Tuesday, August 12

40 Years Gone By

A great piece is up from Sonic legend Spencer Haywood at the NBRPA site at the moment (actually, it’s been up since August 6th, but we roll kinda slow at SuperSonicSoul), detailing the events surrounding his quest for a Gold Medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Among other wonderful anecdotes:

- Charlie Scott getting into a fight with the Cincinnati Royals’ Tom Thacker in an exhibition game
- Scott abandoning the team during European exhibitions, then rejoining the team back in the states
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elvin Hayes, and Wes Unseld all deciding not to participate, thus opening the door for Hayood to play
- The American team enjoying a dinner of horse meat in Kiev, Ukraine
- The Russians forcing all spectators to leave a game the U.S. is winning, then changing the scoreboard from a 26-point American lead to all even

There’s much, much more, and it’s all written in an enjoyable style that makes you feel like you've traveled back in time – very enjoyable.

But it makes me think – would any of that be possible in 2008? I sincerely doubt it. In today’s corporate/athlete world where the NBA players stay in luxury yachts rather than mixing with the hoi polloi, where LeBron James’ Nike salary this year probably exceeds the budget for the entire athletic team in 1968, it’s just not possible for the zaniness which took place 40 years to be recreated in our times.

And, to me, that’s extremely sad. I’ve read how the soccer teams at this year’s Olympics have eschewed using superteams of professionals and, instead, turned to a combination of pros and amateurs, with an emphasis on younger players, a tact I wish FIBA would pursue.

Further, when I think of Harry Edwards convincing basketball players and other prospective Olympians that the moral thing to do is boycott the ’68 games, I wonder, where is the ’08 version of Edwards? Where is the person in authority who decides that swallowing your tongue in the face of an oppressive regime is wrong, that speaking out and taking a stand is right?

A nation turns its lonely eyes to you, Professor Edwards.

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