I?m a big international sports fan. I love watching the Olympics, summer or winter, to the point of staying up late for a floor hockey game or curling match that feature players I?ve never heard of in my entire life.
I?ve been really hyped for this year?s Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, since the last Olympics finished up in 2014.
I fully expected Rio to be the best Olympics of my short adult lifetime. Why? Because the time in Rio is only two hours later than the time zone here in Iowa.
If you remember in China 2008 or London 2012, you remember waiting for NBC primetime to watch events that took place hours beforehand because all of the important events took place while we were sleeping or at work.
This year, Americans will finally be able to watch most of the major action live because of the similar time zones, but we might not be able to watch the best athletes the country has to offer because of an entirely different problem.
Every two years there is a worldwide freak-out about whoever is hosting the Olympic games. This year is no different.
According to The Independent, Rio?s mayor said this year?s Olympics could be a ?big failure? due to the financial crisis currently haunting the country.
Earlier this week, Rio police greeted tourists with a sign that said ?Welcome to Hell. Police and firefighters don?t get paid, whoever comes to Rio De Janeiro will not be safe.? Another sign along one of the main roads in the city read ?Welcome, we don?t have hospitals!?
The protests, as well as fear over the spread of the well-known Zika virus has led to the withdrawal of some of the more known athletes who were expected to take part in the games, which start on August 5.
Among the teams hurt by sit-outs will be the U.S. Olympic basketball team. Among those not playing due to fear, injury or rest are NBA stars Lebron James, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Chris Paul and Anthony Davis.
Out of the 12 players present for America?s 2012 gold medal victory, only two will represent the team this year; Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant.
Now, to be fair, NBA players in the U.S. have a habit of skipping out on big international tournaments. There have been notable absences on the U.S. Olympic and World Championship teams in every tournament since the inaugural ?Dream Team? won gold in 1992.
NBA stars like Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O?Neal and Tracy McGrady elected to skip out of the Sydney Olympics in 2000. The team went on to escape with a gold medal, winning their semi-final game against Lithuania by just two points and the gold medal game against France by 10.
In the 2002 FIBA World Championships, the U.S. lost to Argentina, by seven, in group play. They were then bounced by Yugoslavia, by three, in the quarterfinals and finished an unimpressive sixth place after losing to Spain, by six, in the fifth-place match.
Yugoslavia went on to win in 2002. Of course, we never were able to get our revenge over the country, which disbanded a few years later.
There was still little worry, however, that a team of U.S. stars could possibly miss out on gold at the 2004 Olympics in Greece. That is, until they were blasted, 92-73, against Puerto Rico in their very first game.
The team was then infamously defeated, 89-81, by Argentina in the semi-final matchup and had to settle for the bronze medal.
Although 2004 was the only year a team of NBA stars was unable to win gold in the Olympics, we haven?t exactly been dominant in other international tournaments.
Since 1992, the U.S. has only won three of the six FIBA World Championships (now called the World Cup, because I guess it has to be like soccer).
A talented squad in 2006 lost by six points to Greece in the World Championship semi-finals. I?ll buy you a steak dinner if you can name five Greek players from that team without looking it up.
Perhaps the lack of American superstars will make the 2016 Olympic basketball tournament more fun to watch for fans of close games. People like me, however, who love to watch the U.S. dominate, might be a little disappointed.
There?s nothing that restores my faith in American exceptionalism more than watching our best athletes throw half-court alley-oop dunks and three-pointers from the fifth row of the bleacher seats, but I?m not going to get my hopes up too much this season.
In 2008, four years after an embarrassing performance in Athens, a band of NBA superstars came together to create the ?Redeem Team? to take back the gold and restore America?s dominance on the court. If we?re not careful, we might be in need of another ?Redeem Team? in 2020.