Benjamin Markovits in Literary Hub:
Is the US going to win another gold at men’s basketball? And what does it say about me that I care as much as I do? Not just that they win, but that they win big. For the first few months after leaving college, I traveled up and down Germany looking for a basketball job—and got my butt kicked by various European ballplayers (including a 17-year-old Dirk Nowitzki). But at least I was an American; that meant something. And in spite of all the first-hand evidence, I have kept this weird cultural attachment to the idea that this is something we do better.
Ok, so 12 years ago we lost in Athens. Manu Ginobili, whose Argentina side won the gold, said, “The rest of the world is getting better. The US is getting bored.” But there were other problems: young guys on the team, who were still learning the international game (Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James), an absence of jump shooters. But after that, USA Basketball got its act together and started putting together teams, complementary players with a history of playing together. And a new winning streak started.