National fervor building as London games approach
Dave Larsen, Sentinel Editor“USA! USA! USA!”
Thursday, July 5, 2012
I can hear the chant in my head already, though the 2012 Olympic Games in London don’t get underway for another three weeks.
Independence Day celebrations have that affect on me, just as I’m sure the Olympics does for many American sports fan.
Last week, the Sentinel published a report from Installation Management Command reporter Tim Hipps about the many Soldier-athletes who are London bound for a go at Olympic gold. But most of the green-suiters compete in events that
won’t see much screen time on network television … unless they win gold.
To be honest, I hadn’t noticed a lot of “buzz” leading up to the London Games. Sure, there was the occasional credit card commercial (“The official card of the 2012 Olympics”) and top swimmer Michael Phelps hawking “healthy” sub sandwiches. Other than that, I haven’t seen much. But then again, I haven’t been looking.
Among my favorite summer Olympic sports to follow are the sprints in track and field, swimming events, gymnastics and basketball. I use to follow baseball and women’s softball closely in Olympic years, but the Olympic Committee dropped both sports after ’08.
Four years ago, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt was the fastest man on the planet and the world-record holder in the 100- and 200-meter events. This year, he’ll be heading to London in both events, but thus far he’s not even the fastest man in Jamaica.
Bolt’s friend and training partner, Yohan Blake, beat Bolt Friday in the 100 with a time of 9.75 seconds, and then beat him again Sunday in the 200 with a run of 19.80 at the Jamaican Olympic trials in Kingston, Jamaica. Once upon a time, it was America that sent the best sprinters in the world to showcase their speed every four years.
Lately, though, Jamaica has been pacing the world’s fastest men.
No dream team
Does anyone even know who will play for Team USA’s basketball team in less than a month?
Late last week both Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh of the world champion Miami Heat took themselves out of consideration for a spot on the 12-man Olympic squad due to injury. LeBron James is still expected to compete in London.
The basketball team roster won’t be announced until Saturday, but here are the finalists as of June 28, according to the official website for USA Basketball: Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks; Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers; Tyson Chandler, Knicks; Anthony Davis, University of Kentucky; Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder; Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies; Eric Gordon, New Orleans Hornets; Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers; James Harden, Thunder; Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia 76ers; LeBron James, Heat; Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves; Lamar Odom, Dallas Mavericks (traded to Clippers on draft day); Chris Paul, Clippers; Russell Westbrook, Thunder; Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets.
If you’re counting, that’s 16 names. There are only 12 spots open. Odom tops my list as the first player cut. After that, it gets tougher. Who stays and who goes? Coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff have some tough decisions to make on perimeter players.
The international game is different than the game played in the National Basketball Association. The 3-point shot is used often by most teams, and USA Basketball doesn’t have any 3-point specialists on the roster like Boston’s Ray Allen, for instance.
Training camp opens today for USA Basketball in Las Vegas. The team plays its first exhibition game in Vegas July 12 when the Dominican Republic comes a calling. (Aren’t they known more for their baseball prowess? I thought so.)
Whatever collection of stars ends up heading to London to represent America, the expectation is that they win gold. There are no moral victories allowed when the game is opened up to all-star NBA talent.
Twenty years ago a team headed up by Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and some guy from Chicago named Michael Jordan were joined by many fellow future hall of fame names to form a team that demolished the international competition in Barcelona, Spain.
This year’s edition is no dream team. They’ll be good, at least, and probably great. They should win gold in London, but I don’t know if they will gel the way that ’84 squad did and capture the countries imagination and the world’s attention.
I do know that this team cannot settle for silver. Our national pride and expectation of every American sports fan rides on their shoulders.
One of those 16 finalists for an Olympic basketball berth was the first player selected in the 2012 NBA draft last week.
It came as no surprise that Kentucky big man Anthony Davis was taken first by the Hornets. Then UK made history when Davis’ teammate, Michael Kidd-Gilchrest, went second overall to the Charlotte Bobcats.
In all, the Wildcats of UK sent six players to the NBA – four in the first round to tie the University of North Carolina – and two more in the second round. The “one-and-done” revolving door recruiting that’s been proven so successful at Kentucky will continue across the country.
I applaud UK for their national title, and for sending so much talent to the professional ranks. Yet, I think John Calipari’s methods erode
the game at the collegiate level. But we’ll discuss that further in a later column.
Until next week: “USA! USA! USA!”