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Coach K Comments On Olympics, Controversy

Coach K said something about the Olympics which to us is pretty straightforward, but which we think Harvey Araton of the New York Times pretty thoroughly misunderstood: Sometimes, through a performance you show more than by what you say. This is a tremendous opportunity to show camaraderie as teammates, serve as the ultimate example of people working together.

What Araton heard: If the Krzyzewski-coached men’s basketball soldiers of N.B.A. fortune can check their superpowered egos and personal agendas at the airport while trying to retake the gold next summer, if Kobe and LeBron can share the rock, can’t the Chinese improve their record on human rights? Can’t we all get along?

What we think Krzyzewski, someone who is as ferociously anti-communist as anyone in sports today actually meant: look, realistically, we can't do anything about the Communist party cracking heads and forcing people back in line when they have the nerve to disagree or protest. But what we can do as competitors from the free world is to beat the everloving crap out of them on international television in front of billions of viewers. Embarrassing them won't change political reality, but teamwork and discipline in this environment makes a lot of inherent points about who we are and what we believe in.

There are a couple of precedents for this: first of all, Jesse Owens, who just humiliated Adolf Hitler (we originally had Rupp here, which has to be our best typo of the year) when he tried to use the Olympics for his own ends. And secondly, the Hungarian water polo team, which pretty literally beat the everloving crap out of the Soviet team following the Soviet invasion of their country.
It's an interesting alternative to the recent street brawling which followed the Olympic torch through Western Europe and San Francisco, one which promotes discipline and teamwork as a way to formulate an answer to repression.

There is one other precedent worth mentioning, although it didn't quite work out the way it was hoped: in 1984, Bob Knight put together an Olympic team which was the last collegiate-based gold medal winning team. He had Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing (back when Ewing was terrifying), Chris Mullin, among others, and had a team which was a wrecking machine designed to destroy the Soviet team.

Unfortunately, the Soviets didn't show up, opting to boycott instead, returning the favor after the U.S. boycotted Moscow in 1980 after the invasion of Afghanistan.