I have an obsession only some close friends and family know of – and I wont waste your time here: it’s the Olympics. Both the summer and winter games although I only take off work for the summer Olympics. To put this in perspective I give up vacation days to sit at home and watch my television for a week in the summer every 4 years. I bought a stupidly gigantic TV this year because I want to feel like I’m almost in Sochi, Russia for the 2014 winter games and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the 2016 summer games.
To give you another example of how invested I am in the Olympic games I know off the top of my head that on September 7th, 2013 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will be choosing from 3 cities (Tokyo, Madrid, and Istanbul)
at the 125th IOC session in Buenos Aires, Argentina to see who will be hosting the summer games in 2020. (For the record my educated guess is Tokyo, followed closely by Istanbul and Madrid is 3rd but who knows miracles have happened before and they almost beat Rio for the 2016 slot which at this point it looks as though they should have due to the overwhelming protests Rio is dealing with because of preparations for said Olympic games and the 2014 FIFA World Cup.)
FYI – The 2018 winter Olympics city has already been chosen to be PyeongChang, South Korea which I know sounds strange but I assure you it’s not. Also if I had to guess the next time any Olympic games would be on American soil I would say either the 2024 in Los Angeles (although the Toronto bid is strong) or 2026 in Salt Lake City, Utah for the winter games. So yeah, I’m super into it.
The first Olympics I remember watching was the summer Olympics of 1996. I tuned in because at the time I was a huge Orlando Magic fan (NBA team) and more specifically a Shaquille O’Neal fan (starting Center on the Orlando Magic) – so I needed to see him compete with the USA Basketball team. That week I was visiting my grandparents in Saratoga, NY and I begged and pleaded to stay up late enough to catch a replay of the game that happened earlier that day in Atlanta, GA.
Around 11pm that night I was sitting in my grandparent’s living room on a fluffy pillow in the middle of the hardwood floor aimed directly at the television. Behind me in their respective chairs both of my grandparents were completely passed out and had been for several hours which was fantastic because they would have never let 9 year old me stay up that late otherwise. My knees were digging into the ground through the pillow making it extremely uncomfortable but I fought through it because I was almost there. The promised land. The greatest show on earth. As the broadcast started on July 20th, 1996 (USA’s first game against Argentina) my mind was racing.
Before I dive deeper let me explain this team so that even if you don’t like or understand basketball you’re on the same page as me. For what it’s worth I consider the 1996 USA Men’s Basketball team to be the second best team in all of sports history. I’m not talking just basketball – I’m talking the second best group of human beings playing any sport of all time. And they would be #1 easily if it wasn’t for the 1992 USA Men’s team. See in 1992 the Olympics began to allow professional basketball players participate in the Olympics. Prior to 1992 only semi-pro players could play which meant the USA teams were mostly made up of the best collegiate players in the nation. That’s not to say we weren’t a force to be reckoned with before 1992 as we had won 9 gold medals in Olympics past but since then it has become a popular past time in many other regions of the world and America was not the overall favorite at every Olympic games in the 1980’s. In 1992 that all changed.
In 1992 the USA Men’s Basketball team didn’t lose one game on their way to a gold medal and furthermore their average margin of victory was 43.8 points. That’s a large amount for anyone wondering. Not only did they win, but they absolutely destroyed every team that got in their way. Sports Illustrated later stated that the Dream Team was “arguably the most dominant squad ever assembled in any sport” with the likes of Michael Jordan (the greatest basketball player of all time), Larry Bird (Best shooter in my opinion/small forward of all time in most peoples opinions), Magic Johnson (best point guard of all time hands down), Charles Barkley (Said to be the slowest and fattest guy on the court, but also one of the leading scorers on the team and one of the best power forwards of all time), Karl Malone & John Stockton (One of the best power forwards and point guards respectively of all time, and arguably the best duo of all time), Patrick Ewing (top 10 centers of all time), Clyde Drexler( top 10 shooting guards of all time), David Robinson (top 10 centers all time), Chris Mullin (50 greatest players of all time), Scottie Pippin (top 5 small forwards of all time), and last and certainly least Christian Laettner who had no right being there but he hit one amazing shot to win at the end of a game that some consider the greatest basketball game ever played.) All but one (you can guess which) of those players are in basketballs Hall of Fame for their individual efforts and the entire team is immortalized in the HoF as the first accurately named “Dream Team.” If you ever want to learn more about said team watch this fantastic documentary on youtube fo free.
Sadly I was 4 years old in 1992 and did not yet have the level of appreciation for Olympic basketball as I did in 1996, so when I sat down to watch my first USA basketball game that night I was hearing about 1992 like it was already a legend. The 1996 team had 5 players from 1992 – Karl Malone, John Stockton, Scottie Pippin, David Robinson, and Charles Barkley. The new players included Shaquille O’Neal (top 5 centers of all time), Hakeem Olajuwon (top 5 centers of all time), Gary Payton (top 10 point guards of all time), Reggie Miller (2nd on the list of most 3 pointers ever made), Mitch Richmond (6 time NBA All-Star), Grant Hill (7 time NBA All-Star), and Penny Hardaway (3 time NBA All-Star). The margin of victory in 1996 ended up being a measly 32.3 points – not over 40, but it still did the job.
Throughout the game these players would show off their talent against a well put together Argentina team that had no chance from the get go. John Stockton would throw a no look pass to Karl Malone for an easy dunk. From time to time head coach Larry Wilkens would put Shaq (7 foot 1), Hakeem (7 feet), and David Robinson (7 foot 1) in simultaneously which was just amazingly unfair. Reggie Miller would drain a 3 like he did in the other teams nightmares. I swear to this day I didn’t blink for long extended periods of time on purpose so I wouldn’t miss a single play. That year the Dream Team won the championship game 95 to 69 against FR Yugoslavia (now Serbia) – a blowout to end all blowouts.
When my grandparents woke up as the game ended and my obsession had taken complete hold of me I was in tears. My grandmother, obviously concerned that her grandson was sitting by himself in the dark and crying asked me what was wrong. I looked up at her, wiped the tears from my face and said “nothing. Nothing is wrong.” That night was the first time I remember crying tears of joy.
To this day if I am asked what my overall goals in life are I say the ones that are sort of obvious: I want to be a writer and musician full time, but besides that – one day, I want to watch the USA Men’s Basketball team at the Olympics win a gold medal. And whomever is with me that day must be prepared, because I’m going to cry like a little baby. And if it’s my future wife (crosses fingers, knocks on wood at the same time) she will have to come to terms with the fact that she just witnessed the greatest moment of my life (tied of course with children and day of marriage) but it’s absolutely tied with no questions asked.
So – now that you know that about me what are your incredibly specific obsessions that no one really knows about? Let me know.
Til next time thanks for reading,