I joyfully (and perhaps intoxicatedly) stayed up until 3:30 last night to watch the conclusion of Olympic basketball and a pretty good game against a Spanish team that I knew would be tougher this time around. I can’t help but enjoy and identify with this Team USA, even though they feature several players I dislike (mostly Kobe, but in lesser parts Carmelo and J-Kidd.) I’ll admit that its partly a naive identifying of all USA teams with the original Dream Team, but I counter that with the fact that I always root for the men’s basketball team, even when it featured AI and Starbury. I just love basketball and I also love the USA.
Why do I make such hay explaining myself? Mostly because of this Slate article, explaining how The Redeem Team is being trademarked and we’re all dupes of NBA marketing. Even though I can agree with many of the points made, I reject the cynicism that would throw out what they accomplished with the bathwater. Yes, of course, the team’s image is micromanaged to ridiculous lengths. I will never believe Kobe to be a good guy, no matter how hard he tries. J-Kidd is no legendary team player, despite the great passes. And Lebron (glorious as it is to watch him play), only allows tiny parts of his supposedly great personality to eke out, as mandated by his handlers.
But if you just watched the games you would know that this team played its ass off and played as intelligently and as unselfishly as any Olympic team has. You can’t fault them for that, and I for one found myself impressed with their discipline and team play (especially Kobe, who pretty much saved the last night’s game). This post on TrueHoop (about the players support of Darfur-related causes and Jerry Colangelo asking them to put aside non-basketball concerns) probably does the best job explaining the fine line these guys walked, and while it sucks to see that they were eventually dissuaded from being more vocal, I’m happy to see that they actually cared in the first place. This reverses my cynical feelings about Lebron that I harbored after hearing he wouldn’t sign Ira Newble’s petition to the Chinese government.
So mark me down as a believer in the “redeem team.” Just not a dupe of The Redeem Team (Patent Pending).