Posted on: August 24, 2008 4:22 am
The basketball gold medal game was stunning, the officials absolutely awful but in the end the Redeem Team lived up to its name.
It wasn't their best night. The Americans at times played defense with the intensity of a Sunday afternoon jogger.
This game will go down as one of the top five in Olympic basketball history and Spain deserves a great deal of credit for taking the Americans to the limit.
Still, overall in these Olympics the Americans were spectacular, particularly Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. They enabled you to root for USA basketball again, they rebuilt our image, and they mostly handled themselves with class and dignity. If you can't be proud of what they did -- and the women as well -- then you're more cynical than I am. Which is impossible.
While these Olympics will be remembered for Michael Phelps what the basketball team did was far more impressive. Yes. Far more.
The reason why is pressure. If Phelps had earned five gold medals instead of eight he wouldn't have been called a failure.
If the United States won a silver or bronze the players would've been treated like total losers. They'd be called embarrassing. Media and fans would be screaming for massive changes.
The world and many people in this country waited for the Redeemers to fail so everyone could wag their fingers and portray the Americans as street ballers incapable of playing the precision International game.
You don't think the Americans knew this? You don't think they felt this pressure and it didn't weight on their chests like Shaquille O'Neal's backside?
Phelps had only Mark Spitz to worry about. The basketball team was fighting the failures of the recent past as well as our cynicism.
It's late on the East Coast and the game just ended. My eyes are barely open but I'm nevertheless giddy. Actually, I'll say it, as corny as it sounds, I'm proud as hell.