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August 20, 2008

Play What?

When the world champion Spanish national basketball team was massacred by Team USA by a score of 119 to 82, many suspected that something was amiss. Like the Virginian rodent of yore, Team Spain was, the rumor went, "playing possum."


Possum, you say? Is that a new game? No, in fact, it's an old one. But Team USA's lopsided victory over the defending world champs has breathed new life into it. Canada's National Post, Sports Illustrated, and the Indianapolis Star all deploy the old phrase to describe Spain's supposedly coy play. And, according to the Arizona Republic, a reporter asked the Greek coach if his team played possum against Team USA. His answer was "hard to decipher"; we guess it was something like "no, we played duck."

If sportswriters are going to get into the business of resuscitating old phrases, why stop at "play possum?" We haven't seen a man described as a "fellow" in a newspaper in years (since before we were born, really), and there's always Peking. We're also pretty sure Michael Phelps has more gold medals than Carter's got liver pills.

While we're playing lexicographer, there's one relatively new phrase we'd like to see go the way of the possum (if the possum were extinct). That's "Dream Team" as a name for the US Olympic basketball squad. OK, so they've been less successful lately, but still, if you take a bunch of the best players from the country that produces the most basketball players and have it square off against the rest of the world, wouldn't that team be expected to win? So how is that a "dream"? Call us unpatriotic, but when Argentina beat the 2004 Dream Team, we actually thought it was pretty cool. This year let's pass the Dream Team torch to someone more deserving—we nominate Lithuania.

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