Much has been made lately of Becky Hammon's decision to play for Russia in the Beijing Olympics coming up in a few weeks.
The decision has some people saying that Hammon is incredibly unpatriotic and she is just chasing after the money. She does get a $250,000 if the Russians happen to win gold.
They say that she should be competing for free much like our own athletes—even though Michael Phelps has a deal with Speedo for $1 million should he tie or break Mark Spitz's record seven gold medals in one Olympics. If you think other athletes compete for free, read this: Athletes for Free?
I say that the American public is misinformed on this situation.
Normally, I don't care enough about women's sports to write about them, or even think about them really, but the level of ignorance in many posts about this issue has compelled me to write about it.
It has been confirmed by many sources that Becky Hammon was not even on the 29-player pool the committee could choose from.
The United States did not even want her on the team. I found this rather weird and have looked into the issue some more.
The guards listed on the women's roster are as follows: Sue Bird, Kara Lawson, Candace Parker, Cappie Pondexter, Katie Smith, and Diana Taurasi.
We'll omit Parker and Taurasi as they are listed at multiple positions and they are probably in the top 5 known American women basketball players.
So how does Hammon stack up to Bird, Pondexter, Lawson and Smith. I looked up this year's stats in the WNBA.
The Tale of the Tape
Hammon: 17.4 Points/G, 4.7 Assists/G, 2.9 Rebounds/G, 93% FT, 34.4% 3-point shooting
Bird: 13.5 Points/G, 1.9 Assists/G, 2.6 Rebounds/G, 85% FT, 32.5% 3-point shooting
Pondexter: 22.3 Points/G, 4.4 Assists/G, 4 Rebounds/G, 83% FT, 34.7% 3-point shooting
Lawson: 11.1 Points/G, 2.3 Assists/G, 2.5 Rebounds/G, 91% FT, 40.8% 3-point shooting
Smith: 15.1 Points/G, 3.9 Assists/G, 2.9 Rebounds/G, 90% FT, 36.7% 3-point shooting.
So her stats compare very favorably to Bird, Lawson, and Smith, and I would probably have to give Hammon the edge over all the three.
Now I know that putting a team together is more than finding the best and throwing them together.
Like "Herb Brooks" said in Miracle, "it's not about finding the best players, it's about finding the right ones", but doesn't Hammon at least deserve the opportunity to see if she's the best?
She is very close to passing three of the four guards on the roster and she's not even in the 29-player pool.
I just cannot understand that for the life of me!
The Women's Basketball Committee started to say that Hammon was unpatriotic almost as soon as she announced that she would play for Russia. I have a hard time believing them!
The Olympics are all about the best in the world playing.
The United States did not want Hammon. I'm sure she was crushed, but she still has an opportunity to play in Beijing.
Isn't using your talents to advance yourself the American dream? That's all she's doing.
I really hope that Hammon's teammates do not look at her badly because she made the choice to follow a dream and play in the Olympics.
She just isn't wearing the jersey I'm sure she thought she would.
On the men's side, Chris Kaman and J.R. Holden are playing for Germany and Russia respectively, but no one is upset about that. Maybe it's because they aren't as talented?
Now for the look in the Mirror.
Obviously, no one else is representing their home country right? And surely none on the American squad, right? The answer to both questions being "NO".
The United States' roster has 33 foreign born athletes, and all of them are in the areas that the U.S. has traditionally struggled.
We do not need any swimmers or basketball players because we produce enough of those.
This report from MSNBC shows the athletes' country of origin and their events: Athletes—Origins.
I hope you, the reader, takes this information and understands that even the Olympics, that incorruptible symbol of all that is good with competition and sport, is becoming subject to free agency.
Apparently the American public, myself included, only want to condemn the athletes leaving us, all the while celebrating ourselves as we rack up our gold medal count with athletes we have poached from other countries.
Olympic athletes, regardless of country, deserve to be recognized for excellence in their sport, not condemned for wearing the wrong jersey.