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Ozzy Osbourne, Satan and Oly Hoops

Joke Lithuanian basketball Ozzy.

Like every other sporting venue in the world, Wukesong Gymnasium--home of the Olympic basketball tournament--blasts the seminal riffs from "Enter Sandman" and "Welcome to the Jungle" before and during games.

Unlike many venues, however, the Gym is also home to fans who say things like this.

"Satan brings joy and victory to Lithuanian basketball," Arturas Mironcikas told me today, with a smile.

"Heavy metal: best music in the world. Seriously," said the bearded man known as Sekla, Lithuanian basketball's most famous and photographed fan. "Metallica, Slayer, Overkill, Obituary, Ozzy Osbourne, Death. They are no more, unfortunately."

He's right, you know. Death is no more.

Joke Lithuanian basketball costume.

I had been trying to figure out why so many of the large Lithuanian contingent here pose for the inevitable fan photos with their fingers splayed in heavy metal position, and also why they carry around a small cutout of Ozzy Osbourne rocking a Lietuva uniform.

The answer to the first question is simple: many of the key supporters, like Sekla, are heavy metal nuts. The answer to the second?

"They are symbols, you know?" said Arturas's son, Rytis.

Symbols of ferocity, of humor, and of Lithuanian pride. Ozzy, you see, played a show in Vilnius a few years back, and the promoters got him to wear a Lithuanian national basketball uniform throughout. As a joke and a tribute, the supporters turned the resulting photo into a life-sized cutout, and brought their Ozzy to international tournaments, complete with a microphone stand.

Chinese authorities, though, wouldn't permit life-sized Ozzy into their venues, so the Lithuanians made the smaller one they've used this month.

"This is Chinese Ozzy," Arturas Mironcikas said. "This is half-Ozzy."

What else do these fans do? They chant "[Expletive] you referee," but in English, "so he can hear that and understand it," Sekla explained. "He was doing [expletive], actually."

They wear shirts that read "basketball monsters," for reasons unclear. They sing football-style anthems, like "Ant kalno mūrai, joja Lietuviai" ("On the hill the Lithuanians are marching," was the translation I got) and "Viens, Du, Trys, Grazi Lietuva Kaip Gelece Zyid Visada!" ("One, two, three, Lithuania is beautiful like a flower that always blooms," I was told). A bit livelier than "U-S-A!," anyhow.

Joke Lithuanian basketball haircut.

Then there's Dainius Mazėtis, who shaved his locks into one of the odder styles I've ever seen; short on the sides, long and skinny in the back, butchered on the top. "The Dragon," he called it.

"Just joke," Mazetis said of his head, the same word he used to describe the Ozzy love. "I have a vacation for one month. In regular life I'm respectable citizen, but now I have opportunity to have a joke."

And as to the final question, concerning why so many Lithuanian fans had come to China? Some of the supporters tried to help me understand, following their team's quarterfinal victory over the host nation today.

"Basketball in Lithuania, it's the main thing, like religion," Giedrius Sipavicius told me. "We call it second religion. You know Sabonis? That's our second God....We are just three millions. Before, in China, no one knows who is Lithuania, actually. And after this game? Take a look. Everyone knows. We are going to show to the world who is Lithuania."

By Dan Steinberg  |  August 20, 2008; 4:46 PM ET
Categories:  NBA , Olympics  
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Next: Iceland Handball Trumps Croatian Water Polo


oh man that's great. how bout a follow up with them on the DC metro metal scene (centered of course in manASSas and fredneck). Is Deceased still around? what about the doom scene?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 20, 2008 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Need...Sarunas Jasikevicius...feature post...

Must...recall...hopeful times at Maryland....


Posted by: Lindemann | August 20, 2008 8:43 PM | Report abuse

Why aren't you live-bogging Sweden-China in handball?

Posted by: sitruc | August 21, 2008 12:19 AM | Report abuse

Of course chinese know well about Lithuania, after or before the game. Current coach of the chinese team is from Lithuania, and Lithuania beat us badly in Athens as well.

And one chinese newspaper said that Lithuania is especially crazy about Olympics basketball. They don't care about World Champ, Euro Champ, or whatsoever. They just organise a best team for Olympics, and bring only younger, inexperienced players to the other games.

Posted by: Chinese Translator | August 21, 2008 1:01 AM | Report abuse

"The Dragon"? Looks more like "The Butthead" to me.

Posted by: Shawn | August 21, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

The Metal,
by Tenacious D

(JB) You can't kill the metal
The metal will live on
Punk-Rock tried to kill the metal
But they failed, as they were smite to the ground
New-wave tried to kill the metal
But they failed, as they were striken down to the ground
Grunge tried to kill the metal Ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha
They failed, as they were thrown to the ground
(argh . . . yea!) x2


(Both)No-one can destroy the metal
The metal will strike you down with a vicious blow
We are the vanquished foes of the metal
We tried to win for why we do not know

(JB) New-wave tried to destroy the metal, but the metal had its way
Grunge then tried to dethrone the metal, but metal was in the way
Punk-rock tryed to destroy the metal, but metal was much too strong
Techno tryed to defile the metal, but techno was proven wrong

It comes from hell!

Posted by: S | August 21, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

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