I had a choice: see the women's hoop team play or see
the men play.
Oddly, and completely out of character, I chose the men.
Without question, American women have garnered a lot of respect
on international playing fields in the last decade or so. Softball.
Soccer. Basketball. At my first Olympics, Atlanta, 3,700 women participated.
For the Americans, Atlanta marked the ultimate collective effort, as they
brought home team gold in basketball, softball, soccer, and gymnastics, not
to mention their success on the track and in the pool. Much was made
about this coming-of-age moment for those who grew up under Title IX.
Much was made about how the United States was the place to be for girls who
liked to sweat.
In Athens, of the 10,864 athletes, 4,412 are women - just
over forty percent. For the Americans, 258 of the 536 athletes are
women, almost fifty percent. And their global dominance continues.
Softball gold is already secured. Gymnastics team silver and all-around
gold are in hand. Water polo bronze - done. And just minutes
before I began to write this, the U.S. women charged across the soccer pitch
to take gold over the Brazilians, 2-1 in extra time. (And on behalf of a
lot of folks, thank you, Mia Hamm, for
leading the greatest team the United States has ever produced. Thank
you for every single one of your 154 goals in 267 international games.
Thank you Julie Foudy. Thank you
Kristine Lilly. Thank
you Brandi Chastain. Thank you
Joy Fawcett. And thank
you Briana Scurry. You will be
missed. But Abby Wambach and Lindsay Tarpley - and others -- will continue
what you helped start.)
But still, when faced with the opportunity to see the American
women face Greece on Wednesday or see the American men face undefeated Spain
on the basketball court today, I chose the men. I have seen the U.S.
women play in the Olympics: I have seen them win gold, I have been
one among thousands cheering them on. But this time, I wanted to be
an American (at a game dominated since its beginning by Americans) and hear
the booing, the hissing, the whistling
It came. But rather undeservedly. For all the flack these guys
have gotten, these post-Dream Teamers, they were good. The U.S. knocked
in 12 three-point shots, broke 100 points for the first time in this tournament,
showed a lot of heart and a lot of passion, and they won. Stephon Marbury came alive, setting a U.S.
Olympic men's record with 31 points. Allen
Iverson, as cool on the court as I have ever seen him, added 16
points, and despite stunning play by NBA Memphis Grizzlies standout Pau
Gasol, the dominant Spanish team fell.
And for about an hour, I became an ugly American, cheering
amidst a sea of Spanish red and gold, cheering as boos filled the arena every
time the U.S. scored. I have hopes for this team.
I have hopes that they will represent the United States as
well as the women do.