Every reader of this blog knows my feelings about the pro athletes in the Olympics as being sports imperialism. Only the larger nations can realistically have a pro league or pro program sufficient to have a realistic chance to win a medal in the Games. Thus pro athletes rob smaller nations of a chance at Olympic glory. The USA ought to stand with the smaller nations instead of raking off its own share of the imperialist boodle.
But the US men’s basketball team seems to even have an air of entitlement about it. Look at the rosters from 2004 through 2012. Several of the teams have the same player on twice: Dwyane Wade (2004 and 2008), Chris Paul (2008, 2012), Kobe Bryant (2008 and 2012 as well), and LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony has been on all three of these teams! Remember, these are not tryouts but selections. The only reason it’s not a smoke-filled room is that most states ban smoking indoors in work places! Even the coach, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, a great coach with class, has coached in both 2008 and 2012. This article was inspired by the attempt to talk Coach K to come back in 2016. Yes, he’s a great coach, I admire him very much. He brings discipline to any team he coaches. But aren’t there other great coaches that would enjoy representing our nation, too? There’s a guy down the street here at VCU that might like the job or the guy in Indy who took his Horizon League team to the NCAA Final game two consecutive years – why don’t you ask him?
I contend that this whole system of selection and repetition produces a team that few can identify with. How does this represent the USA? It’s like sports royalty. The Constitution (What’s that again, Sandy? It’s that document repudiated Tuesday on NCIS/LA!) prohibits titles of nobility. How can a young basketball player aspire to represent his nation in the Olympics? He has to be a NBA star first. We have far too many young people aspiring to that now as it is – at the expense of realistic goals. As long as the Olympics exist, we ought to have a different system. (I do not care if the have pro athletes at world championships because that ought to be the best athletes of your nation. I would, however, prefer a pro and amateur division at the world championships and Olympics.)
As we found out with the ridiculous decision to oust wrestling from the 2020 Games, it seems that money, TV time and popularity trumps sports integrity. Any nation can have a wrestling program – 177 nations have a national wrestling federation already – all you need a gyms, mats,related equipment and a rule book. So, how does this decision enhance the possibility of a small nation for a bit of Olympic glory? It’s sports imperialism. The US ought to renounce this. Maybe we need an alternative games that only amateurs can be in – the US could start it! Until then, no rooting for pro athletes in this house (sorry Tiger and Serena!) during Olympic season.