Monday, August 25, 2008

The International Whistle Waits For No Man

My friend Mike called me and said that I needed to watch the men's gold medal basketball game at the Olympics. I hadn't seen it, but I did have it on tape, so I sat down last night to watch.

We won, which I mention really as an afterthought, because I think the combined payroll of the U.S. men's basketball team is probably $200 million a year. So they should win, and win easily, even given the differences in international rules. That's not to say that I don't like the guys who were on the team, because in most cases, I do. It's just that if you're getting paid $10 million a year (or more) to play basketball, certain expectations should go along with that level of compensation.

It was an excellent game, and extremely well played on both sides, but I was struck by one thing in particular. Almost every player on the U.S. roster is a superstar in the NBA, and the NBA has a gigantic problem with officiating. In short, superstars will get half a dozen marginal calls, at least, in almost every game, so these guys have become accustomed to getting almost every close call in their favor. It's like the NBA version of Animal Farm: all players are equal, but some players are more equal than others.

In this game, though, that wasn't happening.

It was totally fascinating to see these guys play in an environment where the refereeing was neutral. They weren't getting the calls, and they couldn't work the referees. It was an interesting dose of reality for a bunch of guys that really don't have to deal with reality on a day-to-day basis.

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