Aug 15, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; USA guard Derrick Rose talks with the media during national team practice at Quest MultiSport Complex. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Why The FIBA World Cup Interests Me

I’ll start this piece by being honest: I really had no interest in the FIBA World Cup as little as one month ago.

Basketball and I have a weird relationship.  See, I love college hoops.  Between watching the University of Kentucky Wildcats, the Louisville Cardinals, and of course the always entertaining NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, I derive countless hours of entertainment thanks to college hoops.

Clearly, I am also a huge Boston Celtics fan, too, so I catch a majority of Celtics’ broadcasts, and I try to watch as much of the first round of the NBA Playoffs as I can.

Still, my interest in the NBA Playoffs wanes once the field has been reduced from 16 to 8 teams (unless the Celtics are still playing, of course), and I often don’t bother watching the NBA Finals.  I also make it a point to avoid the All-Star game, and honestly, I can’t tell you the last time I watched an Olympic basketball game.

While we’re at it, I have never watched a FIBA World Championship game, either – ever.  And the NBA summer leagues are equally ignored by me.

Holy crap – I have no business writing about professional basketball!

Seriously, I’m not a complete hoops junkie.  Certainly I watch it more than soccer or baseball, but it’s not like I live and breathe the sport.  Sorry – I have kids, and we’re into other stuff, too.  It’s not like I had the FIBA World Cup circled on my calendar months in advance in anticipation of some international basketball.

And then I started covering the event, and watched Team USA’s game against Finland last night.  Now, I find myself wondering why more of us Americans don’t follow this event a little more rabidly.

First of all, seeing thousands of Finlanders pack an arena to watch a game in which their team had no chance of winning was inspiring.  Seriously: there’s not an alternate universe in existence that would have had Team Finland beating Team USA.  Yet, there they were, thousands of fans screaming at every field goal Finland scored in the first quarter, and cheering wildly at made baskets in the third quarter even though Finland was in a 40-point hole.

Contrast that to an NBA game, where fans flock to the exits during blowouts.  Hell, Miami Heat fans LEFT THE ARENA in Game Six of the 2013 NBA Finals because the Heat were down by just four points!

Add to it the fact that there are plenty of international players who have zero desire to play in the NBA, and who consider playing for their national team the highlight of their careers, and we have a fascinating contrast between the rest of the world and us: namely, we Americans are more emotionally invested in teams that are privately owned than we are in the team that represents our entire country.

I’m not hopping on a soapbox here, since I’m guilty of it too – but isn’t it interesting, how much we live and die by the successes of an NBA, NFL, MLB or NHL team that is really nothing more than a business?   NBA fans openly question whether our athletes should play for Team USA, since injuries suffered during international play could cause them to miss time in the NBA – yet everywhere else in the world, playing for your country is an honor worth sacrificing your body over.

The bottom line is that I find myself suddenly intrigued by why we seemingly could care less about watching a team represent our country, but spend tons of money and energy supporting a business that only sees us as giant dollar signs.  I’m sure this is just a passing fascination that I have, and that I will revert back to my corporate-sponsoring self once the NBA preseason begins, but for now it’s fun to watch athletes play for something as simple as the the love of their country.

Just to prove how little America seems to care about the FIBA World Cup: I could not find any recent photographs in our USA Today database!  

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