One of the less reported but nonetheless compelling stories of the 2008 Beijing Olympics has been the US Men’s Olympic Volleyball team, which endured the murder of the coach’s father-in-law at the beginning of the Olympic games. Last night, the US men’s volleyball team beat a talented Brazilian team in four sets to win the gold medal. Great win and, for the US men’s the first Olympic win since 1988. They were big, tough, and talented.
I just watched the US men’s basketball team survive a physical, poorly officiated game against a game but over-matched team from Spain, beating them 118-107. To be fair, Spain was tough and played a very good game, hitting lots of tough shots and playing hard. But to be honest, this was a one-sided racket that the US was lucky to win. Spain got away with lots of physical play–intentionally–as well as a dozen moving screens, while gaining the benefit of multiple cheap foul calls, especially in the first half. Without a doubt, the US didn’t play its best game and, to be sure, Spain devised an ingenious game plan that stuck to the man-to-man defense while penetrating almost at will against a gun-shy US defense. But this was exacerbated by the officials calling fouls on non-foul calls, calling an amazing 15 fouls in the first quarter alone including two cheap ones on Kobe and LeBron alone, and doing its very best to keep what should have been a blowout close. In the end, the result was as it should have been–US with the gold. It’s just an abject disgrace that the officials in international continue to vacillate between allowing moving screens and inside physical play on the one hand, and on the other not allowing opponents to breathe or look at opponents. Dwayne Wade and Kobe were giants, Bosh was again huge, Prince was big off the bench and, with Bosh, one of the few players knowledgeable enough to smack the ball off the rim or into the basket in under international rules, and guard play again carried the day for the US men.
A big-time congratulations to the US women’s team that trounced Australia. Leslie, Bird, Parker, Taurasi, Thompson and more–great tradition for the women, who impressed on the court and with their tenacious team play. A great gold for the women.