Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
And now ... the United States of America...
30 years since the Dream Team. I swear this was already on my writing calendar. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
I'm not sure I actually saw this live, but I sure heard about it 30 years ago today. The announcer began:
“And now ... the United States of America.
a 6-11 forward, Christian Laettner
a 7-1 center, David Robinson
a 7-foot center, Patrick Ewing
a 6-9 forward, Larry Bird
a 6-7 forward, Scottie Pippen
a 6-6 guard, Michael Jordan
a 6-7 guard, Clyde Drexler
a 6-7 forward, Karl Malone
a 6-1 guard, John Stockton
a 6-7 forward, Chris Mullin
a 6-6 forward, Charles Barkley
a 6-9 guard, Ervin "Magic" Johnson…”
If you're American, or if you're at all into sports–or to narrow down my data set, if you're ME -- it's still a bit exciting to watch that introduction when the 1992 U.S. Olympic men's basketball team (the Dream Team) took to the court for the first time.
The longest applause was for Drexler (the game was played in Portland; Drexler played for the Portland Trail Blazers) and Johnson (less than a year removed from having retired from the NBA due to HIV).
They beat Cuba, 136 to 57, and went on to slaughter every other team in both the entry tournament and the Olympics themselves, winning all their official games by an average of just over 43 points.
The only game they lost was an initial scrimmage against a college team—one that was sort of rigged, because coach Chuck Daly wanted to engineer a loss to show his team of future Hall of Famers that they weren't 100 percent unbeatable.
But, that's what they were: both elite players and under normal circumstances, unbeatable.
There was some controversy. This was the first time that professionals played in the Olympic basketball tournament, and not everyone was thrilled about the idea.
There were disputes over sponsorship deals, and complaints from other athletes about NBA players staying in luxury apartments or $900 a night hotels instead of the Olympic village.
Also, was it fair to take American pros making millions of dollars a year, the absolute best at the game, and put them in competition against the Cubans, and Angola, and Lithuania?
Anyway, for all the controversy that ultimately subsided, it felt good to go up against the world in 1992—the former Soviets included—and have our country dominate, with a team of American legends playing an American game that had been invented in an American YMCA gymnasium 101 years earlier.
(The guy who invented it, James Naismith, was actually Canadian, according to an official YMCA history. Just wanted to give credit to our neighbors to the north.)
We all know what happened afterward: American patriotic fervor over the Dream Team's performance led to President George H.W. Bush's landslide reelection three months later over Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton.
Oh wait, that's not what happened. However, it is what the first President Bush's political advisors reportedly swore to him would happen, assuming that America would rally as it had after the 1980 men's hockey team victory over the Soviets.
(Come to think of it, the 1980 hockey win didn't result in a win for the incumbent either, so I have no idea what they were thinking. Also, to the extent Americans were euphoric over the 1980 hockey team, the huge difference was that the U.S. team were long-shot underdogs.)
However, if I remember, there was a very brief moment when most Americans were all together, rooting for the same team during summer 1992, even if it a few days later sort of drifted away.
Um, tell me another time that’s happened?
I’m told it happened during the Apollo moon program, but I wasn’t alive to see it. I remember the Gulf War and of course 9/11, but it would be great to think of another time that didn’t involve military conflict.
Anyway, I’ve had this date and this story filed away in my “to-write” calendar for a long time. But it seems like maybe it’s more relevant today. After the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade on Friday, and the reaction we’re already seeing, I’m concerned we’re in for a rocky time in this country.
It was only a few weeks ago when I asked if we could think of even a single thing that everyone reading this newsletter could agree on.
But it seems now like it would be harder to think of a single thing—literally a single thing—about which even 70 percent of Americans would say: Yes, I’m in favor of that, and I’m proud to stand alongside my fellow Americans to root for it.
If you can think of one, let us know in the comments. But be gentle everyone, as I don’t think it’s going to be possible to come up with one.
Apropos of nothing: The World Cup starts in 148 days. The first game for the U.S. mens’s team is the Monday before Thanksgiving. Team USA has almost no chance at winning, but hey: do you believe in miracles?
7 other things worth knowing today
The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, reversed Rowe vs. Wade and its progeny, which is (was/were) the 49-year-old decision that said women have (had) a constitutional right to abortion. Abortion is now illegal in seven U.S. states, and will almost certainly be shortly in six other states (they have 30 day triggers, or require certification from the state attorney general, etc.) (Axios)
Here are two stories about basically the same events afterward (a protest that turned ugly in Arizona), with nearly opposite "just the facts, ma'am" headlines and takes. I know these are "news" organizations with opposite ideologies, but still:
I don't usually share random comments from lawmakers, but this fairly gleeful one illustrates something that scares me big-time about where the country could wind up years from now. It's from Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, predicting that the demise of Roe will mean liberals will be less willing to live in red or purple states, which will cement his party's control there, this giving them even more of a structural advantage in the electoral college and the senate, make compromise even less likely, and pass laws and appoint judges to push the entire country farther in one direction. (KansasCity.com)
President Biden on Saturday signed the most significant gun control bill in nearly 30 years less than 24 hours after it passed through the Congress with unusual haste. The law, which was a compromise that neither side is thrilled with but was able to gain enough support, will incentivize states to pass red flag laws and expand background checks for 18- to 21-year-olds. (Fox News)
The Federal Circuit threw out a $1.9 billion patent infringement verdict against Cisco Systems Inc., finding the judge who levied the penalty should’ve recused himself after learning that his wife had stock in the company. (Bloomberg Law)
Gee your friends smell terrific: A new study says people are drawn to others who smell like them. (France24)
A bunch of MIT students got $100 of free bitcoin in 2014 – some got rich, some wasted it. “One of the worst things and one of the best things at MIT is this restaurant called Thelonious Monkfish,” said one student, now a software engineer. “I spent a lot of my crypto buying sushi.” (CNBC)
Bonus: In 1992, Lithuania, a nation of only 3 million people that had been part of the Soviet Union four years earlier, was pretty darn good at the Summer Olympics: They knew they had no chance of beating the Americans, but they took the bronze medal over the Unified Team, which was made up mostly of their former Soviet teammates. There's a documentary about it called The Other Dream Team.