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John Amaechi: If Athletes are Deities, Where are the Miracles?

I wish Dan Steinberg of the DC Sports Bog could cover every major sporting event. Wherever he goes, from some late night party to the subway, he finds some kind of story.

And in the end, this gig is all about finding good stories.

Anyway, Steinberg caught up with former NBA player John Amaechi, who is now famous mainly for coming out of the closet (as a homosexual and an intellectual) after his playing days were over.

Earlier in the games Amaechi was quoted saying that running into Kobe Bryant "did not go well." Amaechi explains that incident in more detail, and it ends up seeming like something that probably never should have gotten much attention. Amaechi says that Bryant saw Amaechi through a bus window, and Amaechi did some lip-reading to divine that Bryant had said "What the f---?" in response.

Amaechi -- high on the list of most eloquent athletes ever -- goes on to talk about all kinds of more interesting things. Here's an exchange with Steinberg:

So with the whole politics thing, obviously the Redeem Team guys are some of the most high-profile athletes in the entire Olympics. Would you have hoped that they would have spoken out on political issues?
I think it would be important. You've read the blog, right? I mean, I think that one of the blogs that I wrote said -- and this is what I believe -- that if you would be a God, even if it is just a God of the stadium, then you should perform a miracle every once in a while.

And that doesn't mean a triple salchow, it doesn't mean a perfect vault, it doesn't mean a game-winning shot. It means, occasionally, if you are a God, you do something that affects the world. And I don't see that from any athletes -- whether it be the Dream Team or the gymnasts or somebody else -- from any country.

And I think it's disappointing, because I think even now, if Michael Jordan stood up and said, 'You know what, let's really do something about the inequity of education in America,' then I think it would change.

Doesn't that seem crazy though? I mean, if that's true, doesn't that seem crazy that Michael Jordan would have that power just from being able to ...
Did we not already know that? And this would account for most of the Dream Team, Tiger Woods, a lot of German, French, British athletes as well. If you have people that can force people, families, who have almost nothing, to pay 150 pounds or dollars for shoes, then what can't they achieve? Politicians can't get 150 pounds out of families with nothing. Politicians have to give families with nothing stuff for them to believe in them. These people are so powerful that they make these families who have nothing buy stuff from them.

So yeah, I think they have the kind of power to change the world. I think it's an awesome responsibility, and I can see why people wouldn't want that. However, if you're a God, every once in a while you've got to show it.

So if you saw Kobe would you say anything to him about this?
No. I don't have a relationship with him. It's not like/dislike; I don't have a relationship with him. I wish he, and frankly anyone else in that position -- Phelps, the Chinese gymnastics team, although they would of course be in far more peril if they spoke up -- but I wish these people would do something, yeah.

It doesn't have to be huge. I'm not talking about using the Olympics, embarrassing people, taking your medals and throwing them to the ground. I'm talking about publicly accepting these awards that you've earned, cherishing the moment, cherishing the fact that Chinese people here are just amazing, but tactfully saying, 'I've got this medal but I wish along with this that there was improvements in this and this.' That's all you have to do. Small, tiny steps.