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Friday, 29 August 2008

Does winning make Team USA any less arrogant?

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I was interested to read this entry on You Been Blinded, which quotes Glen Saville, Australian Boomer, as saying that all of Team USA, except for Kobe Bryant, "carried on like pork chops."

To translate that from the Aussie vernacular, what 'Sav' is trying to say is, that Kobe was the only player on Team USA not to make a tool of himself in terms of his attitude towards his opponents.

The easy approach to take in this instance, by American supporters, is to say something along the lines of, "you lost, you're just bitter! USA! USA! USA!" All you need to do is check the comments section in almost any Olympics-related article to find these sorts of attitudes springing forth.

It's sometimes hard to look from the outside looking in and realise how people look from the perspective of others, but perhaps the perceived aura of arrogance that surrounds USA squads is not totally unfounded.

Now of course the media has driven us to death with the moniker "Redeem Team." This name had a two-fold meaning. The first part was obviously for USA to reclaim their place as the top basketball nation in the world. The second, less emphasised part, was to regain dignity after gaining some poor press based on their apparent arrogance and disrespect for both their nation and their opponents.

Kobe, LeBron and Co certainly fulfilled the first part of the redemption, but did they achieve the second part? That is the question we pose here today.

Now, back to Saville's claim that the USA (less Bryant) acted like pork chops in their match up. Australians are known as some of the best competitors sports-wise in the world; a country of only 20 million people that competes like one 10 times that size. Australians are used to a fairly large level of success and do not need to bring whining or complaining into it in order to please their nation with their performance. This is why it seems unlikely that Saville (along with some of his teammates) was complaining unnecessarily that USA were not being totally sporting about the affair.

The debate on this topic is pretty pointless amongst sports fans, as none of us were on the court to witness the reality of it all, however I will point you to look at the final handshakes after USA had disposed of Australia quite cleanly. From my viewing of that sequence, Bryant was indeed the only player to make an effort to talk to each player he shook hands with and in particular LeBron James did not appear to even look the players in the eye as he shook hands with them all.

You may say, "big deal." However it must be remembered that many of these players are to an extent role models of their opponents and are looked up to. James is one of the most marketed sports personalities on the planet. The least he could do after knocking over an opponent is to shake hands, look them in the eye and commend them on their performance, just the same as any good sportsman does even in their local rec league.

The 2008 Olympics are history now. The Americans won the Gold. Did they redeem themselves?

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Randy said...

Fair points too. I'm often embarassed by the way our country conducts themselves at international sporting events.

Anonymous said...

i'm sorry. i just don't understand publicly complaining about how the US player conduct their trash talking. do europeans not talk trash when they play football (soccer)? do australians not talk trash to each other when they play rugby? have you every seen lleyton hewitt play tennis, or rather heard him?

this is all just a bunch of whining.

connor said...

I love the way our country is so dominant on the field/track/court... i just wish they would keep it at that and conduct themselves well. it's fine if they want to trash talk on the court, but when they walk off, they should give props to the other team. that's the type of winner that USA wants to be proud of! Guys like Magic and MJ, we never heard complaints about them.

Jimmy said...

It's called intimation, it throws opponents offguard, you may think Kobe is being polite but he's also playing headgames, you aren't hearing what he's saying. It's a part of the game, if you don't have nerves, don't play.

Steve said...

I agree with jimmy... We don't know what was said on the court... at all... we don't even know what Kobe was saying. These guys are performance artists; they fake bumps, shoves, phantom swings, etc... to get calls from refs. They talk to eachother at the free throw line, and only a few people know what they're really saying. The point is, team USA didn't start any fights, in fact, there were team members on almost every national team whose sole job was to agitate and instigate our players into an altercation of sorts. I don't respect that type of play, as a basketball player. Beat me by being a better player; don't beat me by whining to the refs, or faking fouls, or trying to get us both thrown off the court so we can fist fight. That's not basketball.

If I don't respect a player as a person, i.e. someone taking cheap shots at me while playing in game, and making no attempt to show remorse, then yeah, I woulnd't look them in the eye either. They're not sportsman, so why should you treat them that way? You just ignore it...You don't shake its hand and tell it to keep its chin up.

Sean said...

More likely, I imagine the US players were reacting to perceived disrespect from the Aussies in the teams' exhibition game. Reports after that game said that the Australian players went out of their way to demonstrate that they felt the US team was nothing special, even resorting to calling players out by numbers rather than names. I imagine that most of Team USA (rightly or wrongly) took this treatment, as well as Australia's pre-medal round statements as disrespectful. I'm generally less inclined to show respect to someone I feel shows me none. I haven't heard reports like this from any other team apart from the Aussies, so I think you'd be mistaken in assuming this behaviour was necessarily the rule rather than an exception.

JD said...

Yes, in international competitions our national teams should conduct themselves with a level of dignity that speaks well of our athlete's "ambassadorial" role.

That being said, I have heard (and seen) that many of the Olympic team's game plans against the US included real rough play in an attempt to get into their heads. It is my uinderstanding that the Aussies were gleefully subscribed to this tactic.

It is notoriously difficult to be pleasant when people pouind on you.

Marty said...

I'm from Australia, and the thing that stuck with me is the way Lebron in particular shook hands. Sure, trash talking is part of the game, do it on the court, that's all fine and good. As Spencer said, Australian's trash talk too, but even in our rugby games and everything if we get into fist fights, as soon as that final whistle blows we are all mates again and we have a few beers and all shake hands appropriately. The least they could do was give the players a bit of encouragement; "Nice game Millsy, I'll see you in the NBA." for example. Patrick Mills lacks size but anyone who can do what he did to the US team belongs in their league and definately deserves a proper handshake from the guy who is vying the be better than Kobe. All I have to say is that in more ways than one, he has a long way to go to be that good.

Anonymous said...

In regards to a previous comment about Lleyton Hewitt behaviour in tennis matches: I'm Australian and i'd just like to say i totally agree he in know whay represents the general attitudes of Asutralian sporting teams and presonalities. He is in short a complete twat, and is generally reagarded as such by the majority of Australians, unfortuantely like most people we are also susceptible to bandwagonitis when he's winning. Briefly on Team USA, i absolutely love the skill and athleticism they bring to the game but their attitude does appear to be a microcosm of USA's attitude to the rest of the world in general. WHich stems from a combination fo ignorance on the rest of the world's attitudes towards them and just being plain indignant. It would be great to see USA consider it self part of the world not USA vs World.

Anonymous said...

Once the game is over it's time to act with class. The "Redeem team" failed at this with the way they disrespected nearly every team they played.

Anonymous said...

man this saville guy got some serious sourgraping. trashtalking is part of every sport. i dont know what he's yapping about. if yall watch the game over n over, you'll see THEY were the ones initiating the smack talk. carmelo said on an interview, these so called boomers were all up on their ears saying "we gonna beat u, you're nothing".. so what is there for the usa team to do?? dwade is a class act for not talking back to this saville guy when he was all up on dwade talking bull after dwade fouled him.

get over it saville. sourgraping it wont do you any good. sic

Anonymous said...

When the Aussies can straight annihilate opponents by 30-40 points on any given night through selfless team-style basketball and obvious physical supremacy, then they can tell us to keep our mouths shut. Until said time, enjoy watching (and hearing) LeBron and Wade outright beat ya. For a country that seems full of really tough people, this article certainly negates that impression.

sakis said...

I believe that you can really judge a person's class and sportsmanship most by his actions when he is on the losing side.
In 2006, after the Greece - USA World Championship semifinal in Saitama (101-95) only coach K, James and Anthony congratulated the winners.
I don't think it matters, though. Other teams are worse (e.g. Spain) and countries are not being judged by the character of their athletes.
Plus, anyone who has met a number of US citizens is not waiting for a basketball game to judge them collectively.

tom said...

funny how most people seemed to miss the point of the article, the responses have largely been exactly those denounced by the author - that is, everyone that is disappointed in the behaviour of the US team are sore losers and because others apparently acted poorly that gives the US an excuse to act just as poorly. Unlike other nations the US is regarded as the best team in the world, it is the role model that all other teams aspire to be. Therefore, rightly or wrongly it should set a good example. Trash talking is fine, especially if it is in good spirit but that ends the minute the game ends.
I am also Australian not that that is particularly relevant and from watching most of the warmup and Olympic games I actually thought that the US team was generally well behaved and humble, particularly after the game was over. The only exception was Boozer, who perhaps because he got little game time seemed arrogant and aloof when he got on the court. Knocking over Nielsen when the US were up by 40 with an unnecessarily hard foul and then not offering him a hand was poor sportsmanship. Other than that I was very impressed

Vincent said...

If you remember Australia was the team that gave out a lot of hard and often times cheap fouls against us both times we played them. Lebron even got into it with some of them after both Carmelo & Chris Paul (both very close friends of his) very fouled unnecessarily hard and so there was some animosity there between the two teams. Could Lebron have sucked it up and shook some hands and said some kind words after the game? Yes. Was it arrogant that he chose not to? No. These were two teams that do not like each other and it showed when they played.

Frank said...

"hard and cheap fouls"? You can lose the cheap part... I watched both games (as with all of the Olympic tournament) and saw no such cheap fouls. If the Americans can not handle strong hard fouls from bigger players, then they need to send a team that can. That is part of international basketball. I am from neither Australia nor USA, and I think I'm one of many that think that USA need to cut the attitude and try to be "sports people" rather than just "players"...

SnappyTom said...

You guys need to read this article thoroughly. Its not about trash talking. Its about attitude. When you are that much better collectively than the REST of the competition i believe there is even more need to be gracious outside of the playing court.
The truth is the U.S. is still paranoid about being outclassed in anything they traditional dominate. In the Olympics, the US media tallied medals by total numbers instead of gold won mainly i think because looking at it any other way would relegate the US to anthing but number one.
They brought in that Canadian coach to give honest feedback about the perception the public has about team USA and from all reports, it was brutally honest and possibly not what these ESPN coddled players are use to hearing about themselves.
This is a perception about the men's (and to a lesser degree, the women's) basketball team not apparent with any other American athletes in the last few Olympics and perhaps goes back to the belief that Americans, as a nation, panicked when your Collegiate teams began to fail in the Games in what you always took for granted as yours and started sending professionals to, as Chris Sheridan points out in his ESPN column recently, redressed the balance atop the basketball world. This intiative quickly lost its appeal and wow value after the Original Dream Team of 1992. Charles Barkley bullying an Angolan player was quese-inducing at best.
As pesonalities in the sporting pool of talent that is the Olypic Games, Le Bron and co are outcasts- priveledged, storied and talented, but standing just outside and apart the spirit of the Games.
If the best should represent us in every sporting endevour and the ideals of ameteurs competing in the Games is truly dead, then why not have professional boxers with title belts compete as well, or professional wrestlers, or grand masters in Taekwando? What folly would it be to see Dela Hoya fighting for Mexico in the Olypics against Kelly Pavlik or Paul WIlliams? Where are the opportunities for the unknowns striving for the same excellence, recognition and glory that these professionals already have in spades. It is borderline travesty of the professional order and our response as a global viewing public is to simplify it back to personalities and hype.

shane said...

As you've pointed out SnappyTom, many people have missed the point of the article and have displayed the same type of attitude which is parodied in the article... funny that.

Proving stereotypes.

Xia Yu said...

i don't agree with you because i think you shouldn't be so strict with them.
i'am a chinese.

Anonymous said...

As mentioned by some of the previous posters, it is very amusing how many people post with the exact same attitude the author derides when any true sportsperson knows that you leave it on the court.

The hard fouls and the numbers-calling were part of the Aussies' game plan, and, though they may not have won the game with it, it seems that the US players weren't mentally and emotionally strong enough to deal with it.

Personally, I find it stunning that the Aussie players calling the US players by their numbers was effective at all...I mean, how fragile a psyche and how big an ego do you have to have to be put off by that?

What's even more amusing are the posters who whine about the Aussies' hard fouls. Hard fouls? People, try playing Aussie Rules Football.

That's the sporting background the Aussies are coming from, and if the US players aren't tough enough to handle it, it's even more puerile for their fans to make excuses for them.

Keep in mind that, for the Aussies, as another poster mentioned, even an incident that escalates into a fight on the field or the court is left there, and it's understood that the effort on both sides was simply a part of the competition.

If the US and its athletes and its fans can't grasp that understanding yet, then they all have a lot of growing up to do...

That said, I think that a big part of the reason why these particular US players were not able to respond as gamely and sportingly as they could have to the Aussies' roughness is because most of the players on the US team are accustomed to having enforcers on their team. I imagine if the US team had a couple of such players giving a few thumps back to the Aussies, the game would have been different and thus the end-game interaction would have been as well.

As it were, the US chose to go with a speed and finesse team, and such players are certainly more likely to be jostled a bit by rough-house tactics.

mookie said...

Thanks to a couple of posters (including 'Anonymous' above this comment and SnappyTom) for actually getting the point of the article. Perhaps it's just outside of American culture I guess, but the point is, trash talk all you want on the court but be man enough to be courteous when you walk off the court. Those white lines are there for a reason.

J-Bone said...

Maybe it had something to do with the Australians talking trash in the media before the game.

mookie said...

That's interesting. What did they say?

Max said...

The Australians were by far the chippiest of all the teams that played the US. Fair enough, you do what you have to in order to gain an advantage. However, expecting hugs and kisses after the game is really a bit much. I didn't see any outward signs of disrespect from the American players, and I haven't heard similar quotes from other US opponents.

The reality is that what the Australians did probably crossed a line with some of the US players, especially since the chatter seemed to start with the exhibition game and continued through to the Olympic matchup. I had no problem with Boozer's takedown of Nielsen, given that Nielsen still seemed to be grandstanding and instigating even as the game got out of reach...in fact, it was rather enjoyable to see such a hypocritical display of "why me?" from a self-styled irritant who got some of his own medicine and was laying flat on the ground.

It's a peculiar form of sportsmanship to claim that anything goes during competition, and that all is forgiven the moment the match is over. Giving a heavy underdog license to disrespect a heavily favored team throughout, then crying for respect afterward? Last time I checked, respect had to be earned.

I do agree with the anonymous poster's comment that this particular US team may have had more issues with roughhousing, being a finesse team. Still, bad behavior is bad behavior, whether you're American, Australian, or Chinese. The Americans aren't obliged to show respect to players or teams who don't deserve it.

Anonymous said...

amen to that max. couldnt have said it any better..