Monday, June 16, 2008

Becky Hammon

On a regular day, I couldn't give a good goddamn about the WNBA, but this story made me laugh out loud tonight. Becky Hammon plays for a team called the San Antonio Silver Stars (I'm pretty sure WNBA teams are sister teams of the NBA teams they share a city with) and is one of the better players in the league. Alas, she didn't make the cut for the 2008 USA Olympic women's basketball team and since she's 31 (like me!), this was apparently her last best chance to play in the Olympics.

Faced with this sobering reality, Becky Hammon did what any good red-blooded American gal would do - she pledged her allegiance to Mother Russia.

Oh, relax, it's not as bad as all that. Hammon plays for a Russian pro team during the WNBA off-season and was able to get dual citizenship to make traveling back and forth between the USA easier. Since she didn't make the USA team, Hammon wisely took advantage of her newfound status as a Russian citizen and decided to suit up for their national team.

Now as a baseball fan, this makes perfect sense to me. I've watched plenty of MLB players suit up for other nations during the World Baseball Classic and I would've been perfectly fine with Alex Rodriguez playing for the Dominican Republic if he so desired. It certainly didn't bother me when Mike Piazza played for Italy, using the same kind of loophole that Hammon is using to join the Russian team. Hell, half the Italian team was born in the United States, and nobody seemed to blink.

Apparently, women's basketball is a far more xenophobic sport. U.S. coach Anne Donovan put on the flag pin and, in interviews on CNN and ESPN, insinuated that Hammon was somehow a "traitor" for having the temerity to take advantage of an opportunity her "adopted" nation afforded her.

"If you play in this country, live in this country, and you grow up in the heartland and you put on a Russian uniform, you are not a patriotic person in my mind," Donovan said on ESPN.

Well, good for you, Anne. You're quite the little barstool patriot. But try to get a grip - this is women's basketball, 20 years after the Cold War ended. It's not a referendum on how much you or Becky Hammon loves this country. In a world where listeners call conservative talk radio shows and call each other "great Americans" because they share each and every one of the host's viewpoints, I guess I shouldn't be surprised by such narrow and mindless definitions of patriotism.


Joeywalnuts said...

First off, how do you compare a one time gimmick staged for the sole purpose of selling jerseys and hats to the Olympic game? And why Jackie, why are you wasting your time standing up for just another milloaire athlete in a blatent, self indulgent money grab? A woman whose entire fortune is tied to America's sport and America's league. She doesn't go to Russia and get her contract without the WNBA.

Instead of sucking it up, showing up for her tryout and making the USA squad, she instead deciedes she's a long shot and makes the best business move... protect her multi million dollar Russian league contract with a gauranteed spot on the Russian Olympic team. How quickly this little weasel forsakes her own heritage when the pocket books at stake and when she is, God forbid, called upon to prove herself. What a joke.

The bigger joke is the IOC that allows for countries to fast track part-time resident athletes who don't even speak the language and then throw their uniform on 'em. The drama and excitement of the Olympics (if there is any) is at its core the patriotism. This is just about greed and entitlement. Anne's right; Love it or leave it. And if ya leave it, stay the fuck there.

Judge Roughneck said...

RTFA, Joey. She tried out for the team and didn't make it. Then, with the spot on the Russian team a possibility, called the IOC again and made sure they still wouldn't take her on. THEN, aving been rejected twice by the IOC, finally made the decision to play for the Russian team. Arguments are much stronger when they are informed.

But don't worry Joe, yer a Great American!!

tim said...

Obedience is not patriotism.

She used to play for the NY Liberty, don't ask me why I know that, I've never watched an entire WNBA game, and I'm not sure the WNBA has more than 5 women who make a million dollars. Joey just hates women.

Joeywalnuts said...

Go read Mark Schwarz, who quotes this unpatriotic slob as saying very plainly ""Why should
I take that chance for a really, really long shot and pass up four years of playing over in Russia, I couldn't do it financially" She wasn't on their short list. When the short list got longer to include her, she declined her invite. Now who needs to do their homework. And Tim, i don't hate women, i just hate you.

Judge Roughneck said...

From the article Joe is quoting: "When their list of 23 players came out last year, we're talking about 23 players, and I was not on it, that's a pretty strong statement that 'we're not considering you,'" Hammon said.

"It's unfathomable to me that that would happen," said Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst Nancy Lieberman, who placed calls to USA Basketball inquiring about Hammon's status. "How can you not? She's earned the right to be on the stinking list!"

In September, USA Basketball expanded the list to more than 30 names. Hammon was invited to try out just days before training camp began. She knew that if she accepted the invitation and participated in international play for the United States, she would greatly diminish the value of her Russian contract, one of the most lucrative in women's basketball. Essentially, she says was choosing between a guaranteed seven-figure contract and the long odds of making the U.S. team.

"Why should I take that chance for a really, really long shot and pass up four years of playing over in Russia?" Hammon asks. "I couldn't do that financially."

Now if USA Basketball didn't think Hammon could make the cut among the first 23 players they chose to try out for the team, it would seem to me that they didn't have a lot of confidence in her making the team when they expanded the pool. In case you don't know who Nancy Lieberman is, she may be the most influential and respected women's basketball voice in this country. When Lieberman questioned Hammon's exclusion from the initial list, you can damn sure bet that USA Basketball felt pressured to at least give her an opportunity to try out.

So yes, there was a financial aspect to it - and in a nation that's entire economic structure is based on exploiting foreign labor for personal gain, it's silly to get your panties in a bunch about that.

You also questioned my contention that Hammon made two attempts to play for Team USA before making the decision to play for Russia. This is my source: "Then, in April, when USA Basketball announced the 23 players it was inviting to try out for the 2008 U.S. Olympic team, Hammon's name was not on the list ...

"They have their reasons," Hammon said cordially, "and I'm OK with that. It's a tough process and a tough decision. There are a lot of great players out there."

Even after the list came out, Hammon, who had just weeks earlier began the process of becoming a naturalized Russian citizen (so she could more easily move about the region while playing for the CSKA team in Moscow during the WNBA's offseason) had her agent contact Team USA officials - more than once - to make absolutely sure she was not wanted by the home team. Once it became evident that that was indeed the case, she signed on with the Russian national team. At age 31, it likely was her last chance to play in the Olympics."

So you will not be getting the retraction you demanded, because I did not pull my premise out of thin air. That is directly pulled from the first story I linked to in the original post, so I will repeate my original assertion that you should've RTFA before commenting.

This is my favorite quote on the whole thing: "Unpatriotic? A traitor? Unbelievable. I love Hammon's attitude -- her refusal to allow someone else to define her talent or her Olympic moment -- and I'll give her the last word: 'I'm still an American girl. I'm not over here selling secrets to the Russians. This is not espionage. This is a game of basketball. We are not at war with Russia. The Cold War is over.'"

The meaning of the word "patriotism" has been perverted in today's America by people with a political agenda. Too many people want to define patriotism as aggressively unconditional love of country, blind to its faults and unwilling to admit to its shortcomings. In today's America, patriotism and jingoism have become one - and that is fascism.

Anne Donovan and her stupid, short-sighted comments buy right into that perversion. The notion that someone is less of an American (a term that has no racial or ethnic meaning, simply geographical) because they represent another nation in a sporting event - after initially being excluded from the opportunity to represent their country of choice - is a pathetic definition of what it means to represent the values of this country.

tim said...

You can hate me all you want Joe, it doesn't get you any closer to being right, well I guess it does, right wing that is.

John Peterson said...

I'm not reading all those preceding comments, but FWIW, I don't think she should play for Russia, if it still means anything to have a national identity. Then again, I am a conservative.

Joeywalnuts said...

My panties don't bunch. The financial aspect is the whole point. Its the very definition of the word sell out. I'm not waving my flag and the Olympics... eh. But the Olympics is supposed to be the pure sport. The best from each nation goin at it. The patriotism is what has always made the Olympics work. When athletes can start goin to the highest foreign bidder, there's something really wrong with the Olympics. And what does it say about the athlete?

I take comfort in the belief that Richter and Lettch would not have gone and played with Sweeden if the money was right.

I got no problem with capitilism. Go make yours. But anyway you wish to cut it, she is doing it at the expense of her country. Its a shameful way to make a buck.