BARCELONA, SPAIN — BADALONA, Spain -- As national insults go, the one the United States recently endured at the hands of Brazil falls short of the British burning of Washington.
On the other hand, it was the best insult the Dream Team could come up with, so it made do.
Challenged by Brazil's irrepressible Marcel Souza to quit playing golf and get serious, the U.S. players plotted the Brazilians' downfall for a month. The schedule finally delivered up their lambs last night, and the Americans barbecued them, 127-83.
Of course, Souza was only having fun and went up to Magic Johnson a few days later to explain.
How do you say "too late" in Portuguese?
"He did come up to me and say he didn't mean to insult our guys," Johnson said, smiling. "It's just -- if you're going to say something, you've got to back it up. One thing we learn in America, if you say something, back it up.
"If we said something about the other teams, they'd use it against us. We're just like other teams. We're human. We need motivation."
They got more than they needed.
Souza made his remarks at a late-night news conference during the Tournament of the Americas, this past June in Portland, Ore. By the end of the week, U.S. players were under the impression that they had been called out -- and not by Souza, 35, who was once a star but is now a second-stringer -- but by the team's headliner, Oscar Schmidt.
"I've been thinking about Oscar all week," Charles Barkley said. "In the middle of my backswing, I think, 'Oscar, Oscar.' "
Of course, Brazil wouldn't exactly have been the betting favorite under any circumstances last night.
However, there are two things the Brazilians excel at: shooting and staying loose. Late in the first half, they were within 13 points. After that, reality set in.
Reality in the form of Barkley, who converted a series of layups, offensive rebounds and even a three-point shot -- take that, Jimmy Lynam! -- en route to a 30-point, eight-rebound game.
Barkley also instructed the officials in their duties, prompting the crowd to whistle in derision once more. But after one basket, he extended his arms to the crowd, which sprang to its feet, cheering him.
The Brazilians took their licking as happily as everyone else.
"If I play them again, I won't go inside," Schmidt said. "They block five of my shots. It's easier to shoot outside. Not difficult like inside, where it hurts. I love them. They are my idols."
Spain is next.
Didn't Spain once lay claim to Florida?