The Thrill Is Gone
There was an irresistible first-time-around-the-block quality to the 1992 Dream Team, but the two subsequent editions, including the one blowtorching the competition in Atlanta, have been tired imitations. And after Dream Team III wins the gold medal on Aug. 3, the organizations in charge of U.S. Olympic basketball fortunes (the NBA, USA Basketball and the U.S. Olympic Committee) should seriously reconsider the Dream Team concept. Here's why:
•The Olympics should be about competition, and Dream Team games are not. We keep hearing that "sooner or later" a Dream Team is going to get beat, but as long as the U.S. sends an all-star lineup of pros, it will be later—much later. There is no suspense in Dream Team games, and that makes them inherently un-Olympian.
•Expectations for the Dream Team are so absurdly high that it is doomed to a kind of failure even as it succeeds. After a 96-68 victory over Argentina in the opener last Saturday night, most of the news reports centered on the fact that, unlike Dream Team I, Dream Team III had actually scored fewer than 100 points in a game, a minicondemnation in a 28-point victory. That sort of microscopic examination is ridiculous, yet it's pretty much all that journalists have to write about.
•With little or no challenge on the court, it's impossible for the Dream Teamers to perform consistently or even figure out exactly how to perform. Either they're sleepwalking, as they were in the first half of the game against Argentina, or they're padding their already huge leads by slamming down ungracious-looking power dunks, such as the rim-rattler by Shaquille O'Neal right before the final buzzer on Saturday night.
•Though it is less obvious than it was in Barcelona, the presence of the Dream Team still takes the spotlight away from other Olympians. O'Neal, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, et al., practically live on NBC in the winter months, so, naturally, they were the athletes whom the network concentrated on during last Friday's opening ceremonies. With hundreds of otherwise obscure Olympians longing for a moment in the sun, did we really need to see O'Neal flashing yet another No. 1 sign? Or a live interview with former Dream Teamer Magic Johnson about his prospects for returning to the NBA? The answer is no—and we don't need to see any more Dream Teams in the Olympics, either.
The Game Went On...and On
For those who found the two-hour Parade of Nations a tad tedious or for whom a mere eight hours of daily Olympic TV coverage seems to drag on, be thankful you weren't in Old Trafford, England, last Thursday and Friday watching cricketer Jason Gallian at the bat. In a match between his Lancashire team and Derbyshire, he stood before his wicket for 11 hours and 10 minutes (not counting his overnight rest), 32 minutes longer than the previous British record. And Gallian is known for a decidedly unspectacular style. "There are," London's Independent reported, "few around better at grinding the opposition into submission."
Not to mention the spectators.
A Great Mess in New York