Team USA takes its lumps, but ...
... blowout loss to Puerto Rico fell far short of 'embarrassment'
Updated: Tuesday August 17, 2004 12:36AM
Stick a fork in them. Or maybe a trident. Here come today's probable headlines:
The Dream Is Over!
Wake Up Call!
Everyone just calm down for a second. So Team USA lost. My main man Chris Sheridan from The Associated Press described it best when he wrote that the USA losing to Puerto Rico was "an upset as historic as it was inevitable."
Because really, did anyone not see this coming? Every columnist with a pulse has chimed in on this over the past three weeks, especially after Team USA lost an exhibition to Italy. Surely no one believed this team would win every game by 40 points. With the rest of the world improving exponentially, Team USA eventually was going to lose an Olympic basketball game.
And yet last night Stuart Scott tagged the loss a "national embarrassment." Right. We Americans aren't going to be able to show our faces overseas for months now! Thanks a lot, Team USA! Whatever shall we do?
I generally appreciate hyperbole, but it wasn't an embarrassment. An embarrassment would be Team USA losing by 20 points to a WNBA team. Calling a loss to Puerto Rico embarrassing is denigrating the Puerto Ricans, who nearly beat Team USA last summer in Madison Square Garden. (The only reason Team USA won that game was Ray Allen, who rained down 30 footers to keep the USA ahead.)
While it wasn't embarrassing, it was disappointing. Because our team, the team we wanted to win, lost. It's not the end of the world. They just lost, and it was to a very good team that was red hot, shooting 56 percent from the field and nailing 50 percent of their 3-pointers. Meanwhile, the only U.S. player to shoot above 50 percent was Lamar Odom, who fouled out after 15 minutes.
While we realize that Team USA could use an outside shooter or six, we can't blame the team's deficiencies on the guys who chose to play. They showed up, at least. Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O'Neal, Allen, Tracy McGrady ... all these guys watched the game from home yesterday on NBC.
But then there's Larry Brown. Those who follow the NBA have no doubt heard Brown constantly talk about playing basketball "the right way," which basically means he wants guys to pass the ball and then pass it some more, and then once more for good measure. During Game 3 of the NBA Finals, I was sitting close enough to hear Brown chew out Darko Milicic for taking a single shot out of the flow of the offense during the closing seconds of a blowout Pistons win.
That tact works in the NBA because when Brown yells at you late in a game in November, he'll still be around in May to keep you on the bench. With the Dream Team, it's one month and done. You can't accuse these guys of tuning Brown out because they never bothered to tune in.
This Olympic team needs a coach who can be fluid, who will stress defense almost exclusively and let the points come in transition, someone like Rick Carlisle or Jerry Sloan. If you don't produce, you don't play. Brown is obviously a great NBA and college coach, but for this team, he's a weird fit.
(This team also needs Ron Artest, who would give a hard foul and can shut down anyone from a point guard to a power forward. We need more guys who are working on country-and-western songs with people named Doris in their spare time. )
Before you dump dirt on Team USA's grave, hold the shovel. We lost. We play again Tuesday. If we lose every game in the tournament, I'll be embarrassed. But if we get it together and come back and win the gold -- and I never count out a club with Tim Duncan -- I'll be proud of this team.
But embarrassed? Nope. Well, unless that whole WNBA thing happens.
Olympic Quote Of The Week
"I'm grateful that my players were able to cut it to 40." -- Tom Maher, New Zealand women's Olympic basketball coach, after the USA women built a 55-point lead. The United States won, 99-47.
Game Of The Week
This game is actually a pretty good representation of what goes on in the SLAM office most of the time. Except when we're, you know, working and stuff.
Olympic-Themed Link Of The Week
While the world's greatest athletes compete in Athens, athletes of another ilk competed last week in Amarillo for the title of "Greatest Pizza Maker." As in life, it all came down to the bacon bits. By the way, shouldn't they all have been disqualified because they work for Pizza Hut?
Secondary Olympic-Themed Link Of The Week
I'm not even going to comment on this. Whatever you do, don't look at Pau Gasol's page.
Musical Olympic-Themed Link Of The Week
Whenever you see an American athlete take the medal stand and hear the national anthem play, just imagine if they instead played Carl Lewis performing it years ago at a Nets game. The really beautiful part is when he gets to the "red glare," then improvises an, "Uh-oh!" Is there any way I can make this my Sidekick ring tone?
Rock And Roll Is Alive! Link Of The Week
The key phrase in this story is: "The sewage splashed onto the boat and into the eyes and mouths of tourists." Though the article doesn't specify which rock band was involved, the Dave Matthews Band denies any involvement.
David Stern Must Be Proud Link Of The Week
Rapper Nelly, who is a part-owner of the NBA expansion franchise the Charlotte Bobcats, has announced the creation of a financial assistance program for college students to be called the "P.I.M.P. Scholarship Program." According to this article, "Applicants stand a better chance of winning the scholarship if they are involved in leadership roles in extracurricular activities of all genres." Including pimping, I suppose.
The Week Ahead:
OPERATION FOOTBALL FREEDOM -- That's my best guess for the name Disney will use when they produce their inevitable movie on the Iraqi soccer team. The Iraqis have improbably won their first two games, including one over powerful Portugal. Their next game is Wednesday against Morocco. It's the feel-good story of the games!
THE BIG CAT -- Nearly two weeks into his return, Andres Galarraga is batting .270 with one home run for the Salt Lake Stingers, the AAA affiliate of the California Angels. Hang in there, Big Cat.
Lang Whitaker is the online editor at SLAM magazine and writes daily at http://www.slamonline.com/index.html. He's scared to write an entire column about the Braves for fear of jinxing them.