Olympic Obsession: Day 14

OK, I get it, Dwight Howard is a big deal, but can't we let the Olympics finish -- and the NBA players over there focus on playing for their country?

It’ll all be over soon. What will we do with ourselves?

Oh, wait, the Lakers traded for Dwight Howard? Never mind. I know what we’ll be talking about.

Forget about Friday’s semifinals in men’s basketball. And Sunday’s final – featuring Lakers’ teammates Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol on opposite sides of the court – what does that matter?

National pride? Gold medal? The chance to lead your country to an upset of the newest “Dream Team?” Those things don’t matter, do they?

Apparently not. The big four-team trade apparently dominated conversation amongst the media types in London on Friday. Gasol and others worked to shrug off the media to prepare for their games, you know, so they didn’t get hurt representing their country.

Yes, the Lakers appear to have compiled their own Dream Team. But, ya know, Olympics. Big Deal. The NBA season could have waited a couple of more days and not put their players in the awkward position of having to worry about their day jobs while overseas.

Eh, life goes on, I guess. So congrats Laker Fan. You’ve got your man. I remember the last time the Lakers put together an all-star starting five, including Bryant, Shaq, Malone and Payton. How’d that one work out again?

OK, ENOUGH OF THAT: There was plenty of non-Dwight Howard news at the last Friday of these Games. So, let’s get to it:

The U.S. women’s 4x100 meter relay team decimated the competition to win the gold and set a new world record (erasing one of the three remaining East German track world records – the women’s 400 and discus throw still stand). They got star turns from their top sprinters – and also came under fire for their relationship with a banned coach.

(Oh, and quick aside, there’s still a world record on the books from the Mt. SAC Relays – the no longer contested 4x200 meter relay – that was set in 1994.)

Beset by injuries, the men’s 4x400 won the silver medal, fading down the stretch and losing to the Bahamas. One of their athletes ran the preliminaries with a broken leg, and another two athletes pulled out of the running due to injuries. It wasn’t all bad news for the team: Bryshon Nellum, who was shot in the legs while a freshman at USC, was chosen to carry the flag in the closing ceremonies.

Meanwhile, Oscar Pistorius ran the second fastest leg for South Africa in the 4x400. They finished last in the final, but Pistorius inspired millions just by showing up.

Jordan Burroughs of the U.S. won gold in wrestling, earning a $250,000 bonus from USA Wrestling. But that was just icing on the cake, as his post-match celebration included climbing to the upper reaches of the arena to find his mom, jumping on top of the medal stand 30 minutes before the ceremony was going to start or saying that he’d take take down the Queen if she stepped out on the mat.

In a stinging parallel to one of the most memorable moments of the Los Angeles Games, the United States’ Morgan Uceny was tripped on the final lap of the women’s 1,500 meters. In 1984, Mary Decker was felled in her race, after tangling with Zola Budd in the 3,000 meters, linking the two forever in infamy.

(Another quick aside, did anyone else notice that in the Opening Ceremonies’ River Thames video package that the posters from the Los Angeles and Atlanta Games were omitted?)

ALSO OF INTEREST: A Costa Rican triathlete reached out on Facebook to the Canadian who he tangled with during their race earlier in the week. Despite the crash, the Costa Rican had nothing but praise for his fellow athlete. It’s one of those great stories of respect between two athletes that tends to come out during the Olympics.

Meanwhile, while the appearance of female athletes from Saudi Arabia has been big news in most of the world … well, not so much back home. Only one paper has written about the two girls (an English language paper, of course), and they’ve been derided for doing so. A campaign on Twitter was calling the girls the “prostitutes of the Olympics” and caused the father of the judoka to call for the perpetrators to be punished.

And even though we're not officially done with these Games, Yahoo is already looking ahead. Friday they looked at what's next for the stars from these games, and who will be some of the big stars in Rio four years from now.

UPCOMING: Well, what’s not going on might be a better question. Either Mexico or Brazil will win its first soccer gold medal in the final, which will start at 7 a.m., on NBC Sports Network. Two U.S. women’s teams will play for gold as well. The women’s volleyball team, seeking its first gold since 1964, will face off with Brazil at 10:30 a.m. (But it will be shown on NBC in primetime.) The women’s basketball team (and its 40-game Olympic winning streak) will face off against France at 1 p.m. (And this one is scheduled be delayed until 4 p.m. on the West Coast – East Coast gets it live … nice.) There will be lots and lots of track in primetime, with the marquee event being the men’s 4x100 meter relay (that’s at 1 p.m. if you want to see it live). If you want to see live events, then you’ll have the medal games in men’s field hockey on MSNBC and the women’s handball following soccer on NBCSN.


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