#FromtheArchives: Team USA women capture silver in Olympic basketball debut
The Power Plays Book Club returns with hot-dogging, shoelaces, 7' stars, and hugs for all.
Hi, friends. So, last week we announced that the Power Plays Book Club is back. This month’s book is “Inaugural Ballers: The True Story of the First Women’s Olympic Basketball Team” by Andrew Maraniss.
If you don’t have the book yet, here are a few ways to fix that:
Here's a link to Parnassus, Maraniss’s local indie bookstore in Nashville. Maraniss told me: “When people order from the store, they can note in the special instructions section how they would like it signed/personalized, and the store will ship it.” Definitely take advantage of that!
Here’s a link to Bookshop, which can help you find the book at any indie store.
Don’t forget you can also request it at your local library!
A tale of three games
“Inaugural Ballers” opens up in a locker room at the Montreal Forum on July 26, 1976, with the U.S. players gearing up to play Czechoslovakia in their final game of the Summer Olympics. This was the first time that women’s basketball had ever been contested in the Olympics, and the format was very minimalist: Only six teams made it to the Olympics — Soviet Union, United States, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Japan, and Canada — and they played a single round-robin group. The medals were determined by group rankings, not medal rounds.
The game against Czechoslovakia was the fifth and final game for the United States in Montreal, and if they won it, they’d win a medal — either silver or bronze, depending on the result of another round-robin game that day. The pressure was on.
According to Maraniss, head coach Billie More told the players before the game: “Win this game and it will change women’s sports in this country for the next twenty-five years.”
Obviously, you need to read “Inaugural Ballers” to get the *full* story, but in true Power Plays fashion, I thought it would be fun to go back through the newspaper archives and read some of the coverage at the time.
Japan d. the United States, 84-71
From the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon on July 20, 1976
Friends, this was the very FIRST women’s basketball game in Olympic history. And yes, it was a loss for the United States.
The write-up of the game is full of xenophobia, theatrics, and lots of blaming the refs.
There are so many gems in this article, here are a few of my favorites:
“Namai Keiko, a 5-foot-4 bundle of energy and pigtails"
“Namai could have opened up a beer stand at the free throw line.”
“It was at this point, when the U.S. momentum was at its peak, that Namai stopped the game, took about 30 seconds, and tied her shoelace. Twice!”
Before heading onto the other two games featured in the newsletter, I want to make sure you all see this photo of Namai Keiko, which was printed in the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, New York on July 20, 1976.