Everybody was shocked and outraged and confused and a little scared. Could this happen again? If we put out our B or C teams (teams that should win no matter how talented the opponent is) is there a chance they might lose again? Immediately, the pressure was put on and Kobe Bryant, Lebron James and D Wade were called up, basically being told: don’t make plans, you’re on the team. Calls were likely made to Shaquille O’neal: “Shaq, how’s that toe of yours? You good? Your bunyan okay? Think you could pull it together?” Word got around that Kevin McHale had a gym membership, as he was approached, “How are those old injuries Kev? You feelin’ good? Maybe you’ve gotta a tournament in ya? You been talkin’ to Larry, by chance? How’s his back?” “Where’s Michael? Didn’t he just play on the Wizards a couple months ago? Let’s get him.” It was all out frantic behavior aiming for one goal: put together a sure thing team that would not only win the next Olympics, making up for our embarrassing display against Puerto Rico, but win by large margins, re-establishing the dominance of U.S. basketball in the eyes of the world. And that happened as our big name stars took the reigns of the team, blowing by the competition and winning the title over a very competitive Spanish team. The past fifteen or so years have been a wake up call to the American basketball system and the Brazilian soccer federation. The competition from international opposition has risen significantly. In the distant past, before color TV, when world leaders had names like Eisenhower, Mao and Stalin, both the American basketball teams and Brazilian soccer teams had limited competition – in the case of soccer it was more widespread with traditional power houses Germany, Italy, Holland, Argentina, Uruguay, England, Russia (USSR), Spain, Sweden, Hungary and some others that have oscillated in strength over the past fifty years or so. Soccer had a wider field of competition and slowly entering our common era – where many athletes play and train within the same club systems – the weaker teams have caught up, presenting a true challenge to the traditional top dogs. Brazil has to deal with better teams from Cameroon, United States, Japan, Greece, Chile and Algeria, to name a few. The American basketball team used to be weary of basically just the USSR but Ronald Reagan, Reaganomics, astrology and a stringent lineage of B-rated movie experience to reflect on broke up that heirloom, and, the growth in basketball’s popularity around the world – which has boomed since the 80s and 90s – has created strong teams in Argentina, Brazil, Italy, France and Spain, all of which are much better today than twenty years ago.
With this said, Brazil is still a leader of world soccer, an innovator of creative talent, a team that should be admired for ingenuity. They’re just taking a little break.