Mon, September 23, 2013

'Pimply-face' French can't hold candle to U.S. hoops stars

By THANE BURNETT, QMI Agency


Team USA basketball players Kobe Bryant (left) and LeBron James share a laugh on the bench during their Group A match against France at the London 2012 Olympic Games, July 29, 2012. (MIKE SEGAR/Reuters)


LONDON - It’s charming when clearly the prettiest contestant in the pageant whispers to the other entrants: “It’s anyone’s game.

“Even you pimply-face-girl — keep that spotted chin up.”

And it’s so much more comforting to all when people start to repeat the pretty girl’s caution — that maybe this is ‘ol pimply-face’s year.

The U.S. men’s basketball team played their first Olympic 2012 preliminary round game Sunday against an experienced but blemished French squad.

The American beauties won.

The score was 98 to 71.

Their uniforms were cooler and their fans louder.

More media showed up than there were seats.

And Team USA brought along U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama.

Paris is a few hundred kilometers away.

America is about 5,567 kilometres that way. But you would have thought you were inside any U.S. arena.

Experienced sports journalists — I am simply an uninformed news writer — point out this is not a repeat of Beijing, when even opposing players asked the US ‘Redeem Team’ for autographs.

I covered those games, and watched the pens and papers being passed around.

Even U.S. Coach Mike Krzyzewski has told us the U.S. team can be beaten and that the overall 12 Olympic teams are more talented than in 2008. In fact, other countries here boast NBA players — France having six on its roster, led by San Antonio guard Tony Parker.

The U.S. coach said a close first quarter proved the strength of the French team.

Asked whether he can compare this U.S. Olympic team, which includes Miami Heat star LeBron James and Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant, with the one he brought to China, Krzyzewski said after the game: “We don’t want to compare ourselves with anyone.”

In fact, combined, they are not like any other athletic squad in these Olympics.

They are among the world’s most privileged athletes. They are the biggest worldwide stars here — though they might get a run for their vast money from Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps.

Bryant recently got flak for saying this team could beat the 1992 version, that included Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.

He may be right.

But it’s always good to be humble.

It helps you save face on that rare day your team comes down with dysentery.

But it’s difficult to arrive with the best skin, prettiest dress, best conditioned hair and smelling of meadow mornings and expect everyone to believe you can have bad days like the other girls.