Sunday, July 29, 2012

Spirit of London 2012

Source: Google Images

The 30th Olympiad in modern times has opened and what a show, as always. Watched by 4 billion people worldwide and attended by royalties, government leaders, celebrities, among others, it leaves no doubt to its billing as the greatest show on earth. The headlines say it all. Fantastic.

Coming home after the kids watched the blockbuster movie, Batman, The Dark Knight Rises, we caught the replay of the opening ceremonies last night as the athletes started the grand  ceremonial  parade by nations. We were excited to see the entrance of our Philippine delegation as the kids were having their countdown guessing the next in line by alphabetical sequence. It was also a lesson in geography for them and us actually, hearing for the first time many unknown countries and wondering where they are located in the globe. When the “ Saints” came marching by, they asked, why there were so many countries named after unknown saints.
The athletes “fashion wear”, i.e. uniform was another exciting part to watched. We laughed at the seemingly over and undressed,  admired the simplicity and design of others. Today, we learned that it was indeed a “catwalk show”, with the uniforms designed by such fashion biggest names, Armani, Ralph Lauren, Prada, Ferragamo, Stella McCartney, Hermes. Our national uniform was designed by a local big name, Rajo Laurel. I could only laughed that while I liked the navy blazers and navy berets uniform of the US delegation designed by Ralph Lauren, it is getting bad press because it was made in China. Ha ha.

But our greatest excitement was on the sight of popular sports stars, most especially, those who carried their national flags. It started with,  Marcus Baghdatis, the tennis star  from Cyprus, then NBA Memphis Grizzlies center Haddadi of Iran and world’s fastest sprinter Usain Bolt of Jamaica. It reached crescendo when our idol, tennis darling Maria Sharapova led the Russian delegation in a pant and suit design made by a Russian sportswear Bosco. The thrill hasn’t yet  subsided  when we sighted  a jubilant tennis superstar Novak Djokovic carryring the colors of his native land, Serbia. Then came the towering clean shaven NBA and Laker star Pau Gasol leading the very familiar glaring red and gold Spain delegation. At this moment, we almost expected and hoped the Swiss team will be led by tennis greatest, Roger Federer. Alas, roger was not there. This morning we knew why. He already has his 1st round going against a low rated opponent from Colombia. Now, we wondered. Who’s gonna carry the blue and red stripe American flag? Could it be Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, or Michael Phelps? It was none of the above; a lady fencer did the honors for the US team.

It was already midnight. The climax is yet to come;  the lighting of the Olympic torch and the best kept secret of the whole event: who will be given the honor of doing it? And finally, the “best of Britain”, Sir Paul McCartney ( who doesn’t know him and the Beatles”) closed the affair with his famous ballad, Hey Jude. Na na na na….na na na.

Now, the Games has begun. The events I'd like to watch: the showdown between Phelps and teammate Lochte in swimming, Bolt vs. Tyson Gay in sprints, USA vs. Spain in basketball, Federer vs. Djokovic, Saharapova vs. Serena Willliams in tennis, and the Chinese domination overall. But actually, if there is one event I am made to choose, it's athletics, track most especially.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Dream Team and Other Almost Dream Teams

This is of course about the U.S. basketball teams to the Olympics comprised of NBA professional stars and superstars. This practice of using NBA stars started in 1992 during the Barcelona Olympics. The world by then has caught up with them in basketball. Back then, a gathering of amateur collegiate stars was enough to win the basketball gold. But not anymore, they concluded. So since 20 years ago, they dominated once again Olympics basketball, thanks to their NBA superstars.

Now comes the debate on who is the greatest dream team ever. Kobe Bryant, the Laker superstar perhaps stirred the debate when he was reported saying this year's batch could beat the original dream team of 1992. He was in my opinion, of course just kidding and perhaps just psyching them up following the non inclusion of other stars due to injuries. Missing center Dwight Howard, guard Dwayne Wade, slam dunk king Blake Griffin, Chris Bosh, would indeed make one dreaming.

In my mind, there indeed was only one dream team and this is the original dream team of the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. All and future Hall of Famers, except maybe for one. So powerful the team was that they beat their opponents by an average of 40 or so points. So complete that the substitutes was made by 5, not 1, not 2, nor 3. So devastating that in the whole tournament, Coach Chuck Daly never called a time out. Yet, despite the lopsided scores, fans overflowed the basketball stadium, not to see or expect a competition, but to see showtime. Slam dunks everywhere, pinpoint no- look passing, booming "treys", powerful and graceful drives, total paint domination. Even the opponents, starstrucked as they were, went for posses and autographs.

How about this as starting 5. Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan at guard, Larry Bird and Karl Malone at forward, and Patrick Ewing at center. The 2nd five would consist of John Stockton and Clyde Drexler at guard, Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen at forward, and David Robinson at center. All superstars in their own positions. Sweet shooting Chris Mullin and the only amateur inserted in the team, All American No.1 amateur player Christian Laettner completed the line-up. Who can beat that?

True, most were nearing the peak of their careers. But their stars were still brightly shining in the basketball court. There is one more quality to this team which made it truly a dream team. They won the hearts and imagination of the basketball world. It cemented the frenzy that globalized basketball, a phenomenon I believed started by my idol, Michael Jordan.