The ESPN documentary on the 1972 U.S. Olympic basketball team, Silver Reunion is a study in ethics. All but one member of that team have not wavered from the team’s initial position to not accept anything less than the gold medal they earned.
The out of step team member is Tom McMillen [a true lefty], who went on to serve in Congress as a Democrat from Maryland and has long sought to get his teammates to compromise on the issue. His efforts began in the 1990’s. He proposed the following as recently as last year:
Ten years ago , I asked the IOC to award the 1972 U.S. team dual gold medals to rectify the errors of that game. … when I brought up the issue with my former teammates, all were willing to accept dual medals.
That last statement was a lie. Watch the documentary around the 10 minute mark to understand just how blatant a lie it remains. And while the documentary avoids dealing directly with the feelings of his teammates towards McMillen, the documentarian, Rory Karpf, does manages to convey a sense of the disdain towards him through the reactions to his idea, the wordless ones speaking the loudest.
Just how low will Tommy go?
Included in his most recent attempt at compromise on the medal issue, McMillen abandons his initial focus on “officials errors” and attempts to have the decision focus on … wait for it … orphaned kids [cue the presidential photo op]. More McMillen from his 2012 article:
I intend to propose a “grand compromise” … If the members of the Soviet team agree to the awarding of dual gold medals to our team and the IOC approves, the U.S. team will donate our medals, worth a great deal as sports memorabilia, to a Russian charity for orphaned children.
The attempt to conflate the medal issue with orphaned children is transparently dishonest. The documentary reinforced my opinion of McMillen’s efforts in this area and the idea that earning respect is a much different thing than getting votes. One requires adherence to principles, the other attempts to inconspicuously avoid them. That distinction is something McMillen may have to accept, in lieu of the respect of his 1972 U.S. Olympic teammates.
Watching that 1972 Olympic gold medal game with my father and brother was something I will never forget. It was my first ‘walk outside the house to check for flying frogs sports moment.’ [The next would come on July 4/5 1985, aka the Rick Camp wasted miracle game]. At some point I actually said out loud, ‘they can’t do this to the United States,’ in Spanish of course [you had to be there]. While they didn’t lose the game, the Cold War defeat in Germany stung even, or especially, in Miami.
A basketball note. The clutchest free throws in basketball history belong to Doug Collins at the 1972 Olympics. I will fight anyone who attempts to argue otherwise, especially those physically impaired.
To the following 11 members of the true 1972 Olympic Gold medal basketball team, much respect:
- Mike Bantom
- Jim Brewer
- Tommy Burleson
- Doug Collins
- Kenneth Davis
- James Forbes
- Tom Henderson
- Dwight Jones
- Robert Jones
- Kevin Joyce
- Ed Ratleff