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Team First vs. Me First

by Lewis Krell

Imagine for a minute that you are Ryan Lochte. To accomplish this, shave 50-100 points off of your IQ and probably become much better looking

You have worked your entire life – most specifically these last 4 years, 1461 consecutive days – to be the best swimmer in the world. Every single morning you have woken up, spent at least 30 minutes flexing in the mirror and adjusting exactly how you want your third popped collar to look, and then headed to the pool to train to become America’s next great swimmer. The thought of beating that Subway-eating loser Michael Phelps and standing alone atop the podium is what keeps you going every day through arduous, mind-numbing training. You have built a healthy hatred for Mr. Phelps, throwing darts at his face as you finish loading bread into the toaster you keep beside the bathtub. 

Now imagine yourself, a dominant force in a completely individual sport, showing up to London and having to pretend to be teammates with your fiercest rival. 



Everyone in the world is currently airing their grievances about all the things they hate about these Olympics. The American public hates NBC for not showing enough live events, only covering their preconceived American superstars. NBC hates their preconceived superstars for not winning enough gold medals. Everyone on Twitter hates everything that has ever happened ever. The British media, in a shocking twist, love the Olympics even though they contain nothing Pippa-related and no topless women.  

But what do I hate, you ask? I hate how individual sports become team sports in the Olympics. It happens most egregiously in track and swimming in the form of relays and again in gymnastics in the form of the all-around team events. These events make no sense at all. They are just re-doing the same events they already did but this time aggregating scores and times. No one is unhappy with the current format in their individual events and yet they feel compelled to add a team aspect. Outside of the hilarity generated by watching these so-called “teammates” who very clearly hate each other pretend to cheer each other on, I do not understand what is accomplished by having these events. 

This is the biggest stage in the world for these events, one that comes every four years, and yet for some reason they decide to make half the events totally different by their very nature. It’s as if the PGA decided to make the Masters a “Best Ball” contest, or Wimbledon decided Federer and Nadal could team up and play doubles for charity. How the hell are sports fans happy with this in the Olympics? 

I know Usain Bolt is the fastest 100m runner in the world because I watched him single-handedly out run the fastest field in that event's history already. Why do I care if Usain and three random sprinters of much less talent from his country can beat Tyson Gay, Justin Gatlin and two clearly inferior runners from theirs? 

We have events that test if teams from one country can beat teams from another country and we call them team sports. An athlete may play a team sport for individual glory (see: Bryant, Kobe) but no one becomes an Olympian in an individual sport because they care about team glory. 

In this Olympics, to win the gold LeBron will need Kobe and Hope will need Abby but Michael Phelps should never, EVER need Ryan Lochte for any reason. Tiger will NEVER play with Phil, and that’s the way we like it. They chose to play an individual sport for a reason: to prove that they alone are the best in the world. 



If the IOC has made it their business to turn individual sports into team sports, then I propose they should start turning team sports into individual events. Starting in 2016, I think it is time for the Olympics to introduce a 1-on-1 basketball tournament. If individual sports like swimming can opt to have team formats, why can’t one of the ultimate team sports introduce an amazing individual competition? There are rumors that the NBA has had discussions to introduce a 1-on-1 tournament during All-Star weekend but the players want no part of it. If all of a sudden, instead of winning the GEICO Caveman Pink Taco US Navy Memorial Trophy for winning the tournament at the All-Star Game you could win an Olympic Gold Medal, I assure you all the biggest stars would play. 

Can you imagine the spectacle of watching LeBron, Kobe, Durant and Co. go at each other to prove they are the best individual basketball player alive? The contest would be fierce and it would be beautiful to watch. There is limited glory in Team USA winning the gold in basketball because it is so expected. I can’t even imagine the massive under bite Kobe would unleash on the world would be if he were to beat Durant or LeBron and be crowned the best individual baller alive. 

The addition of a 1-on-1 battle also adds in the opportunity for these athletes to win more medals. It pains me that we live in a world where Michael Jordan has only two gold medals but Italian fencer Valentina Vezzali has six. I don’t know anything about this Valentina fellow but I would bet my life that Michael Jordan is the better athlete. And that he loves pizza. 

Phelps has 21 medals not only because of his talent but also because he swims in, by my unscientific count, 95 events per Olympiad. If LeBron had a chance to compete in events such as 1-on-1, 2-on-2, 3-on-3, HORSE, Bump, and 21, he would most likely become America’s most decorated Olympian. This is a good thing as Michael Phelps’ face was not made to be the face of a nation. 

Each Olympics introduces a few new sports and Rio 2016 will be no different. Among the sports being added are beach soccer and kite surfing. If these two sports, along with stalwarts like duet synchronized swimming and dressage, can be given the Olympic treatment, then a 1-on-1 basketball tournament just might have a shot at being approved. 

So fellow sports fans, I urge you to start campaigning on behalf of turning this team game into an individual spectacle that will surely become the marquee event of the next Summer Olympics. As we are dealing with the IOC, the best bet is always bribery. Let the games begin.

Image courtesy of Bleacher Report


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Lewis Krell is a Canadian expat and Inclusive staff writer. His work with a more maple leaf-styled slant can be found at Fifty Mission Cap. Contact him at lewis.krell [at]