Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Olympic life imitates art

Hearing the Greeks stuff Helliniko Arena with good-natured excitement over their basketball players, I could not help but flash back to another great moment of Americans overcoming in the face of international hatred and danger.

Crazy arena loaded with foreigners rooting against America; Americans facing extreme adversity internally as well as externally; One flawed character rising above his own shortcomings and obvious physical inferiority to the protagonist. Hmmm, where have I seen this before?

Ah, yes, that's it: Rocky IV.

Allen Iverson played the role of Rocky Balboa to Oscar (no, not the Stallone movie) Award perfection. A character flawed in just about every societal way -- the abundance of tattoos, his care-free attitude, criminal record -- Iverson overcame a broken thumb on his shooting hand -- HIS SHOOTING HAND -- to lead the team in scoring with 17 points. I turned the sound way up on my television and heard a Greek player tell his coach, "He's not a man, he's a piece of steel!"

Larry Brown does a stirring rendition of Duke, Apollo Creed's trainer turned Rocky's guiding light in the absence of Mickey and Creed. Duke tried to train Rocky, but Rocky basically did whatever he wanted to do. Larry Brown can relate it. In this game, he was more Duke than Carlos Boozer, who oddly enough, attended Duke University. Perhaps Brown should put the entire team in a wooden wagon and then make Emeka Okafor lift it into the air a few times. Then, he can pass out pictures of his players' defensive assignments and make his players tape them to the mirror in their rooms.

Roy Williams, the UNC head coach masquerading as an Olympic assistant, clearly makes him Paulie. Especially with those tinted sunglasses indoors. He made the coaching roster because the head coach went to the same college as him. Quick refresher: Paulie was Rocky's cornerman because Rocky was dating, then married Paulie's sister Adrian. Williams told his guards to "hit the one in the middle." I can only assume he meant Tim Duncan.

But when Duncan fouled out, I saw him standing alone in a ring slowly falling to the canvas face first. He also happened to let go of a bloody towel that hit the floor in Helliniko Arena the same time the referee blew the whistle on his fifth foul. I was suprised of the impressive timing in this scene's first and only take.

But before the ref made his 10-count, Duncan sprang to his feet in the form of Lamar Odom.

Odom, who by the way showed his left-handed Kevin Garnett flashes (see: 4 reasons for a 4th gold), went to work and Barry Tompkins signed on with NBC Sports for the third quarter to yell "The Russian is cut."

The Americans learned an important lesson about basketball outside of the states. It's a team game in the Olympics, and if these ballers can change, then everybody can change.

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