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Team USA falls short in international competition

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

September 26, 2006

When you look at the United States and the lack of success in recent international competition, you have to wonder.

It has not been a pleasant time for the USA, which has been dominated time and again. Think about it, the semifinal loss to Russia in the women's World Basketball Championship ended America's 26-game win streak at this event. Then America watched as Russia got walloped by Lauren Jackson and Australia.

If that wasn't enough, look at what happened in the Davis Cup. The Americans took a talented squad led by Andy Roddick, James Blake and the Bryan Brothers, the world's premier doubles team. That still was not enough to get past the host Russian squad as Roddick lost a heartbreaking fifth set to Dmitry Tursunov, 17-15. The bottom line is the Russians advanced to the final while the United States was sent packing.

Next, look at the international team play at the Ryder Cup. Our squad featured Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk, and we still did not have enough; it was blowout city. The foreign squad won all five sessions, showing that it wasn't really that close. This marked the fifth time in the last six Ryder Cups that the Unithed States lost.

It is all about work ethic and a sense of pride and passion -- something we need to develop further in our country because the talent is certainly here. There are times the discipline is lacking and that is what's needed to compete on the international scene. The competition takes great pride in beating us.

Look at the U.S. men's basketball team and its stunning loss in the World Championship semifinals. Yes, the squad bounced back and won the bronze over Argentina, but the bottom line is there is something to build upon with the Olympics down the line.

There will be more opportunities in the future. American teams must learn from this and come back stronger than ever to compete against foreign counterparts.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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