Barcelona detractors made up minds before they got there

Phil Jackman

August 11, 1992|By Phil Jackman

Cleaning Up After The Party:

It must have been a great Olympics. Half the American contingent came home happy for the Barcelona Experience. The other half? They were complaining even before they left these shores.

* Now that Charles Barkley has said he won't be around to (dis)grace the '96 Dream Team with his own special brand of charm, how about we send Ice-T in his place? A favored line from the ever public relations-conscious Sir Charles was his saying, "How did I know he didn't have a spear?" after firing an elbow into the chest of a reed-thin Angolan.

* Naturally, Barcelona claimed this to be the greatest Olympics ever, same as predecessors Seoul and Los Angeles did, and Atlanta has already. Billy Payne, head of the Georgia gang planning the 1996 Games, is said to have attended 73 parties during the Games and he made the prediction at every one of them.

* Now that we've had a day or two of super-glowing assessment with the promise of peace on earth, goodwill toward men, this reminder about the XXVth Olympiad: The whole thing was about as meaningful in the grand scheme of things as the fireworks display that ended it. It was an athletic competition; no more, no less.

Or was it?

To the International Olympic Committee, it was another huge payday and a going-away payoff for its president Juan Antonio Samaranch, who hails from Barcelona.

To television, it was a marketing bonanza, an avalanche of commercials and a vehicle to get its upcoming prime time shows before the public.

To Bela Karolyi, it was his swan song (we can only hope) as the force of women's gymnastics. Thankfully, Bela didn't kill anyone, although he tried.

To Larry Bird, it was the conclusion of an interesting but hardly overwhelming experience. "Thing is, when you're up by 50 [points] every night, it sort of takes something away [emotionally]," said the pragmatic legend.

* For the record, the United States finished with 37 gold medals, 34 silver and 37 bronze for a total of 108, four behind the Unified Team's (45-38-29-- 112), although we're certainly not counting (especially since we finished second).

* Only a cad would remind coaches and officials of the U.S. boxing team that our lads didn't quite live up to their claims of being the equal of the legendary '76 squad featuring Sugar Ray Leonard, the Spinks brothers, Howard Davis and Leo Randolph.

The thing is, they probably couldn't hold a protective cup to the '84 cast (Biggs, Tillman, Holyfield, Tate, Breland, Whitaker, Taylor, McCrory, Gonzalez) or the '88ers (Mercer, Maynard, Page, McKinney, Bowe, Carbajal, Hill, Jones). Oh, well.

* Say what you want about the "Dan and Dave" advertising campaign cooked up by a shoe company, chances are we'll remember the failure of O'Brien and Johnson much longer than we would have had they won.

* Way back at the beginning of the Games, NBC anchor Bob Costas, noting that Dream Team coach Chuck Daly had studied a videotape of DT's opening opponent, Angola, advised, "Lighten up, Chuck." Obviously, Chuck did; he didn't even call a timeout during the whole tournament.

* Between now and the next Summer Olympics, it wouldn't be a bad idea for those geniuses at The Athletics Congress to come up with a firm policy regarding the selection of relay teams. For too long, relay team members have been squawking and politics have played the major role before some poor coach was pressed into making a subjective decision.

* Get those sandbags ready, gang, here comes the deluge. With big time basketball and tennis players now in the Olympic fold, pro golfers are saying they would like to be next . . . and down the road, literally, how about the Richard Pettys, the Rick Mears and the Alain Prosts of the world?

* While U.S. women were winning both the singles and doubles in tennis, their male counterparts didn't get a sniff of the medal round in either. The guys came up with a rather neat suggestion, though. Why not play the tournament sometime after the U.S. Open, thus transforming the 96-year-old Summer Olympics to the Fall Olympics. From great minds . . .

* Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you, print and broadcast media for not inundating us with endless features about Olympic pin collecting and trading.

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