April 1 2015 image description
by: jmhumire 0 Comments

Can basketball history justify fear in Baltics?

While folks in Congress experience bittersweet moments as their home state and alumni college basketball teams rise and fall, brackets are busted, and office pool champs are crowned, when it’s all over, most still equate March Madness with fun and excitement.

But for the basketball powerhouses in the Baltics, the game also brings out another emotion: fear.  Based on a quick history lesson, those feelings are entirely justified.

I just watched the 2012 film “Dream Team 1935”which sends a powerful message.  It’s the true story about Latvia’s national team, a scrappy, underfunded longshot which won the first ever European Championship in Geneva that year.  A true Cinderella team, it was cobbled together from rival league teams, and against all odds, beat Hungary, Switzerland and Spain to claim the title.

But when the credits roll, we learn a decade later that most were already dead.  Some were conscripted by the Nazis during the German occupation of WWII.  Others were conscripted by the Soviets when they drove the Nazis out.  Two players were exiled to Siberia as part of mass deportations, including the team’s center and captain, Rūdolfs Jurciņš, who died there in 1948.  Most of the rest fled, living out their days in the U.S., Australia and Canada, including Coach Valdemārs Baumanis…. (more…)