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.