Can't find LeBron anywhere in the Plaka. No 'Melo on Panos Street. No A.I. on Ermou.
Finding a crowd of hometown hoops fans outside the arena proved tougher than it sounded.
Doric ruins to my left, vendors hawking souvlaki to my right, but no U.S.-Greece on a television anywhere.
I've left the refuge of the Media Press Center to watch Greece's Dream Team play against the fellas, and as I stumble my way through the narrow streets of Plaka like a clueless malaka, I realize I'm screwed.
I am a tourist in a tourist area looking for an ESPNZone. Finally, after about a half-hour, I see the game on a small television at a cafe called Yspia, but there's barely anybody inside. Next up is nearby Centrale, an upscale cafe with a crowd more interested in wine than Dwyane Wade. No dice. By now I'm thinking the first quarter is surely over and I'm blogger without a blog.
Onto Mitropoleos, where I see an oasis in the form of a Maple Leaf. Canada House. The patron house of Canadians at the Olympic Games.
I'm greeted by Kirstin Normand, who represented Canada in synchronized swimming for a decade and won a bronze medal in Sydney. The place is usually open to friends and family of Canadian athletes, but I drop Michael Farber's name and I'm suddenly money.
Canada rocks. On the second floor of the house is the U.S.-Greece game airing on the fabulous CBC. Greece leads, 13-9. This is perfect. Basketball on the CBC and a rooftop view of the Acropolis at halftime.
"This is sweet, eh," says Kristin, as we check out the Acropolis.
Sweet, indeed. Kirstin is staying at the Olympic Village and tells me that she was at the swimming venue following the star-studded 200-meter freestyle final and was on the same bus back to the village as Ian Thorpe and Michael Phelps. Turns out they all had to wait nearly an hour for transportation. Even multiple-gold medalists have to deal with the traffic problems in Athens. Makes me feel better.
But as nice has Kirstin is, my goal is to watch the game with the homefolk. So I bid adieu to Canada House and Kirstin and head back to Centrale, where I see Bronnie's got things well in hand. His dunk and subsequent chest-bump of Richard Jefferson has given the U.S. a 29-19 lead with 5:33 left in the half.
A Greek man in blue polo shirt throws his hands up in disgust and walks away. I should do the same. How can there not be a crowd watching the basketball match of the tournament?
Finally, as I make my way to Kirykeiou just off Pandrosson, I find an outdoor cafe with a swarm of blue and white. I have arrived. There are nearly 300 people glued to a 15-foot TV screen showing the game on Greek television ET1.
But as the game closes in on the half, ET1 switches to tennis, where Greece's Eleni Daniilidou is in pain and serving for the match against No. 15 seed Magdalena Maleeva of Bulgaria. What the crowd in the Plaka won't discover until later is that Daniilidou is playing with a torn thigh muscle. She hits a crosscourt winner and the place erupts. It is now match point, and after a long rally, Daniilidou goes down, screaming in pain. She isn't getting up and ET1 switches back to the Greece-U.S. basketball game. The Greeks have cut a nine-point deficit to 37-31 as 'Melo misses to end the half.
I need to catch my breath so I walk down Mitropoleos. Big mistake. The Plaka is a ravenous hungry madhouse. Everybody is screaming an order at someone. All I want is a Diet Coke, but I have no chance.
Somehow, I get back to my spot near the television, except 200 additional people have joined us.
Second half and it's now 39-33 U.S. Then, 39-35. Finally, 39-38. The Greeks are losing it. Cheering, chanting, but ET1 flips back to the tennis match. Daniilidou is back up and hitting a forehand and rushes the net. Backhand volley winner. Game, set match, Greece. Daniilidou falls down in exhaustion. Six hundred Greeks cheer around me. I find myself caught up in the tsunami. I'm all about Greek tennis.
But ET1 switches right back to the Dreamers, who lead by three until Antonio Fotsis sticks a jumper with 5:23 left. What is the Greek word for "Olympic bust"? The U.S. defense is as solid as tzatziki. But A.I. and Timmy D soon restore order, and I'm suddenly joined by Bill Wilson, the father of U.S. gymnast, Blaine Wilson. His son, he of the thousands of injuries, finally won a medal the night before.
"My son doesn't get emotional, but he did last night," says Bill.
Bill says Blaine's post-Olympic plans include moving to California (perfect for his wife, beach volleyball player Makare Deselits) to open up a gymnastics center. Right now, the U.S. basketball team could use them both.
By the noise of the crowd -- since Bill and I can no longer clearly see the screen thanks to the swarm of Greeks who have moved in front of us -- Greece has cut the lead to 62-61 with 6:17 left. Order is soon restored with a U.S. run, but the Greeks will not die. They wait until the last minute. It is the Greek way.
Carlos Boozer misses a pair of free throws, but a Greek 3-pointer makes it, 75-71. I see the headline already: Miracle on Mitropoleos.
With 16 seconds left, Dimitris Pipanikoulaou misses a chippy. How do you say "Charles Smith" in Greek? Lamar Odom hits a pair of free throws, a steal, and it ends, 77-71. People slowly leave the cafe, in search of another party. If only Canada House were still open.