When I think of The Dream Team, I don't really think of their actual games. I can't honestly recall any of the game footage in my brain. I don't remember any scores or stats or who did what in which game.
I do remember the experiences around The Dream Team and, I suppose, that's how we remember most great teams. How they made us feel and how they affected us.
I was a camper at Timber Lake West in the hills overlooking Roscoe, NY (Trout Town USA!). Color War had just broken out and the camp had been broken up into two opposing forces. One side was supposed to wear white and the other red.
The biggest non-camper event of Color War was the counselor basketball game. I don't know if it was always the biggest game or was this year because of the hype surrounding the impending Dream Team games. All I remember is the counselors going from bunk to bunk before the game asking campers if they owned a Dream Team jersey and if they could borrow it.
Since owning a Dream Team jersey was required by law that summer, this was not a problem. They actually found so many that each counselor was able to wear a different player jersey and avoid any shared-number issues.
I was on the white team and there was something epic about rooting for an entire team of goofy white camp counselors wearing Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Christian Laettner jerseys taking on the generic red team, inadvertently playing the Russian villains of this classic campground duel.
Our side won the game in thrilling fashion and the outcome of the game was talked about for days. At least until The Dream Team started playing in the Olympics. At that point, there was nothing else we discussed.
An old TV in one of the converted barns that acted as a kind of game room became ground zero for all Dream Team games. When we were supposed to be at the go-kart track, we were sitting in this smelly barn watching the Dream Team obliterate Angola. Instead of spending our free time walking in the woods or awkwardly flirting with the girls in bunk 7, we were crammed together as the U.S. "struggled" with Croatia.
One time, for whatever reason, I was unable to watch one of the games and was forced to actually do camp things. At some point, a rumor started spreading that the Dream Team had lost. It was shocking. If you're too young to have experienced the hype around the Dream Team, I cannot tell you how shocking that news was. I remember running the barn to confirm my fears...only to find out they had won and won easily. Thank God.
These days, calling any collection of pro basketball players a "Dream Team" is silly. Some folks secretly root for them to lose, other do it openly. It was ridiculously unfair to have put that team together in 1992 to take on amateurs and untested pros from Croatia, Brazil and Peurto Rico, and yet, it was unlike any sports experience I can remember from my youth.
I remember the world being a lot less cynical back then. And that's probably because I was 13 and wasn't cynical myself yet. I wouldn't root for The Dream Team today. I'd complain about it. So I'm glad it happened when they did. Cause it was awesome. And not because of the games they won.
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