Patrick Ewing deserves better. And so does the Coach, who's been forced to watch (gasp!) the Olympics.
-- West Side Story
Did the city of Chicago spit on Dick Butkus and run him out of town? Was Ted Williams told to leave his bat on the top step and go fishing ... somewhere in British Columbia? Has Bobby Bonds been asked to join the forestry service and check tree rings in the sequoia groves? No, Butkus is a God in Chicago, even though his Bears never won as many as they lost. Williams towers above the hills of Boston, generally acknowledged as the finest hitter of all time, though no World Series banners fly above Fenway Park. Bonds, despite his best efforts to offend most of the Bay Area, is still cheered by adults, idolized by kids. These are just a few extraordinary athletes who never brought championships to their cities.
Let's play the American Express game: Who is this man? Over a 15-year career (including 110 playoff games) he averaged 22 points and 11 rebounds per game. He's an 11-time All-Star. He's the all-time leader in points, rebounds, steals, and blocked shots for the only team he ever played for. He should be a God-in-waiting ... but he's not. His name is cursed. His visage spat upon. His electronic image should be selling Happy Meals to Americans wandering through Times Square. Instead, his face is plastered on get-out-of-town posters.
So what's he done? Molested a flight attendant? No, his name never appears on police blotters. Well, is he a spoiled crybaby? Nope. He played hurt. He played tough. He always competed. He was loyal to a fault. Pretty rotten huh? But, he doesn't smile that much. And he was the head of an unpopular union, an odd offense in the most unionized city in America. But his biggest crime was this: He could never beat a guy named Michael. The fact he had teammates who shot 1-19 (John Starks) in one Game 7, and another (Charles Smith) who missed consecutive point-blank putbacks at the buzzer during another is of little note. He's the most under-appreciated athlete of his day. A great player who deserved a better fate. He is Patrick Ewing.
I've watched quite a bit of the Olympics ... though not by choice. My wife comes home early to watch the games. She tapes horses jumping in midday. In the evening the house is dominated (on two televisions) by small, sullen girls flipping, swimmers stroking, and track people crying and hugging. (All this lip kissing by male, Eastern European jocks is a lamentable byproduct of the fall of Communism. Back in the good old days, the KGB would not have smiled upon this practice.) If -- by chance -- a football game might interest her husband, he's relegated to an isolated bedroom and enjoy the game ... honey.
So I can address, with some expertise, the most common complaints about the Summer Games. The 24-hour tape delay doesn't bother me a bit. Many sports folks don't like to know in advance who won, but come on, this isn't the Super Bowl. These results are as invisible to me as yesterday's Calf Roping Championships in Missoula. I wouldn't remember the name of the gold medal winning steeplechase rider from a foggy English Moor any more than I can recall the Pythagorean Theorem. The Games could've happened last month, but they're new to me.
With little choice, I've watched. This is what I've seen. The teenage, sometimes pre-pubescent athletes are selling -- no other way to put it -- sex to the male audience. Wind drag? Please. The ... hmm, uniforms, I guess ... rising above mid-groin on the gymnastic and aquatic folk could've come from Victoria's Secret. How about an honorary gold for the Olympic bikini waxers? When I discovered Kelly watching two-girl beach volleyball, I thought she'd slipped, irretrievably, over an electronic abyss. The Olympics are one thing, but beach volleyball? I'm thinking she needs to spend more time at work. But, she haughtily informs me, this is an Olympic event. Huh? Beach volleyball? Why not dog walking -- with nubile female "handlers" in tight, wind-resistant beach attire, putting the pups through their paces.
Some sports which should be tossed from these politically correct, all-inclusive games, where every daily endeavor -- dishwashing, mowing the lawn, typing -- is a potential Olympic event: tennis, soccer (the World Cup is more than enough), baseball (162 games is too much), any game designed for the back yard prior to hot dogs and potato salad (badminton/volleyball), stuff you can do on Town Lake (canoe/ kayaking), mountain biking, field hockey, handball (which I mistakenly understood was played only by older Jewish guys in Manhattan), and table tennis (known as ping-pong in the basement of my youth). Basketball can stay, but only as long as the American pros only compete once every 20 years or so. I do believe we've proved our point. After a few decades, when the rest of the world forgets how good we are, we'll, once again, assemble a Dream Team and open up a hot can of tangy whup-ass on those silly foreigners. In the meantime, I can live without a gold (or a medal at all) from our college players who'll compete in games I'll at least watch.