West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker

... on the Olympics

Are the Olympics the same for you?

Let me give you a brief history of the modern-day Olympics.

While I was growing up, the Olympics were for the amateurs of the world. It gave them a forum to show-off their athletic prowess. And they did so with honor and many laurels.

But then the unthinkable happened. Our USA Olympic basketball team lost to Russia in a very questionable and highly-disputed call at the end of the final game. The USSR won the gold medal while the USA team walked away with the silver medal in Olympic basketball. America was stunned...and the rumblings began.

The biggest complaint was the fact that the Russians, in a round about way, had professionals competing in the Games. Here's how they did it.

The best athletes in the USSR would join the armed services, but they had an unusual "military occupation status." Their job was to train for the Olympics. In essence, they were being paid to workout -- they were pros! Many Americans were up in arms about this fact, especially after the basketball fiasco. So, the powers to be changed the rules and now professional athletes compete in the Olympics. We'll show them.

Just about everybody in the United States was pleased. I was not one of them. In the past, I took pride in watching our amateur Olympians defeat their professional Russia counterparts. No one will ever forgot the 1980 USA Olympic Hockey Team. Our amateurs beat their pros in a game where Russia dominates. What a victory!

To me, the Olympic victories with our professionals are now empty ones. Consider the first basketball "Dream Team." Weren't those victories exciting ones: USA 127 Germany 56 or USA 134 Holland 13. It takes your breath away.

Oh, they were truly in the Olympic spirit as well, lodging in extravagant hotel suites and, for the most part, too special to mingle with the other American Olympians.

To be honest, a number of my friends were tempted to secretly cheer for the "underdog nations" on the Olympic courts. Everyone loves an underdog.

The bottom line is that we stole dreams and memories from all our amateur Olympic hopefuls. The Olympics was their athletic realm; a place were they could shine in the world's eyes. No more.

One final note of irony. The 2004 "Olympic Dream Team" struggled to win a bronze medal on the courts in Athens. If my memory correctly serves me, I believe the lowest medal our past amateur Olympic roundballers received was a silver medal. Hmmm!

"This I know -if all men should take their trouble to market to barter with their neighbors, not one when he had seen the troubles of other men but would be glad to carry his own home again. "
-- Herodotus


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Updated March 25, 1999