Good guys like Steph Curry needn’t bother tarnishing their image by putting it next to an Olympic banner.

By Andrew J. Pridgen

The 2016 Summer Olympics is orbiting really, really, really close to Earth somewhere in the same stratosphere as — say — the release of Ride Along 2. Sure, some people may have been looking forward to it. Some people may even be into it when it comes around. But if it comes and goes without much notice, nobody will be too surprised — or really care that much.

That’s not to say that the athletes, who toil for countless hours in anonymity only to later don the Home Depot smock for their efforts, don’t deserve their moment on the world’s stage. While the word amateur left the Olympics decades ago, around the same time Ali was lighting the torch in Georgia, the cruel fact is if you’re a fencer, a rower, a pugilist, a steeplechaser, a sailor, an archer, a horseback rider, a shuttlecocker (or whatever it is they call badminton players), a canoer, a handballer, a modern pentathlete, a table tennis player or a weightlifter — your five minutes of Olympic glory could very well get bumped for an encore presentation of Superstore.

Other sports, swimming/diving, gymnastics and track and field, become public darlings every four years and were it not for draconian corporate overlords like Nike, would present athletes from those respective disciplines with enormous opportunity for one-time financial windfalls, or at least a crack at a reality show — like it did for Ryan Lochte.

Sports that have professional circuits, rugby, beach volleyball, golf and basketball, feature athletes who already make a decent-to-otherworldly living putting balls in or through respective nets and holes and the Olympics has become not the goal but the aside, the nuisance — the pesky, disease-spreading mosquito if you will.

Speaking of nets and mosquitos, when Steph Curry announced earlier this week that he would not compete for Team USA in the 2016 Games, “I’ve elected to withdraw my name from the list of eligible players on Team USA’s preliminary roster for the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil,” he said in a released statement — the reaction was somewhat unique, in that there wasn’t much of a reaction.

For starters, in 2016 Curry is the most-liked athlete in the world, period. The reason being, he’s likeable. He is frail yet tough. He is childlike yet battle-tested. He is the underdog who dominates. The man is such a treasure, he got no backlash for releasing his emoji app during the middle of the N.B.A. Finals. A bold move at any time of year, but doing so while trying to build a legacy, maybe a shot at immortality, is brazen.

Because Curry himself is so easy to digest, the news that he wouldn’t be participating in the Brazil Games was met with precious little backwash. Imagine that. Imagine in any other time your country’s best athlete and ambassador decides to forego the spectacle and splendor of the Olympics to rest up and spend a little more time in the offseason with his family.

Columnists from a different era would have jumped on the treason train. Indeed, since the Dream Team era began in 1992, literally every N.B.A. star, no matter how big or small or not of this world, took a break from their gambling, film making, strip clubbing schedules for a chance to don the red, white and blue and take that extra step in the lane.

This is not going to turn into a screed about how we’ve let our patriotic fervor slip. If anything, our asshole consumerist culture has marketed the red white and blue better than any generation before. It’s stamped on our shit-tasting beer can for Christ’s sake. I think the absence of backlash against Curry’s decision is more a statement of what the Olympics have become.

Do a quick google search for ‘Olympics’ and you will see no fewer than a half dozen recent headlines pop up at the top of page 1 about corruption especially in the context of these upcoming Brazil games — which have moved with a brazen bullet to the top three most corrupt games …of the last 12 years (Beijing and Sochi occupying the other two spots.)

Just yesterday, Brazilian police raided the offices of the Deodoro site just north of Rio — one of the four main hubs and slated to host 11 sports. The construction consortium is being probed for “fraud in the transport and destination of solid waste, involving falsifying of public documents and overbilling.” The stadia has cost the public 85 million reais ($24.7 million) and has been under investigation since this time last year.

This news also comes on the heels of allegations for the host country of child trafficking, displacement of its poor population, money laundering and bribery amidst political and economic turmoil and a public health crisis due to the mosquito-borne Zika virus and a deadly outbreak of swine flu.

The IOC, the Olympics’ governing body, is equally broken. Potential host nations heed the abandoned municipalities of Sochi and the economic devastation of Greece as cautionary tales to the kind of bribery, corruption and decay the games bring.

And the people who suffer most — beyond, you know, those who are bulldozed out of their homes — are the athletes themselves.

Curry, who incurred a Grade 1 MCL sprain during the Warriors’ first-round series with the Houston Rockets, has a legitimate excuse to take the summer off and heal up. But for the thousands of other athletes, who have been working a lifetime to put it all out there over two Costas’ Grecian formula-filled weeks, competing is a non-starter.

From Munich to Mexico City, a hallmark of modern Olympics has been at best collusion and scandal — and at their worst — hotbeds for acts of terror. But this year especially, the risk of Brazil seems to outweigh the reward as unrest, corporatization and corruption has split and sent the five rings spiraling into different directions.

Good guys like Steph Curry needn’t bother to tarnish their image by putting it next to an Olympic banner.


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