Sports are supposed to be games that entertain us, and, they do just that.
However, sports have always encroached on politics and everyday life. The connection between sports and politics has merged even more because of technology. Cable, satellite, the World Wide Web and television has allowed information to travel the world over in a matter of seconds.
Individuals and terrorist groups have discovered that they can get their message across by reigning terror on the innocent, especially since the events in Iraq have inflamed perceived differences.
Sports are an opportunity for suicide bombers and other terrorist factions to gain a national audience for their cause.
What better venue to make a statement than the Olympic Games? After all, it is the biggest event in the world.
I covered the Sydney and Atlanta Games where over 190 countries, close to 10,000 athletes and millions from around the world came together in celebration of sports. The Games galvanize countries and people like nothing else on this planet.
Experiencing the Games leaves one with hope that diversity will be more that just a noun.
However, the predators among us will and have used the worlds largest collective gathering of humanity to do evil and harm to innocent people.
I asked Pistons coach Larry Brown, who is head coach of the USA Mens Olympic team about the Olympics and his concerns or non-concerns for the potential for terrorist to invade the Games.
I dont think in my wildest dreams the USA Basketball or the USOC (United States Olympic Committee) would have sent us here if they truly felt unsafe, said Brown, standing firm and strong behind the 2004 Games.
Brown continued: Ive been involved for a long time. I played in 64 (he won a gold medal), I was with the 80 team that didnt go to the Olympics and I was an assistant in 2000. USA Basketball has always been a big part of my life and being an Olympian is the greatest thrill Ive ever had. I dont think anything has ever come close.
Browns original Dream Team 2004 had as a core group Ray Allen, Mike Bibby, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, Jason Kidd, Karl Malone, Tracy McGrady and Jermaine ONeal. With injuries from the long NBA season, personal problems and concerns over the terrorist, all have opted out, but Duncan and Iverson.
With two losses in pool play of the Athens Games, many are calling for Dream Team IV's collective heads. Sure the team has short-comings, but these young men do care and will rise to the occasion
Originally there were five players selected to join Duncan and Iverson: LeBron James, Richard Jefferson, Stephon Marbury, Shawn Marion, and Amaré Stoudemire.
Then five of the top young talents in NBA were added to bring the team to 12. Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozer, Lamar Odom, Emeka Okafor, and Dwayne Wade.
We are young, said Brown, but these young guys can all play multiple positions, and each one plays the game very unselfishly.
Said Stu Jackson, Chair of the Mens USA Basketball Committee: "This team has the potential to be one of the most exciting and versatile teams that USA Basketball has ever assembled for the Olympics. Our team's youth, athleticism and skill level will give us an opportunity to return home with the gold medal."
The new crew seems to share in Brown and Jacksons enthusiasm and is elated to represent their country.
Its a blessing, Jefferson told me. I'm not worried at all, not at all . . . not at all. I'm only worried about beating these excellent teams.
So far the United States is struggling going after its fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal at the Athens Games.
Before the Games, the youthful Anthony made a guarantee that they will win the gold, the coaching staff cringed.
We have talked about respecting who we play against, said Brown. We wanted everybody to be aware that the other people we are playing are really good and getting better. We talked about the fact that their whole goal is to win an Olympic gold medal or a World Championship, while ours is to win an NBA championship. We've got to keep that in perspective.
It took an embarrasing loss to Puerto Rico to get the players to respect the talent that is outside the U.S.
Brown said the world has gotten better at the American game. "Just look at the NBA," he said. "There are players from all over the world. We have a big challenge in front of us. People want us to walk over these teams, but that's unrealistic. We have to play our best game just to have a chance at victory."
I still hope that the young guys will rise and throw egg in the faces of all those that are so happy that the team is struggling. It confuses me why so many are against the U.S. Men's Basketball team.
Leland Stein is a veteran journalist/columnist; he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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