Sunday, September 03, 2006

Giving Props Where Props Are Due

There's something we here at 63 Years and Counting love about Greeks when it comes to sports. As a whole they are able to get behind anyone that dons the blue and white, whether it's European Cup winning soccer team, a previously unknown tennis player, or an under appreciated basketball team.

The staff over at the the 63 Years world offices are half Greek you see, so we have an inside track on that kind of thing.

What we love most is the ability of any Greek to wax philosophic on any sport, as long as Greece is in it. These guys would cheer for a professional hot dog eater, as long as his name was Papadopoulous.

Take for example the FIBA basketball championships. Hosted in Japan this year, and not even available on regular cable in this neck of the woods, Greece was an unexpected challenger. Well, unexpected by anyone who considers the Euro Leagues to be somewhat on par with say, NFL Europe in terms of skill.

That couldn't be further from the truth. The world (except of course, Canada) is improving their b-ball skillz (word up) with every passing year. The days of American Dream teams are long gone, with any number of foreign countries able to boast rosters chock full of NBA goodness.

Which brings us back to Greece, winners of the European basketball championship (and as any Greek worth their ouzo will tell you, the first country to be European champions of both soccer and basketball simultaneously) despite not having a single NBA player on its roster (well, technically Vassilis Spanoulis starts with the Rockets this season, and Antonis Fotsis put in a season with Memphis a few years back, but you get the point). They were the dark horse picks by basketball types who knew what was going on.

So their impressive run to the finals was not entirely unexpected, but it definitely converted a few Greeks to the basketball cause. It was a little funny actually, watching the games with gentlemen who couldn't tell you for the life of them what a shot clock was, or what constitutes a personal foul (not that we have any clue either).

But that didn't matter, these guys wore "HELLAS" on their shirts, and that was good enough for them. They beat the US convincingly in the semi-finals, and seemed a sure lock to beat Spain, who, like Greece, owned a spotless record but would be without top player Pau(l?) Gasol.

It didn't actually matter. Greece forgot to show up. They were manhandled by the Spaniards, not even scoring fifty points, and looking out of it from the get go.

But there was silver lining for Toronto fans. Gold lining, come to think of it. Two of Spain's starters are on the payroll of Toronto's very own Raptors. Jose Calderon and Jorge Garbajosa picked up Gasol's slack, and carried the team to victory.

We'd like to wipe some egg off our face right now. Not too long ago, we were a little critical of GM Bryan Colangelo's off-season moves, criticising him for building a team that looked more ready to compete for the Euro League title than any NBA championship, what with his signing of five international players. But our bad, those European fellows got game, if you catch our drift.

With Calderon, Garbajosa, first overall pick Andrea Bargnani, Rasho Nesterovic, Uros Slokar, and long time Tel Aviv player Anthony Parker (and who can blame him for getting out of Isreal?) the Raps will be bringing a distinctly different style of play to the table.

We only hope it's the good kind of distinct.


P.S The Blue Jays are dead to us now. The only way to salvage this season would be to finish ahead of Boston, which, while a distinct possibility, would require these guys achieving a level of consistency that they haven't shown in far too long.

The NHL pre-season isn't that far away...

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