The Australians have taken to wagering on who can be the first to get a Muscovite to laugh, or even to smile. It has not been easy. So frustrated was the basketball team about the security-obsessed Soviets that some players finally grabbed a guard, playfully backed him against the team bus and frisked him.
"The best thing to do is have people come here," said the captain of the basketball team, a fine judge of human nature whose name will strike a familiar chord among Washingtonians in a moment. "There's no way they'd ever want to be Communists.
"You never saw such zonked people in all your life. The other day on the subway we started this little sing-along with Mitch. Everybody just looked at us. No smiles or anything. We did a little dance up and down the car. Nothing."
Those who know him would expect Rocky Crosswhite to playfully cope with the most maddening conditions. He is a native of Bethesda, Md., a 6-foot-9 pixie who gave Lefty Driesell heavy doses of frustration and fun at Davidson College but who is here only after the fiercest sort of soul-searching.
"You take a 17- or 18-year-old athlete," said Crosswhite, now 32 and in his third Olympics for the Aussies. "Most of them don't even know where Afghanistan is. They've been training four years of their life, and to ask them to give up something they've worked so hard for is to almost ask for rebellion.
"Myself? I personally thought the boycott was right, but my feelings were to do what the team wanted to do. I more or less made that decision two years ago, when they coaxed me out of retirement to come play (for the Olympic team) again.
"I'm the captain."
But not an overwhelmingly influential one. When the team vote was tabulated, Crosswhite's was the only one to support the boycott. He works for a state government agency in Melbourne, but was not overly pressured to support Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser's call to back the boycott.
Still, that creates yet another dilemma.
"I'm on the group trying to get the '88 Games for Melbourne," he said in the Olympic Village today. He laughed. "It's a Catch-22 thing. If we had boycotted these Games, there's no way we'd have gotten them.
"Now we didn't boycott them, so we probably won't get any help from the government to put them on. We'll continue to try. But the work we've done for 1 1/2 years may have been futile."
He is known as Perry Crosswhite now -- and one of the most agreeable athletes in international fun and games. After Walter Johnson High, he became a substitute at Davidson, famed for poking fun at himself, his fate and his coach. He has measured his post-American basketball life by Olympiads.
"At Munich (in '72), I felt I played well," he said."At Montreal (in '76), I felt I played all right. This year I'm sort of attending. The coach seemed to put it best. Before the first game here, he said he hoped we all understood the reasons we were on the team.
"He talked specifically to some players and then he said to me: 'Well, we can't expect Rocky to score like he used to. He's there to feed you the ball. He'll get you the ball when you need it. But don't expect a lot of scoring. I don't think he has the quickness he used to.'
"Everyone sort of laughed. It's about right. Lots of people won't believe I could possibly be slower than I used to be. Slower than that would be backwards."
Nearly every athlete with a mind is offended at the security here. Only Rocky would count the reasons why -- and find some whimsical way to endure the experience.
"Eighteen checkpoints," he said. "Eighteen checkpoints from our rooms to a training venue out in the boonies and back. The first is to get out of the building into the village. Then there's one between the village and this area and then one between here and outside.
"The fourth is getting onto the bus and the fifth is getting off the bus. The sixth is getting into the training venue, the seventh is getting into the locker room and the eighth is getting onto the floor.
"The ninth is the most unbelievable. When you want to take a shower, they have a bloke who sits in the locker room with you.He just sits there, maybe to see taht you don't take any plumbing fixtures. You repeat all this nonsense on the way back.
"I don't know what the Russians are scared of. First of all, to get into the bloody country you've got to be fantastic. I think they shipped all the dissidents out. One day we just grabbed this guard and frisked him. He didn't like it a bit. We've been thinking about hopping over that fence, to see what would happen. But we're a bit scared."
In 1969, Crosswhite replied to an open letter the Australian national coach sent to dozens of American coaches including Driesell, who tacked it onto the Davidson bulletin board. He married an Australian and became a citizen two years later. He earned a master's degree in recreation administration from North Carolina after the '76 Games and is happy and secure in that line of work in Melbourne.
"The country is getting to be so much like America," he said. "We're even getting unemployment."