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Gary Smith
June 15, 1992
Robbed of gold medals in Munich, the '72 U.S. Olympic basketball team will not betray its principles.
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June 15, 1992

A Few Pieces Of Silver

Robbed of gold medals in Munich, the '72 U.S. Olympic basketball team will not betray its principles.

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Age: 40
Profession: High school director of development and basketball coach
Home: Charlotte, N.C.
Married, three children

One of my sons is a wheeler-dealer. Turtles, baseball cards, pocket knives—he'll collect and barter anything. He sees that silver medal as a prize he can get. He tells me that when I die, he's going to get that medal and cash it in. I think he's joking. I tell him to hang in there and wait for the gold. Who knows? Maybe in 80 years, like with Jim Thorpe's medals, justice will be done.

I was happy to be on that plane home from Munich. My faith in man was ruined—I'd been awakened to what human beings can do. Even our own Olympic Committee was cajoling us to take that medal. But we made a decision as a team, and I plan on sticking by that. Time changes nothing. I vote no.



Age: 43
Profession: Account salesman for Converse
Home: Paint Lick, Ky.
Married, two children

Article IX
I devise and bequeath at my death that my wife Rita and children Jill and Bryan and their descendants never accept a silver medal from the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany.

Anything can happen after you die. So I figured, I'll put it where they can't get it. I'll spell it out in my will. We won the gold. The silver isn't mine. That's not sour grapes. It's the truth.

I think it bothered me more than the other guys. I was older than them. I came from a little NAIA school, Georgetown College in Kentucky, and I wasn't going on to pro ball like the others. The Olympics was the culmination of all I'd worked for. To have the gold in my hand and watch it slip away.... I went back to my room and cried alone that night.

But every time I get to feeling sorry for myself, I think of the Israeli kids who were killed at those Games. I've packed away all my basketball trophies, but I've got a TIME magazine from back then on my office bookshelf. Every once in a while I take the magazine down and open it up to the photograph of that helicopter blowing up with five athletes inside. Think of being in a helicopter with your hands tied behind your back and a hand grenade rolling toward you...and compare that to not getting a gold medal. If that final game is the worst injustice that ever happens to the guys on that team, we'll all come out of this life pretty good.

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