|Lithuanian Dreams Come True|
Column in DigitalSportsDesk.com
You've heard of Red Square, right?
If you were around in 1992, you might've heard the rallying cry of the '92 Lithuanian Olympic team, "Better Dead than Red." Surely, if you were an avid sports fan, you remember the team of vagabonds parading into the Olympics in their Grateful Dead-funded tie-dye T-shirts in the most memorable medal ceremony of all-time, held after the USA thrilled the world and accepted their gold medals.
Actually, to those in attendance in Barcelona, the bronze medalists, aka "The Other Dream Team," stole the show. They were the headliners in a post Cold War, Berlin Wall, coming out party that Olympic Games TV anchorman Jim Lampley called, "one of the cosmic turning points of the 20th century."
Thankfully, the moment in time, the important movement in world history is captured on film. Just like their United States counterparts, often called the "greatest team ever assembled," the Lithuanian dreamers have a documentary film of their own and, to many, it's a more interesting and compelling story. At a recent premiere in New York city, all of the lucky attendees, including the Consul General of the Republic of Lithuania in New York, Mr. Valdemaras Sarapinas and his wife, Mrs. Vytė Sarapinienė, had similar thoughts as they beamed with pride after the private screening of the documentary film “The Other Dream Team." Dozens of media members applauded Mr. Marius Markevičius producer/director of the film, who flew back to his native America from the film's world premiere in Vilnius. He, along with 1992 bronze medalist Arturas Karnisovas, a multi-time European player of the year, former US collegiate star and Final Four participant with Seton Hall University, were joined by NBA officials, past and present, United Nations dignitaries and film critics at the event.
In case you haven't heard of the roaring success of the film, it's a documentary that garnered significant praise at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. Simply put, the "Other Dream Team" is the amazing story of the 1992 Lithuanian Olympic basketball team, a group of trail blazing athletes who won the bronze at the Barcelona Olympics and left an indelible mark on the history books while becoming the highest grossing documentary film in Lithuanian history after only two weeks in theaters. The film topped the charts among indie films in the USA over its first weekend on screens in just two cities, New York and Los Angeles. This week, the "Other Dream Team" premieres in Washington DC, Philadelphia, San Diego and Orange County, California before it goes to dozens of cities nationwide.
Led by the impressive and aggressive skills of guard Sarunas Marciulionis and the legendary Hall of Fame center Arvydas Sabonis, along with many other familiar names, the '92 team helped inspire their country's break from the shackles of Soviet rule and Communism. Many of the Lithuanian players - including four of the starting five - led the (former) USSR to a gold medal, and victory over the USA, at the '88 Seoul Olympics, But, only four years later, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Lithuanian hoopsters emerged as symbols of freedom and democracy, literally willing newly-independent Lithuania to the medal stand in Barcelona after an emotional victory over the former USSR, who competed as the "Unified" team. The film documents the Lithuanians' experiences behind the Iron Curtain.
Throughout their ordeal, Lithuania's basketball stars always shared a common goal—to utilize their athletic gifts to help their nation bloom. The '92 Lithuanian team won fans around the world for its hard-nosed play, and also with its amazing connection with the Grateful Dead.
Band leader Jerry Garcia, inspired by the team's message of freedom and coaxed by the late Larry "RamRod" Shurtliff who was the "heart and soul" of the band, provided a hefty dose of financial assistance and authorized a distinctive tie-dye warm-up for their friends, complete with the Dead's symbolic icon skeleton, creatively drawn dunking a basketball. My buddy, the late, great "Ramrod" had often watched Marciulionis at Golden State Warriors games and was a regular at the All-Star Game and NBA Finals, riding shotgun alongside the great Bill Walton, Basketball Hall of Famer and self-proclaimed "Deadhead."
In addition to the obvious endorsement of Walton and the remaining band members of the Dead, the film has been championed by some of the greatest names in professional basketball, all who appear in the film.
"Freedom," exclaimed Walton. "Let's go!"
After premieres in NYC and LA, the "Other Dream Team" open in theaters across the country this week. For information, please visit the Facebook page for the film at: https://www.facebook.com/otherdreamteam?ref=ts or visit the official site of the film at: http://otherdreamteam.thefilmarcade.com
See the official movie trailer, posted as a DigitalSportsDesk salute to "The Other Dream Team"