Let's get it out of the way: Spain's 13-point loss to France yesterday in front of the home crowd in Barcelona is in the pantheon of all-time sports meltdowns. This is Appalachian State over Michigan, Germany hanging 7 on Brazil, Buster Douglas over Iron Mike Tyson. This one's gonna sting for quite a while for the host nation.
If there's one place that our Spanish friends would like to look for some kind of solace or explanation for what happened, I might suggest one of the many movies or books about Villanova's upset of Georgetown in the Finals of the 1985 NCAA Tournament. There are a lot of parallels between the Spaniards' current situation and that of John Thompson's stunned Hoyas: they were playing a team that knew them too well, all of the expectations made them too tight, their dominant front court was inexplicably shut down by inferior competition, and they ran into a team with nothing to lose that played out of their minds. More than anything else for the Spaniards, I hope reading about or watching that game will reinforce the utter frivolity of single-elimination basketball tournaments. Sure, that's what makes March Madness so exciting, but basketball shouldn't be decided this way. If I could go back in time and change the format of the FIBA World Cup and NCAA tournament, I would. I'd Terminator this thing and kill John Conner and make sure that Mario Chalmers was never born either.
Like everybody, I really wanted to see the US-Spain Finals. It's tough to imagine how hard it is for the players and the people of Spain right now. I wish there was an airport we could show up to and support Marc Gasol. And poor Ricky Rubio. I'm really worried what his bad juju is going to do to Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett. Those Canucks need to go get some garlic or dream catchers or something -- this dude Rubio has got the hex. On the other hand, we should keep in mind that, like Georgetown, the Spaniards have their hardware. They've also gotten Marc Gasol into amazing shape and all of those guys are out of there healthy. Plus, maybe Marc is really angry and the only thing that will sate him is an NBA championship.....aaaand there. I've made it palatable for myself.
Back in the fall of 2003, I studied abroad in Barcelona. One night, I convinced a group of friends that we should forgo a few nights at the discos and throw down for some expensive tickets to see Van Morrison play the Palau Sant Jordi. At the very same venue where last night's abominable defeat to the French went down, we watched Van Morrison strut out on stage, play the saxophone for 45 minutes, warble through "Brown-Eyed Girl," and bounce. It was surreal. He didn't say a word. The sold-out arena got downright hostile as it became clear that this was all the show we were going to get. Let's just say that while I wouldn't have started a riot, I'm not so sure that 20-year-old me would have sat one out. But then we walked out of the arena and back into the magical fairyland that is Barcelona: where all the food is delicious, and bottles of Rioja only cost €2, and the best clubs don't even open til 3am, and damn near every building you walk by could've been designed by Gaudí. Everybody there takes 2-hour naps every day! In the middle of the workday! So they'll be fine.
But damn that would've been a hell of a game.