and in an exhibition game against Division III Queens College, won by a whisker. Now they can compete with the greatest players in the world. The game also showed that the US still hasn’t learned to hitthree point shots in international play, which may damage them terriblyagainst Spain, Argentina, or my darkhorse pick, Greece, which doesn’t havea single NBA player but knows how to work the international game.
I wanted this to be the first post where I didn’t mention the ubiquitousjock-sniffing former cheerleader, George W. Bush, but alas he was at thegame as well. Bush even entered the team’s huddle and put in his handfor a "1-2-3, USA!" cheer. No word on whether ace point guard Chris Paulof the New Orleans Hornets, who has invested time and money inrebuilding the Big Easy, was able to keep down his lunch.
But while Bush taketh, he also giveth. In what can only be described asthe most apt photo possible, one that sums up his whole sorryadministration, Bush held up a flag where the stars and stripes werereversed. It’s been eight years of doing everything precisely wrong, a King Midas in reverse, where all he touches turns to dung. If I were on the US men’s hoops team, I’d be washing my hands with turpentine right about now.