By Craig Kwasniewski
I gotta admit, I love me some USA Basketball. Sure a lot of it is because I love bonus content to my normal NBA schedule (and who doesn't like a little extra deleted scenes), but also it's basically our World Cup. Allow me to explain...
I went to the 2006 World Cup in Germany. It was an unreal experience. I'm guessing the Olympics are basically the same thing, with people from all corners of the world coming together to watch games, drink A LOT, eat, dance and chill all for the same cause. If your not watching the games in person you're at a bar or cafe watching with a ton of people, talking up the game or just hanging out (beer in hand, of course). I was there for almost a week and will never forget it.
I also got to root on the US Soccer team as they played the Czech Republic in Gelsenkirchen. The tickets weren't easy to come by. You had to apply through the ussoccer.com website months in advance and hope against all hope you won the lottery to sit with a few thousand USA fans in the corner of the stadium. We geared up in USA digs and belted out the national anthem louder than I ever had in my life on this little expat island in the middle of Germany. We had Landan Donovan and a team 4 years removed from a respectable Quarterfinals elimination to Germany in 2002. We were well on our way...
Until the game started.
GOAL! Czech Republic up 1-0 at the 5 minute mark.
GOAL! Czech Republic up 2-0 at the 36 minute mark.
It's not even halftime and the game is over. The Czechs were clearly better then our boys. And everyone in the stadium let us know about it. From then until the whistle came the taunting and front running that follows much of European futbol. To make matter worse, the ugliness didn't end...
GOAL! Czech Republic up 3-0 at the 76 minute mark.
Ballgame! And now comes the slow long walk back to the train station. Past the bars with Czech and German fans laughing, chanting and dancing. In the sweltering German summer heat that was easily the longest mile walk ever.
I still rememeber that hot miserable day every time I watch the USA Basketball squad roll on through to the Gold Medal. This is what it looks like when the US fields a team of our biggest, brightest, fastest and bestest athletes against the world. Basketball might not have the same worldly pull like futbol but it's slowly moving up the ladder. And as long as our first, second and even third best athletes are playing other sports, we'll never compete with the footy elites and near-elites. But we sure as hell can kick ass in basletball!
And with every Team USA Gold Medal victory I get flush in patriotism and things turn a little... (cough, cough)... dusty.