Thursday, August 18, 2016

5 Observations from the Rio Games

Dirty water, robbery and doping scandals aside, these Olympic games in Rio have been a thrill to watch. And, with such a small time difference between Rio and the states, we have been able to actually enjoy them at a reasonable hour, sometimes even live!

With that said, here are five observations from the games:

#1: The Stars Help A lot

With golf, tennis and basketball stars backing out of Rio, it was easy to feel a letdown coming. But, with two of the greatest of all time – Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt – along with superstars Simone Biles, Katie Ledecky and Kerri Walsh Jennings, these games have been electric. 

The Olympics is supposed to be the stage for the greatest athletes in the world, and it most certainly has been that this year, especially for America! Approaching 100+ medals, USA has nearly lapped the country with the 2nd most current medals in China. 

Led by the greatest of all time, Michael Phelps, exiting the Olympics stage with insurmountable hardware and class, and the emergence of superstars Katie Ledecky and Simone Biles breaking records at just 19 years old, the stars have aligned for America, with the future looking as bright as the past. 

#2: International Basketball is More than Refreshing – It's the Right Way to Play

I thought the USA men's basketball team would steamroll the competition. And, when they didn't, I was reminded why the NBA has regressed, and the international game is poetry in motion.

Clich├ęs aside, watching these international teams play has been a breath of fresh air. The way they play the game, from their passing to their spacing, is how it should be played. The NBA has become way too much isolation one-on-one, and I believe that's a big reason for the disparity you see today. I'll take brilliant execution and team ball any day over superstars chucking it up. 

The Spurs are the exception here, but most NBA teams could learn a thing or two from the international strategy. Certainly, Team USA has by beating two teams, with much less talent, by just one possession. 

#3: The Less Mainstream Sports are the Best

When it comes to the Olympics, I've always been most fascinated and interested by the less popular American sports. Certainly, swimming and gymnastics come to the forefront at the Olympics, and our American stars have made those events must-see at the Olympics.

But, beyond that, I love watching table tennis, badminton and handball. And, believe it or not, the top stars in each sport have made in the millions for their careers. These sports are very popular in some rich countries, and I would love to see them televised more in the states. 

#4: Golf Needs to be a Team Event

After a 112-year absence, it was nice to see golf return to the Olympics. But, the format ruined it for me. Besides the fact that four of the top five golfers in the world – Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy – backed out, the event would've been way better had it been in a Ryder Cup/team format.

Sure, it was fun that it came down to the 72nd hole between Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, two of the world's best. But, it would have been way more fun had it been a battle of the countries. Every player, and every shot, would carry so much more weight, and the camaraderie between countries and fan reaction would create much more excitement and buzz.

Honestly, with the Olympics being more than two weeks long, you could easily do both. Make it happen!

#5: Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps. Enough said. If he is, indeed, calling it a career, he went out in remarkable fashion, notching five more golds and one silver, to reach 28 total medals, 23 of which were gold.

But, this Olympics was more than his last hurrah; it was cementing his legacy and going out the right way. By Phelps standards, and his own standards, London 2012 was a disappointment. After going 8 for 8 golds in 2008, he had two silvers to his name in 2012. And, he told Bob Costas, "I basically did that off of pure talent, very, very minimal work. The last like year, leading up to London, I worked pretty hard. But, the other three years, I just joked around."

On top of that, as he acknowledged in the same interview, he went to very dark places, battled depression and even questioned his life. In doing so, his weight skyrocketed from 187 to 230. It wasn't until a DUI and subsequent rehab that he decided to return to the sport. 

And, so, the 2016 Rio Olympics was more than just the best ever giving us one last show for the record books; it was Phelps restoring his life, making an incredible comeback and going out the right way.

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