Friday, September 29, 2006


The Sports Guy checks in with his NFL team rankings, including:
25. Kansas City, 0-2
Courtesy of Brian in Philly: "Wow, Herm Edwards is getting better. It took him years to turn the Jets into a franchise with no offense, bad defense and an injured quarterback. He did the same thing to the Chiefs in one game!"

20. Washington, 1-2

14. Carolina, 1-2
It's tough to get excited about a team that nearly blew a 17-point lead to a QB with a ruptured spleen.

11. Dallas, 1-1
Why are we still wondering what happened with T.O.? Isn't it clear? He took some painkillers, received a physical therapy session (which always puts you in a weird mental state) and accidentally took a couple more painkillers. That was followed by his PR lady coming in, mistakenly overreacting and calling police. When they showed up, a zoned out T.O. acted erratically enough that police jumped to the wrong conclusion. They took him to the hospital and realized he was fine. And then everyone subsequently tried to cover it up the fact that he has been depressed/moody/sullen enough lately that his PR person thought it was CONCEIVABLE that he could have tried to kill himself.

Basically, we learned people close to T.O. believe he's moody, erratic and potentially a threat to himself. All of which we already knew. Making this one of the single dumbest sagas of all-time ... unless you're a Cowboys fan and it's threatening to derail your season. Then it's something else.

(By the way, it's truly alarming when Terry Glenn is considered the sane receiver on a football team.)

8. Denver, 2-1
Nobody looks better with a 10-point lead, although we could have said this last season as well. And just for the record, Jake was terrific in New England. You have to hand it to him. I will now shave my face with a cheese grater.

6. Chicago, 3-0
I can't put them any higher after Rex's interception last weekend. I just can't. Sorry. I don't have a good personal history with QB's who run for their life in the end zone, then throw the ball up for grabs for no real reason. But that's just me.

He's absolutley right about Grossman. If I were the Bears QB coach this week, I would have spent significant time schooling Grossman on two simple yet effective techniques - lateral movement (taking a step or two to the side instead of running straight backwards) and throwing off the front foot (stepping into a throw instead of falling backwards and throwing a ball 5-10 yards short of the intended receiver).

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Ultimate Fighting

Vitamin Z recently wandered into the world of Ultimate Fighting, watching 9-time UFC Welterweight Champ Matt Hughes. My brother's been telling me about Hughes for years. Check out his website here.

U-S-A! U-S-A!

First there was the U.S. men's basketball team settling for bronze at the World Championships. Then there was the U.S. Ryder Cup golfers getting blasted by the Europeans. Finally, the United States has found someone to represent the country with pride & success. For the first time in 24 years, an American has won the World's Strongest Man competition. Read about Charleston, West Virginia's Phil Pfister, the pfabulous pfirefighter with the pfunny name, here.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Rose By Any Other Name...

As you might have noticed, or as is obvious to those who know me, I really like sports. So you might think when I had the opportunity to meet the holder of one of the biggest all-time records in the world of sports, I would jump at the chance. Well, last winter I had just that opportunity. My reaction? No thanks. I was in Las Vegas with some of my family, and a baseball legend was there, signing autographs. The man's name - Pete Rose, Major League Baseball's all-time hits king.

You may know the story of Rose. "Charlie Hustle" was a hard worker, a fierce competitor, and a terrific hitter. Unfortunately, that competitiveness carried him to break the biggest no-no in baseball. In 1989 Rose was banned from baseball for life for betting on games. Even though, as part of his deal, Rose signed a confession, ever since then he's maintained his innocence, despite the mountains of evidence against him. At least until 2004. That's when Pete realized he may be able to cash in on his story. So out he came with a book, in which he admitted publicly for the first time that he did indeed bet on baseball. Now, he's at it again. This story tells about Rose autographing baseballs, and 30 of them are available via auction through a New Jersey auction house. But these are no ordinary autographed baseballs. They feature a heartfelt message from Rose: "I'm sorry I bet on baseball -- Pete Rose".

Supposedly the president of the auction house thinks the balls will fetch upwards of $1000 each. I hope they don't sell.

I only have two words for Pete: go away. We know you are baseball's all-time hits leader. We also know that you bet on baseball and were banned for life, according to a rule posted in each & every MLB clubhouse. So just go away. Please.

T.O. Wanna Be?

I can't help myself. I know I've tried to stay away from the "bad-guy" stories in sports, but this one caught my attention. The Detroit Lions' Roy Williams guaranteed that they would beat the Chicago Bears this past week. They came up just a bit short - they lost 34-7. Mitch Albom, a sportswriter for the Detroit Free Press asked Williams about his celebration after his first catch of the game, which came with the Lions already down 10-0.
"I celebrate first downs all the time. I'm not gonna stop that. I'm an exciting player. If I do something exciting, I'm gonna show my actions."

Albom responded, "But you were losing, 10-0."

"What does that mean? ... That means nothing to me. The score means nothing," Williams told Albom.

Um, "What does that mean?" Let me tell you what that means, Roy. That means you were losing. And at the end of the game, when that big lighted board showed "Chicago 34, Detroit 7"? that meant you lost. If the score means nothing to you, why would you guarantee a win?

Albom went on to ask Williams if he regretted making the guarantee.

"No, because everyone believes what I said," he told Albom.
Um, okay. Whatever.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Where Were You?, Part 3

Today I listened to CJ Mahaney's sermon from September 16, 2001. In it, he addresses the question of how Christians are to respond to the despicable acts of terror perpetrated on our country on 9/11. Mahaney gave a passionate, eloquent message based on Romans 12:9-13:5, explaining the difference between the role of Christians as members of the body of Christ vs. the role of our government as "the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath." You can listen to the sermon here, or read it here. The sermon climaxes in Mahaney's closing prayer. I highly recommend downloading the mp3 file, if only to listen to the prayer, which is about the last 6 minutes. Text doesn't do it justice, but here is an excerpt from the prayer:
Lord, we pray that you would have mercy on all those who have been involved in this atrocity. By your Spirit, through your Word, through your church, throughout the world, we pray that there would be conviction of sin upon all those who have participated and perpetrated these acts. We pray that you would awaken their consciences; we pray that they would recognize the sinfulness of what they have done. We pray that they would recognize that they have offended you and have aroused your wrath. We pray that they would fear you and we pray that they would flee to the Cross and appeal for forgiveness of their sins.

Lord, we pray for there to be conversions among these various terrorist networks. We pray for a mighty work of your Spirit, the glory of which can only be ascribed to you. We pray that in the months and years to come, we will hear of individuals who have been genuinely converted by the grace of God through the proclamation of the gospel. Father, we as your church, representing you, and in obedience to your Word, do not repay evil with evil, but instead join our voices together to appeal to you to have the same mercy on them that we experienced when we heard the gospel, when you forgave our sins, when you regenerated our hearts. Extend that mercy to yet another group of undeserving sinners, we pray for the glory of your Son.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Where Were You?, Part 2

Today I re-read author Philip Yancey's story, published in Christianity Today in October of 2001. The day of the attacks, Yancey was contacted by several media organizations, asking for his response.
In every case, I declined to respond. Like most Americans, I felt unbearably helpless, and wounded, and deeply sad.

Wednesday, the day after the attacks, it dawned on me that I had already written much of what I believe about the problem of pain. I wrote Where Is God When It Hurts? in 1977, as a 28-year-old who had no right to tackle questions of theodicy—and also no ability to resist, for there is no more urgent question facing those of us who identify ourselves as Christian. In 1990 I revised the book, adding about 100 pages and the perspective of middle age.

That night I e-mailed a proposal to my publisher, Zondervan, suggesting that we find a way to get that book out as cheaply as possible to as many people as possible. I could forego all royalties, and they could forego all profit as our contribution to a grieving nation. They jumped on the idea with amazing speed. Already they had been discussing "instant books" and other publishing responses. Instead, they decided to put their full resources into getting Where Is God into as many hands as possible. They called the next morning (Thursday, two days after the tragedy) saying they were mobilizing for a special edition."

The results? Zondervan sold more copies of the book in 24 hours than they had in the previous 24 years.

Yancey also shares the stories of a few people he came in contact with, including his encounter with a man who asked him to sum up Where Is God When It Hurts? in a sentence or two:

I thought for a moment and said, "I guess the answer to that question is another question. Where is the church when it hurts? If the church is doing its job—binding wounds, comforting the grieving, offering food to the hungry—I don't think people will wonder so much where God is when it hurts. They'll know where God is: in the presence of his people on earth."

Yancey closes by sharing what he thinks we learned from the tragic events of September 11:

One day we faced what most of us spend a lifetime ignoring: that all of us will die, and that many of us fill our lives with trivialities in apparent defiance of that fact. We learned ... that playing games with kids may be more important than working late for overtime pay. We learned that even in a city known for its crusty cynicism, heroes can emerge. We learned that a Jay Leno comedy routine and major-league sports, entertaining as they may be, are sometimes obscenely out of place. We learned that love for country and even for strangers can surge up with no warning. We learned that our nation, for all its flaws, has much worth preserving, and worth defending. And we learned that at a time of crisis, we turn to our spiritual roots: the President quoting Psalm 23, the bagpiper piping "Amazing Grace," the sanitation workers stopping by their makeshift chapel, the Salvation Army chaplains dispensing grace, the chaplains comforting the grieving loved ones. Thanks to them, we know where God is when it hurts.

In reading this story, and remembering reading Where Is God When It Hurts?, I can't help but think of the story of Job. I think we all too often display the same simplistic thinking that Job's friends displayed. "Well, Job, you must have done something to deserve God's punishment." We cannot always understand how or why God does things the way He does, and so we find ourselves grasping for straws instead of grasping for God. Todd Agnew put the conclusion to Job's story to music in his song entitled, "Where Were You?":

I thought up all the questions that my human mind could bring
And laid them out before the Lord
Demanded a reason for these things
I asked about inequality and the success of evil men
But what was I to say to Him
When He answered with this question

Where were you when I split the sky and sea?
Where were you when I taught the lion to roar?
Where were you when I made electricity
Fall from the sky in the middle of a thunderstorm?
Where were you?

I had no response, I had no reply
As the One who spoke and is the Truth opened up my eyes
I laid my time of doubt at the feet of the Infinite
But what was left for me to say
When He answered with this question

Where were you when I split the sky and sea?
Where were you when I taught the lion to roar?
Where were you when I made electricity
Fall from the sky in the middle of a thunderstorm?

Where were you when I put stars in the sky?
Where were you when I taught the eagle to fly?
Where were you when I made that little child look just like
Her mom but she had her daddy’s eyes?
Where were you?

Where were you?
Where were you when I split the sky and sea?
Where were you when I taught the lion to roar?
Where were you when I made electricity
Fall from the sky in a thunderstorm?

Where were you when I put stars in the sky?
Where were you when I taught the eagle to fly?
Where were you when I made that little child look just like
Her mom but she had her daddy’s eyes?
Where were you?
May our response to our own trials & sufferings mirror Job's: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." (Job 1:21, ESV)

And may we answer the the LORD's questions as Job did:
"I know that You can do all things,
and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?'
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
'Hear, and I will speak;
I will question You, and You make it known to me.'
I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees You;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:2-6)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Where Were You?, Part 1

With the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks just a couple of days away, I've been reflecting on where I was when the attacks were carried out, and what has happened in the five years since. I was a senior in college at the time, and had just gotten up on a Tuesday morning, having no early class. I remember turning on the tv and seeing video of the twin towers, one of them with smoke billowing off it. I had no idea what was going on, so I kept watching. As I listened to the anchors speculate on what was happening, we soon watched the second plane crash into the second tower. Instantly, any thoughts of the first crash being an accident evaporated. We knew we had been attacked.

One of the "where were you?" stories that stood out to me was that of Steven Curtis Chapman. Steven, his wife Mary Beth, and their 2-year-old daughter Shaohannah were in Washington, D.C. that morning. They were about to receive some recognition for their work in adoption, and planned on meeting with President Bush either later that day or the following day. LifeWay's ParentLife magazine shared this article about the Chapmans' experience that day.

Steven shared how the day had affected them:

A dark cloud of gloom and doom had settled over our hearts,” Steven admits. “Especially me, which is unusual; I’m always finding the good in things. Mary Beth compared the fight against terrorism to one against cancer. Will it resurface?”

The wisdom of close friends helped break through the heaviness. “I feel like God used them to throw a bucket of cold water in my face. ‘Wait a minute, where is your confidence? Is your confidence in your nation, your ability to know that your family is safe, or your ability to control all that? You wrote this song that says, God is God and I am not. Do you really believe that?’

“There is a verse that says, ‘Do not throw away your confidence,’ (Hebrews 10:35 NAS). I realized that is what I had done, because I was confronted with things out of my control.

“It made me realize how focused into my own life I could be. If we don’t see with an eternal perspective, then it is hopeless. With all the dangers in the world, you can begin to think there’s not a safe place. Then you realize…it’s called the grace of God. That’s the only safe place.”

BP News carries a similar account of the Chapmans' story here.

Later that year, the Chapmans found themselves back at the White House, and Steven had the opportunity to speak and perform before President Bush and others. Chapman performed his song "God is God," which contains the following lyrics:
And the pain falls like a curtain
On the things I once called certain
And I have to say the words I fear the most
I just don’t know

And the questions without answers
Come and paralyze the dancer
So I stand here on the stage afraid to move
Afraid to fall, oh, but fall I must
On this truth that my life has been formed from the dust

God is God and I am not
I can only see a part
Of the picture He’s painting
God is God and I am man
So I’ll never understand it all
For only God is God

And the sky begins to thunder
And I’m filled with awe and wonder
‘Til the only burning question that remains
Is who am I?

Can I form a single mountain?
Take the stars in hand and count them?
Can I even take a breath without God giving it to me?
He is first and last before all that has been
Beyond all that will pass

God is God and I am not
I can only see a part
Of the picture He’s painting
God is God and I am man
So I’ll never understand it all
For only God is God

Oh, how great are the riches of His wisdom and knowledge
How unsearchable
For to Him and through Him and from Him are all things

So let us worship before the throne
Of the One who is worthy of worship alone

God is God and I am not
I can only see a part
Of the picture He’s painting
God is God and I am man
So I’ll never understand it all
For only God is God

Courtesy of one of my favorite websites, YouTube, here is Chapman's performance that day at the White House:

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Guess the Source

I mentioned a while back how I've long been a fan of quotes. Well, in a shameless attempt to get some more interaction on my blog, let's see if anybody can guess the name of the person who authored the following quote:
"I readily acknowledge that we ought to value the glory of God more highly than our salvation"

Bring Him Back For Graduation?

If you were responsible for bringing in a speaker to talk about "Ethics of Tolerance in the Age of Violence," who would you pick? Some names from the past come to mind - Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr. And of course, the ultimate would be Christ Himself.

The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University is having someone come in to speak on this topic to mark the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. So who did they pick? Former Iran president
Mohammed Khatemi. Evidently Saddam Hussein was not available, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had a previous engagement.

Seriously, we're going to turn to a charter member of the "Axis of Evil" to teach us about ethics & tolerance? The New York Sun has a good editorial lambasting Harvard for their choice of speakers.

Kid's Gotta Pay is carrying this story about the University of Kansas charging full admission price to its football games for all people, including babies. This policy has been in effect for three years or more, so I'm not sure why it's just now making news.

Owen & Lisa Faust were surprised at the gate when they took their 3-month-old daughter to the game with them last week, because they only had two tickets. "I just thought it was pretty tacky," Owen said. "It's just a grab for money."

My reaction? #1 - Why take a 3-month-old to a football game? I don't have kids yet, but I don't think I'd take them to any game at least until after they are able to ask if they can go. And even then, I'd have to give it some thought depending on their age. #2 - Shouldn't the University of Kansas - or other similar organizations - be able to dictate their own policy in this regard? It may not be "fair," but I see nothing inherently wrong with it.

A good argument for the policy:
"Everybody needs a ticket regardless of age," [Kansas associate athletic director Jim] Marchiony said. "The very small children come with backpacks and bottles and toys. ... We've received numerous complaints over the years from people who are sitting next to those people -- enough for us to know that even those sized children need the space."
A questionable argument for the policy:
... the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has recommended that organizations require tickets for everyone at large events as a way to keep track of numbers.
I don't think too many infants have threatened our national security, but I guess you never know when some sicko is going to use a baby to do his dirty work.

But this was my favorite part of the article:
... any child under 3 -- would be able to get in free for a Kansas City Chiefs game....

... most professional football teams have the same policy.

Fans under 2 also can get in free to see the Missouri Tigers or Kansas State Wildcats play, and those under 1 don't pay for tickets at Iowa State.

You mean people actually pay for Iowa State football tickets?

"International" Basketball

Fran Fraschilla, a former college basketball coach who broadcast the FIBA World Championships for ESPN, gives this terrific, simple breakdown of the difference between basketball as played in America today vs. basketball played around the world:

Hubie Brown, Dean Smith, Dr. Jack Ramsay and other American coaches imported the game world-wide and it is obvious that many of the coaches at those clinics were paying attention. That's why I laugh when I hear that we have to get used to the "international game."

The international game of smart play, unselfishness, good ball movement used to be our game. These coaches have taken what they have learned through the years and "built a better mousetrap."

In America, at all levels, coaches are less concerned about the execution of the fundamentals and more worried about baby-sitting big egos. If a college coach gets a few McDonald's All-Americans to just play hard, he is considered a great coach. If an NBA coach can keep a locker room of millionaires from each others' throats for an entire year, he has a chance to be successful.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Vitamin Z posts 12 comments from Joe Carter's post on "Industrialized Sex." These are good - I recommend you use either of these links and read at least the 12 comments, if not Carter's whole post. Some good words in our sex-obsessed society.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Which Came First?

A new twist on the "Which came first?" debate. Instead of chickens vs. eggs, we've switched to behavior vs. stereotypes. So which came first? I'm sure there are probably cases on both sides of the debate, but I personally feel that behaviors generally come before stereotypes. That being said, last year's Miss England evidently would disagree with me. In this story, the 19-year-old Muslim "warned that stereotyping members of her community is leading some towards extremism."
"The bridge I have made is slowly being broken by more and more wars. Now the Iran situation is brought up and another Islamic country is under scrutiny - and the recent Heathrow scare. I guess I am needed even more now than last year to an extent because of what has happened.

"It is not for me to answer how to get people to turn away from terrorism. The politicians don't know what to do and I am just a 19-year-old."

Just a 19-year-old politician from the sounds of it - very willing to point out problems, but lacking the vision or the responsibility to propose a solution.

Go Huskers!

An article at Nebraska's tells this story: "Ryan K. Geiger, a 29-year-old University of Nebraska-Lincoln student, said he was kicked off the Husker Spirit Squad because he is a convicted sex offender."

My first response was to think that if Geiger told me he had been kicked off the squad becuase of his sex-offense conviction, I would have only one word to say. "Okay."

I really can't believe this is much of a story, especially after reading details of his crime:

That felony stems from a July 2004 investigation by the Nebraska State Patrol Internet Crimes Against Children Unit, during which an investigator posed as a 14-year-old girl in a Yahoo! chat room, according to Bruning's office.

Geiger initiated a two-hour Internet conversation interspersed with sexually explicit language ...

Geiger then asked to meet the "girl" at an apartment in La Vista with the intention of having sex. He was arrested upon arrival.

Geiger was convicted on November 8, 2005, and sentenced to jail for one year and one day. Geiger was released early in July on a mandatory discharge.

Geiger says his was a case of entrapment.

"Was I chatting inappropriately?" he said. "Yeah. But that's it."

Yeah, Geiger. You were just chatting inappropriately. And you just went to the apartment to "chat" with a 14 year old? And now you expect the University of Nebraska to have no problem letting you participate on a spirit squad with 17-22 year old girls? All jokes about the "N" on Nebraska's football helmets standing for "knowledge" aside, I'd expect any college or university to respond as Nebraska did. If you want an education, that's one thing. But don't press your luck

Sunday, September 03, 2006


A while back, I posted the lyrics for a song title "Before the Throne" that I got on a music sampler CD from Sovereign Grace Ministries. This set of lyrics comes from another song off that CD, one that is one of my absolute favorite songs of any genre. Words fail me as I try to write an appropriate lead in to "The Glory of the Cross." So I'll let the apostle Paul speak for me: "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." - Colossians 2:13-15 (NIV)

What wisdom once devised the plan
Where all our sin and pride
Was placed upon the perfect Lamb
Who suffered, bled, and died?
The wisdom of a Sovereign God
Whose greatness will be shown
When those who crucified Your Son
Rejoice around Your throne

And, oh, the glory of the cross
That You would send Your Son for us
I gladly count my life as loss
That I might come to know
The glory of, the glory of the cross

What righteousness was there revealed
That sets the guilty free
That justifies ungodly men
And calls the filthy clean?
A righteousness that proved to all
Your justice has been met
And holy wrath is satisfied
Through one atoning death

And, oh, the glory of the cross
That You would send Your Son for us
I gladly count my life as loss
That I might come to know
The glory of, the glory of the cross

What mercy now has been proclaimed
For those who would believe
A love incomprehensible
Our minds could not conceive?
A mercy that forgives my sin
Then makes me like Your Son
And now I’m loved forevermore
Because of what You’ve done

And, oh, the glory of the cross
That You would send Your Son for us
Oh, the glory
The glory of the cross

And, oh, the glory of the cross
That You would send Your Son for us
(How could You die; how could You die for us?)
I gladly count my life as loss
That I might come to know
The glory of, the glory of the cross
Oh, the cross

Listen to a sample of the song here. Or check out more of Sovereign Grace's music here.

See You Next Year

So the FIBA World Championships are over. The Americans went home with the bronze, beating Argentina in a matchup that most thought would play out in the gold medal game. It was good to see Team USA rebound after their disappointing loss to Greece to beat a terrific Argentinian team.

The gold medal game continued to show the difference between the NBA game and the international game. Spain came into the game against Greece after losing their leading scorer & rebounder, and NBA All-Star, Pau Gasol to a foot injury sustained in Spain's semifinal victory over Argentina. Without Gasol, the Spain-Greece matchup featured two rosters with a combined 64 games NBA experience - all by Spain's Jose Calderon, the backup point guard for the Toronto Raptors last season. (Argentina's team, by comparison, featured 4 current NBA players, one signed to begin his NBA career next year, and a combined 684 games of NBA experience between 6 players.)

Team USA now has to qualify for the '08 Olympics at next year's Tournament of the Americas. The team may face a slight final roster shakeup among the 24 players originally invited to participate in tryouts this year, and will continue to work out the bugs of international competition with the ultimate goal of reclaiming gold in '08.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Team USA

I was one of the (probably few) crazy people watching the US men's basketball team in their World Championships semifinal game against Greece, which started at 3:30 AM ET. I was treated to an alternately good and frustrating game, with an unwanted result. The Greeks beat the US, 101-95. The US will face Argentina for the bronze medal.

It's been 18 years now since the US last fielded an Olympic basketball team of amateurs. That year - 1988 - the team lost in the semifinals to the Soviet Union and rebounded to win the bronze. Two years later, in the World Championships, a team with an average age of 20, again lost in the semifinals and brought home a bronze. Those two competitions came right about the point where the NBA was reaching its pinnacle of popularity, riding the wave of the Lakers-Celtics/Magic-Bird era into the Jordan era. Add to that the fact of other countries using professionals on their national teams (the 1990 Yugoslavian team that beat the US featured 5 future NBA players, including Vlade Divac, Drazen Petrovic, and Toni Kukoc), and USA basketball made the knee-jerk reaction to use NBA players on our own national team.

There were just a couple of problems. At that point, our collegians were still competing with the other countries' professionals, but the other countries' professionals were not close to the level of our own. And nobody with USA basketball had the foresight to imagine that the world would soon catch up.

So 1992 gave us the Dream Team, which was probably the greatest basketball team ever assembled, even with a deteriorating Larry Bird & Magic Johnson, and somehow leaving Isiah Thomas off the roster for token college boy Christian Laettner. But I digress. That team featured a collection of basketball players - 12 guys who could do a little bit, if not a lot, of everything - handle the ball, pass the ball, shoot the ball, and play defense, all as part of a team. On most of the teams since then, we've featured amazingly talented athletes, but without the same skill set. The NBA began its devolution into a copycat league searching for the next Michael Jordan, and so Team USA began to be filled with 12 guys trying to play one on one (or one on five).

Another problem was that we found the need to replace the team each time. Players would sign up to go get the gold to add to their personal collection and check it off their career to-do list. Then 2 or 4 years later, Team USA would be an almost entirely different squad. Meanwhile, other countries were building programs and taking notes.

Well, we finally started to get a clue and named a national team coach - Coach K, and sought out a 3 year commitment from players, then had them go through a tryout camp. But the problem remained - these are still NBA players whose instinct is to do it on their own. And they were still given a relatively short time to prepare and build team chemistry.

This all culminated in the loss to Greece. They had their moments - starting the game off with suffocating pressure defense through the first quarter and into the second quarter, building a 12 point lead. But then the Greeks went to their pick-and-roll plays, and dropped into a sagging man-to-man help defense, daring the Americans to shoot over it, which they did without much success for the second consecutive game.

ESPN Insider Chris Sheridan has been following the team and had this to say about the loss:

I know the top two questions folks back home in the United States are going to be asking once I get back: How could this happen? Who is to blame?

To the first question, I'll answer this: It's been happening for more than four years now, folks, and it's been happening because Team USA keeps changing its roster, never developing the chemistry and familiarity that the best teams from other parts of the world have developed as their greatest strength. The Greeks had two or three plays that worked over and over and over again, just like Argentina's plays worked two years ago in Athens, and Team USA didn't have the cohesion a team needs to play the type of halfcourt defense required to win in these kinds of tournaments. The second and third quarters of Greece's 101-95 victory Friday were absolutely stunning to behold. I'd call it a layup drill, except for the fact that there were enough wide-open looks being converted that it broke up the monotony of the pick-and-roll exploitation the Greeks were pulling on the Americans.

The pick-and-roll is not a hard play to defend, but these guys simply couldn't. Anybody with two eyes could see that Greece guard Theodoros Papaloukas liked to drive to his left, but not once did any of the Americans force him right.

Greece was a team that came in averaging only 81.4 points in this tournament, yet the Americans surrendered 101 and allowed them to shoot an astonishing 63 percent from the field, 71 percent from 2-point range.

Want to know why? Mostly it's because the Greeks have been playing together long enough to have a repertoire of plays that they know will work, and once they saw they were working to perfection, they stuck with them time after time after time after time.

The Americans were helpless to stop them.


The basketball world has changed, folks, and Americans have fallen behind. I feel like I'm yelling into the wind when I keep saying how and why it's been happening, but maybe now folks back home will start to understand.


Some might call this Team USA a failure, but it isn't. It's too soon to make any call.

We can judge them two summers from now when they get back from Beijing. Until then, they're a work in progress, a team that's had its eyes opened to how vulnerable and beatable they can be. There is nothing for them to be embarrassed about. They just weren't as good as Greece.

That's the way the basketball world is these days, and if Team USA wants to restore the Old World Order, they're going to have to work at it. You can't just become the Redeem Team overnight. It might take three years, and it might take even longer. For now, they'll learn Saturday against Argentina whether they're the planet's No. 3 or No. 4 team. Then they'll have two years to work together toward being No. 1.

Well said, Chris. Hopefully we'll turn it around and the international style of play - with the emphasis on team basketball over one-on-one isolation - will trickle its way back into the NBA.