Olympic Gold Means Everything
Every four years we get the world's greatest athletes in one place to compete for dominance of their respective sport. Many try, many fail, and there is only one person or persons that sit atop of the podium in ultimate victory. One sport that has been particularly dominated by Team USA, is basketball. If you are a sports fan and specifically a basketball fan, you have to be excited about USA Basketball. If you are not excited, I understand why. You are one of the many who are complacent. You are used to winning. You are used to gold medals. You are in a comfort zone, where you expect nothing less than victory and expect the American national anthem to be played. But, let me take you back to a time where you were not comfortable, where the USA national anthem was not played, where gold medals were not given out to our team, where we all collectively hit the panic button, 2004. Many things happened in 2004, Facebook launched, Barry Bonds hit his 700th home run, the Boston Red Sox came back from being down 3-0 to beat the New York Yankees and go on to win the World Series, however, the most significant thing to happen in sports that year, was Team USA bringing home the Bronze. It's the skeleton in USA Basketball’s closet. It is the monster underneath our bed that makes us sleep with a nightlight every four years since. If you were to google “2004” the second autofill option is “2004 Olympic Basketball Team”. It's scary and never going away. It is regarded so bad of a feat, that we disregard it as much as possible.
But why? A bronze medal is respectable. In any other sport and any other country, getting a bronze medal is cheered and respected, but here in America and around the globe, the U.S. Basketball team achieving anything less than gold is a major disappointment. Since we adopted the ‘Dream Team’ we set out to destroy competition with never before seen swagger, attitude and point spreads. It was imperative to not only bring home the gold, but to do it in such fashion that a second place team never had a shot. That mystique and dominance is a part of why I feel a gold medal is much more important than an NBA Championship. Yes, an NBA Championship delivers value and victory over the best competition in the world. But when it comes to global victory and setting a world standard, it's not in the same league. Men train their entire lives to be in a position to play against Team USA, fighting through injury, fatigue and schedule. It may not feel this way in our country, but obtaining a gold medal is THE most important thing you can do to represent your country.
For an NBA Championship, you represent your city, your team. For an Olympic Gold, you represent your country. You can cheapen your way to an NBA Championship, make a super team, a superstar can get injured or have to overcome silly suspensions. For a gold medal, there is no way to do that, either you win or lose and that's all that matters. There is no money to play for in the Olympics, and sometimes money is a great cushion to fall back on if you don't win an NBA Championship. But some things are worth more than money, pride. The American pride will not allow us to lose. Anything less than gold is considered a loss when it comes to USA Basketball. After recent close victories, I can almost guarantee that Jerry Colangelo has his finger hovering over the panic button and is willing to “Break Glass If Necessary, Alarm Will Sound” on Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and Kawhi Leonard. We can't afford the embarrassment of a loss. A necessary star power is needed to almost guarantee gold, and whether not we win gold, I believe we will see some revamping in the next Summer Olympics. Our pride will not let that happen. You can say all you want about it “not meaning anything” but those same people will be the first to shout disappointment if it's not gold that is brought home.
In the NBA, there is always next year. You can try again in a few months, it will be okay. We get over the loss. With the Summer Olympics, the loss stings for a whole four years. Do we really want to go through another Redeem Team process? I don't think so. Our pride won't let us.