Dream teams leave no room for dreams

Tyler Mitzner, Sports Editor

Less than half a minute left in the game, gold medal on the line.  The Serbian team sinks two free throws. Lowry takes the ball from the end line, dribbles past half court, and stands there. The clock runs out and Team USA beats Serbia 96-66. How boring.

That’s an issue when we let our professional athletes compete in the team sports at the Olympics; frankly, they’re not exciting to watch. For these sports, the United States should return to the practice of putting amateur athletes on the Olympic roster. This decision will help those athletes as they prepare for playing at a professional level, and, more importantly, it will make a better sports experience for the sports fans back here in the States. This will lead to more exciting Olympic matches as well as healthier players for our professional teams here at home.  

These past 2016 Olympics were fortunate, as no major star was seriously hurt. However, in the past there have been incidents in which an athlete was forced to sit the remainder of their professional season due to an injury suffered during the Olympics. John Tavares, a New York Islanders star and captain, suffered a debilitating knee injury during the 2014 Olympics and his season was cut short. Such an injury can derail playoff hopes and end championship dreams for the team and for the fans. Now, if Jimmy Butler tore his ACL while playing in a Bulls uniform, we’d be upset. If he does the same thing playing in a Team USA jersey we’d be furious. Bulls fans would be demanding why they would let their best player risk himself in games that don’t matter when it comes the Bulls’ goal of winning a title.

When a player gets injured playing their sport for their team, there’s no huge issue since injuries are bound to happen. If they get injured doing anything outside their team and sport, it’s irresponsible because they forsake the commitment they made to that team. Remember the backlash Terrell Suggs, linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens,  received for rupturing his achilles tendon playing a pickup game of basketball? In the end, the fans feel cheated because our team will now suffer without our star. Therefore, let the college kids play so that our teams stay nice and healthy.

Let’s look at the fact that neither final basketball game was exciting. Yeah, sure, Team USA won, but, once again, it was boring. The purpose of the Olympics is not to demonstrate one’s athletic domination, including that of the United States. It’s meant to show the cooperation of nations through competition. It’s ironic as those two are antonyms. However, in that process, competition should not be a nearly 40-point victory in basketball, but it does mean sometimes losing. Yes, if we place college kids on a basketball court, or on an ice rink, there is a possibility that they may lose. But who cares? Whether or not we win the gold in basketball will not change the fact that the United States is an affluent and respected country. If we take home the silver, or heaven forbid the bronze, World War Three will not break out, we will not lose our great television and we will not lose global respect. So, if it is just a game, why not make it exciting? Why not have it go to the buzzer? Why not have amateurs play?

Have we also forgotten that the Olympics is where dreams come true. The greatest moments are watching an athlete’s fulfill their fantasy as they win the gold. Some athletes have to work another job because their sport doesn’t pay enough to live on. They don’t get recognition for achievements outside the Olympics. Someone like Kevin Durant makes upwards of $20 million a year and everyone in the world knows him. He’s won two gold medal thus far. In four more years he’ll win a third, and he won’t be nearly as excited as when he won his first. He won’t be nearly as happy winning a gold as opposed to an NBA championship either. The dream aspect withers away. Herb Brooks, the late, great coach of the immortal 1980 US men’s Olympic hockey team, said it himself: “When we have dream teams, we seldom ever get to dream.” To return to that moment of watching people jump for joy and storming the court or rink in excitement, we can’t have professionals. Amateurs will only be in this situation once, twice if they’re lucky. The kids will have that once chance, and they’ll know it. Watching them play with a passion to fulfill their dream, and watching them celebrate that dream, will make for greater moments than 30-point blowouts.

Although this will be unlikely to sway the officials at the United States Olympic Committee will stick to the status quo, this does reveal a better option for selecting athletes for team sport rosters. Even if America won’t win every time, it’s okay. Just remember, dreams are better than dream teams.