Twelve years ago, when the NBA reluctantly accepted an invitation for its players to compete in the Olympics, the U.S. team -- the Dream Team -- opened play in Barcelona against Angola. Asked before that game what he knew about his first opponent, Charles Barkley said, "I don't know much about Angola, but I know they're in trouble."
One player from that game, Angelo Victoriano, is still playing. He's 36 now, and told reporters through teammate Joaquim Gomes (who played college basketball at Valparaiso) that old nemesis Barkley is now a friend. "Every time we go to the States," he said in French, "we see and meet with Charles Barkley, and he is very supportive. He tries to help with our national team."
Asked what the big difference is between the '92 and '04 U.S. teams, Victoriano said: "In '92, we had never had contact with those players. They're the best and we had to respect them. Now, we have players who've played in the European championships. We go to the States now and we have contact with [NBA players]. Everybody is familiar with the game and the style of the game. . . . Most of all, the players on the '92 team were much better. It was the only true Dream Team the U.S. ever had."
-- Michael Wilbon
Is Metro Hiring?
Give the Greeks this: They control their venues.
At Helliniko Indoor Arena, where the preliminary basketball games were contested, the lead press-room attendant nearly yanked a Serbian journalist's credential for . . . eating potato chips in a working area.
The encounter grew ugly, with the Serbian journalist mouthing curse words in his native tongue under his breath, only to learn that the press attendant understood what he was saying.
"You don't curse in my country! Go back to your own country and curse! Get out of here before I take your credential!"
The man, sufficiently embarrassed, left.
I would have given the press attendant the benefit of the doubt, until he tried the same machismo with Jim O'Connell, the respected Associated Press basketball writer who has covered everything from Chaminade's upset of Virginia to Christian Laettner's shot that beat Kentucky.
O'Connell, inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame two years ago, was accosted for having the temerity to open an ice cream bar in the venue.
Said the hot-headed attendant, "You don't know nothing about covering games in other buildings."
-- Mike Wise
Finally, this past weekend, some signs that there are children in Greece. The busy city streets have been strangely bereft of youngsters during the day. Athens's crazy drivers and searing heat might be partially to blame, but in a city that loves wheeled conveyances of all descriptions, strollers are curiously absent.
Over the weekend, however, there were more children on the streets. A friend who is staying in the suburbs tells me the parks and beaches are full of children as well.
I am sure the Greeks are still producing children because I pass a maternity hospital every morning on my way to the bus and never fail to see a new mother heading home with a baby in tow. But other than those glimpses, I don't believe I've seen an infant in two weeks.
Of course, this is a country that made a baby during the Opening Ceremonies.
Though come to think of it, what ever happened to that baby?
-- Tracee Hamilton