I have had a love-hate relationship with the “Dream Team” (I’m using finger quotes) for 20 years. Like the rest of the Universe I was school girl giddy in 1992 when the Olympics first allowed NBA players to compete. Not at all because it assured a gold medal for the U.S. but simply for the sheer bliss of seeing names like Jordan, Bird, Barkley and Johnson on matching jerseys. I can’t even remember the details but I know they won every game by an average of more than 40 points, took the gold and went on to beat the Harlem Globetrotters, the U.S. Air Force (who were allowed to shoot missiles) and the Superfriends (in fairness I should mention that Aquaman was out with a sprained pinky toe). Truly a dream come true.
Skip ahead to 2004. The dreamers got a bucket of ice water to the face. The NBA’s finest were handed a slice of “you’re embarrassing” pie by Puerto Rico, Lithuania and Argentina (I’m not making that part up). In the end they received an honorary bronze medal for beating the Brady Bunch kids by two in triple overtime (in fairness I should mention that Marsha was out with a broken nose). I’m not even sure if it’s technically correct to tag them the “Dream Team” but I know the term was still flying around. Regardless. Dream over.
Then I moved to China and something shifted. I’m just gonna’ go ahead and say it right here on the internet in front of the whole world and everybody – in 2008 when the U.S. played China – I really wanted China to win. I know, I know, if this were the fifties I would have my citizenship revoked for consorting with Communists but you have to understand that the Beijing Olympics were UBER-significant for China. This is a country that was closed to the West and hurting deeply just 30 years ago – now hosting the most International event on the planet right on the heels of an earthquake that killed 70,000 people. It was BIG. HUGE. MAGNANAMOUS. That dynamic combined with the 2004 Dream Team pummelings and the typical U.S. player mentality that the Olympic games are a side affair played for fun, between ridiculously overpaid “REAL” games made me anxious for China to win. They didn’t, but I wanted them to.
There. I said it and I won’t take it back.
Yesterday some friends offered my daughter and I tickets to watch the Chinese Men’s Team play the U.S. in a pre-Olympic challenge. At first I declined because it was a school night but then I followed my own advice and embraced bad parenting (click here for more about that). It turned out to be a late night, the best Daddy-Daughter Date ever (at least from Daddy’s perspective) and a surprisingly eye opening experience.
I honestly wasn’t sure who I would root for when we arrived at the stadium. At least the U.S. players weren’t the actual Olympic team (whom I have grown tired of) but still, I’ve come to appreciate China’s new love for basketball. I’ve had lots of Chinese friends named “Kobe” or “LeBron” or “Jordan” (click here) and it has been fun to watch people get absolutely swept away by the game just because it’s exciting. There is something less tainted, less arrogant, less greedy about basketball fans here that draws me in and makes me want to shout “Jia You!” (the Chinese equivalent of “Go Team!”) with the crowd. Generally speaking, China is still more enthusiastic about the NBA than they are their own players but you can bet there will be dancing in the streets if they ever topple the American “Dream Team”. I thought I might be cheering for Team China last night.
Lo and Behold a moment of self discovery. After being dominated in the first quarter (23-11) the U.S. team had finally fought their way back within striking distance by the third quarter. I remembered why I love basketball. Team USA couldn’t get the lead. It was back and forth. Tied up – down by two – tied again – China hits a three – this went on for a while but the American team couldn’t get ahead. Then it happened. Tie game. The U.S. gets a fast break with two defenders between the ball and the bucket . . . slow motion . . . alley oop . . . BAM!
Beautiful dunk to take the lead.
It was completely involuntary. I jumped to my feet. Arms in the air. “YEEEAAAAAAHH!!!” I gave my daughter one of those goofy jumping up and down hugs and looked around for someone to chest bump. That was the awkward moment that I realized I was the only one standing and 20,000 people had ceased watching the game to stare at the gloating foreigner. It was also the moment that I realized you can take the boy out of America but, when push comes to shove, you can’t take the America out of the boy. You can however give him a fresh perspective.
Congratulations to Team USA who won the game. You made me proud to be a foreigner. Congratulations also to Team China who made them work for every point. You are truly talented and fun to watch. If you take the gold this summer, I will not be sad. Shocked, but not sad. Finally, congratulations to the 2012 “Dream Team”. I hope you don’t trip over a pile of money on the way to London. Annoying or not, the world is looking forward to watching you play.
Here are some more pics from the game
|Team China loves to dunk. Lot of fun
to watch during warmups.
|Best Daddy Daughter Date ever begins with the
best daughter ever.