Team USA Training Camp set to begin

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It’s getting close to being that time again. Team USA basketball has it’s training camp roster set already. The 2010 FIBA World Championships will be here soon.

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Pressing Social Issues in Sport Part 2 of 3

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Paul M. Banks has an exclusive interview with Dave Zirin discussing the past, present and future social issues at the heart of sports

Sportswriter Dave Zirin is the author of four books and a column, “Edge of Sports,” appearing on Sports Illustrated’s website. He is the host of XM satellite’s weekly show, Edge of Sports Radio.

There’s been a lot of buzz here in Chicago regarding the second city’s bid to host the 2016 Olympics. I was a part of that- writing for the 2016 Olympic Channel. I must admit much of my work ended up as little more than cheerleading of the city and the bid, but now it’s time to hear the other side: the case against the bid. Zirin told me about Olympic drawbacks during our exclusive interview.

“The Olympic slogan is ‘faster, stronger, higher,’ but it really should be ‘something wicked this way comes’ because when the Olympics come to a city, whether it’s Beijing, Atlanta, Athens, Greece there are certain things that follow, certain as night follows day: promo_ali

One is the absolute bankrupting of municipalities, horrible debt is accrued. The second is a serious attack on public housing to make way for facilities. And the third is a national security crackdown that makes life for poor residents in a given community very hard.

Now you think about those three components:  graft, corruption and debt, gentrification, and police misconduct than you think about a city like Chicago. If you have a governor that hasn’t been indicted or imprisoned I’m not sure what their name is. {Before Pat Quinn, we are indeed 4 out of our last 5 in our governors ending up criminals}     With all due respect, graft is just a fact there.

Secondly, the police torture cases that have taken place- it’s the reason {former Governor} Ryan commuted the death row, it’s because all of the cases of torture that emerged from Jon Burge, the infamous police officer, and it’s also ground zero for gentrification when you think about the Taylor projects or Cabrini Green that have been torn down and condoized. So you have all that in Chicago already, so people have to ask themselves, when they think do we want the Olympics? So if we all agree that graft, debt, police misconduct and gentrification are problems anyway, do we really want to take all those components and then put them on steroids?”

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That’s something all Chicago 2016 proponents should consider because as F. Scott Fitzgerald once famously said: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” I’ll try. We then moved on to asking him about a topic that I recently discussed with Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, the NBA’s one-and-done rule, and the chance to amend it.

“I think it’s insane that someone can be 18 and carry a gun in Iraq, yet not get a paycheck in the NBA. That said I think the whole one-and-done mentality that forces people like Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant, who are obviously NBA ready, to spend this joke year in college makes a mockery of college institutions. I would like to see a rule where, you can declare after high school and go directly to the NBA, or if you go to college, it’s a three year commitment to stay in college to your junior year. That way the school gets the benefit of having you there, you get the almost enforced benefit, because it’s really hard to stay somewhere for three years and coast, even in the shady environment that does exist.  So it compels people to try and get an education.

There are some other things I’d like to see as well. I’d like to see something that takes college sports out of the gutter, because that’s where it is right now, and it’s created an entirely illegal economy where athletes are paid or women on campus are presented to them as objects, it’s profoundly unhealthy,” he said.

The University of Colorado’s “prostitution slush fund” comes to mind. Zirin, like myself, is in favor of some sort of financial stipend for the athletes, who generate large sums of money for their schools. Next we moved on to Mike Kryzewski and Jerry Colangelo politicizing Team USA basketball.

“Jerry Colangelo by all accounts is a brilliant sports executive,
and anybody who doesn’t think so look at what Robert Sarver has done to the Phoenix Suns, you’ll see how impressive Colangelo is. Mike Kryzewski, even a Maryland guy like me has to admit, Mt. Rushmore basketball coach, one of the five best in NCAA history. That being said, their actions with regards to the ’06 team were disgusting. As a way to sort of psyche up their players, many of whom were very young, they brought in vets who were missing limbs and said to the players, ‘this is why you’re playing basketball.’ And I have nothing but respect for what the vets have been through and if it’s a thrill for them to meet these players then great, but actually exploiting what I thought was an illegal and immoral war to say ‘this is why you need to win a gold medal,’ to me is not about veterans and sacrifice and service, it’s about a political agenda, and they did it with a lot of publicity and fanfare,” Zirin said before continuing: coachkrzyekski1

And I’ve talked to Etan Thomas about it. Thomas is someone who actually goes to Walter Reed, unlike Coangelo or Kryzewski, and interacts with people who’ve been hurt and speaks to the troops, so I give Etan all the credit in the world on this. And he thought it was disgusting and said so on the record. Colangelo much more than Kryzewski is someone who has a demonstrated record of using sports to advance his political agenda. Theme nights, the presidential prayer team, he put a lot of money, millions of dollars behind calling for people at different points, to drop to their knees and pray for George and Laura Bush. This was on radio stations across the country. And think about the key word ‘team,’ selling politics as sports.”

When I attended the National Association of Basketball Coaches Dinner honoring Colangelo with the inaugural “Court of Honor” award in Chicago, they did actually hold prayer time for all party guests. Zirin spoke more about Coach K.

“Mike Kryzewski got into a lot of hot water for holding a big fundraiser, for I believe it was Elizabeth Dole in his on-campus residence at Duke University which is against the policies of the college. He also recently, when Barack Obama did his bracket said on ESPN, ‘Obama should worry about the economy and not the NCAA tournament.’ Do you think he would have said that if McCain was in the White House? It’s an honor that John McCain has us losing in the Sweet 16 he would have said. So that’s who Coach K is.   So there’s enough of a political track record with Colangelo and Coach K to look very skeptical at them bringing the troops in and telling the players, this is why you need to win the gold.”