Dream on, guys

August 09, 1994|By PHIL JACKMAN

To tell you the truth, I was headed for the highest bridge for the purpose of depositing myself into the waters below, hopefully headfirst into a large rock. Which is more altitudinous in the middle, the Delaware Memorial or the Bay Bridge (tolls are no object)?

Anyway, it doesn't matter now. Not after Sunday, glorious Sunday.

Even with the national populace sweating another baseball strike, millions had to be swelling with pride at just the sight of "our kids," Dream Team II, playing run-it-up against another tall, Division II-type team in the World Championships of hoop. I was about to burst.

It didn't hurt either that the U.S. women cagers won the gold medal in the Goodwill Games, quietly and with grace, Fred Couples and Paul Azinger are back slapping the golf ball around effectively and Nancy Kerrigan will be signing autographs at the LensCrafters store in the Annapolis Mall today (4-6 p.m.)

Are we a great country of sportsmen or what, sending a bunch of loudmouths out to humiliate, chastise, mortify, embarrass and rattle teams with short, bald point guards and lummoxes from mountain villages of 13 people?

Worse, of course, is the fact most of the II's have insisted upon crowing about their exploits before, during and after the job gets done.

Imagine the main motivation of supposedly wily professional athletes being to skunk the opposition by an average margin eclipsing that of their predecessors, the Dream Team, at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. This, they somehow conclude, would mark them as superior to the absolute best team ever assembled in this country.

Best, you impostors, means surpassing all others, the most excellent ever. There is no bestest.

Regardless, let's sock it to Spain, chill the Chinese and bamboozle the Brazilians, asking no quarter and certainly giving none. And talking about performing above and beyond the call of duty, how about Shaquille O'Neal, who should be resting a sore lower back, gritting his teeth and shooting 12-for-15 (from directly above the basket) and leading the way against Brazil with 27 points?

So inspiring was this cakewalk that several of the American journalists on site in Hamilton, Ontario, wrote that this basketball victory somehow "avenged last month's World Cup soccer defeat to Brazil [1-0]" by the old Red, White and Blue.

This might be regarded as a reach or the most preposterous line of thinking imaginable.

It was either Reggie Miller or Alonzo Mourning who first hit upon the theme of II not only being equal to but probably better than the Michael Jordan-Magic Johnson-Larry Bird juggernaut of two years ago. Imagine not even mentioning the likes of Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing.

Even with a retired Bird, a Magic playing part-time and Michael shagging fly balls in Birmingham right up until game time, the original would prevail due to the fact that so many of its members are still at the top of their game in the NBA.

BAnd as for average margin of victory being some sort of criterion, please. The first time basketball appeared in the Olympics (1936), the victorious U.S. team held four opponents to an average of 17 points, Canada scoring just eight in the final.

The 1956 team led by Bill Russell and K. C. Jones won all eight games to the gold in Melbourne by at least 30 points, the average count coming out to 99-46. The 1960 Rome team of Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Terry Dischinger, Walt Bellamy, Jerry Lucas, Bob Boozer, Odie Smith, Darrall Imhoff, etc. (John Havlicek was an alternate) won by an average count of 42 points. Come to think of it, is Dream Team II in a class with the '60 bunch?

Even when coach John Thompson took our gold medal and had it bronzed in Seoul in 1988, his selection of non-shooters dominated until the likes of Arvydas Marculonis, Rimas Kurtinaitis and Sarunas Marciulionis of the Soviet Union snickered at his fullcourt press.

The point is, men, just win the title, be gentlemen and sportsmen, leave the trash talking for the NBA playoffs and let posterity argue about your place in hoops history.

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