BRONZE IS BEAUTIFUL: In the wake of the U.S. men's basketball team's loss Sunday night, maybe Americans are going to have to settle for less. Maybe we'll only have 30 flavors. Maybe our cell phones will not be able to halt the space-time continuum. Maybe we're going to win some bronze medals.

Deal with it.

Michael Phelps dealt with it just fine. His dream of seven golds ended with the final of the 200-meter freestyle but he still wanted to have his photo taken with the two older, wiser swimmers who relegated him to third, grinning like the 19-year-old kid he is.

Jimmy Pedro certainly wasn't complaining about the second bronze of his career, in judo's under-161 pound weight class. "When I get off that plane in Boston on the 25th of August, the laurel wreath will be on my head, no doubt," he said afterward. [Of course, he might just be a Red Sox fan, in which case third place is dandy.]

Now, fourth is another matter. Fourth in the Olympics stinks, we don't care what kind of laurel wreath you put on it. Klete Keller (200 freestyle), Lenny Krayzelburg (100 backstroke) and Amanda Beard (100 breaststroke) were fourth. Trap shooter Collyn Loper was fourth, but she's 17 and still naive. "I'm going to go out and celebrate tonight," Loper said. "I don't have anything to be mad about."

Kim Severson is fourth in individual eventing after the dressage phase. The United States is fourth in team eventing. To them, bronze is warm, inviting. Bronze is an autumn color. They are all autumns, wanting to wear bronze.

Not everyone is an autumn, of course. The men's gymnastics team is all winter with its silver medals. And swimmers Natalie Coughlin and Aaron Peirsol are gold. That's a color for all seasons.

BUST OF THE DAY: Army shooter Jason Parker, a medal contender in air rifle, had trigger trouble and finished eighth. Parker, though, refused to make excuses. "I got it fixed," Parker said of the rifle. "No excuses. . . . It takes just the right person, the right day. I just didn't do it."

SURPRISE OF THE DAY: The U.S. women's softball team was shut out for seven innings by Japan before a three-hit, three-run eighth inning gave the Americans their third straight victory.


"It's Yankee Stadium meets Space Mountain."

-- Bethesda's Joe Jacobi, describing the newly built whitewater canoe/kayak venue

MALTA, MY MALTA: Forty-four seconds. That's how long the Olympic dream lasted for our favorite judoka, Marcon Bezzina. (Maybe she needed a nickname. "The Maltese Maelstrom"?) Bezzina lasted 44 seconds against North Korea's Kye Sun Hui, but it probably seemed longer. Kye got a point for something called an IPP, and another point for something called YUK. A YUK -- that's gotta hurt.

Ah, of course: IPP is ippon, and YUK is yuko. Brilliant strategy by Kye, who went on to win the silver, while Malta, the country we have adopted for the Games, remains medal-less.

Do not despair; our flag-bearer, William Chetcuti, competes in double trap today. Chetcuti's been hunting clay trap for years on our small island nation; several are stuffed and mounted in his den. But we know there's room for a medal on that wall, too.

SIGN OF THE ACROPOLIS: Sailor Niklas Holm told a Danish television station, "I feel no guilt" after hitting and killing a British pedestrian while speeding down an Athens street. He was on his way to a Danish team handball game.

-- Tracee Hamilton