Becky Hammon: A Big Deal

Becky-HammonI’m wagering that most of you reading this don’t know who Becky Hammon is, and that’s understandable.  Ms. Hammon has led a very big and accomplished life on a stage that, while not small by any stretch of the imagination, is often dimly lit, especially in the USA.  She’s a world-class caliber basketball player, with 16 years playing in the WNBA and Europe, a former college standout,  and Olympic medal winner.

And as of this week, Ms. Hammon is also a paid, full-time, assistant coach for the NBA’s current world champion San Antonio Spurs men’s basketball team.  That’s right, I said NBA.  This hasn’t happened before, and given the inequities of sport in the USA it might not have happened now were it not for a unique combination of events.  Namely, Ms. Hammon recently wrapped up a stellar WNBA career playing point becky-hammon.103511275guard for the Spurs’ counterpart team, the San Antonio Stars.  A few years ago, after experiencing a season-ending ligament injury, she approached Spurs future hall of fame coach Gregg Popovich: she wanted to coach after her playing career ended.  While rehabilitating her knee, Hammon shadowed the Spurs coaching staff as a sort of intern.  And she shined. When she retired, Popovich wasted little time in hiring Hammon.  He would have been a fool not to.

I won’t weigh down this post with a lot of statistics–you can get more background here and here–but suffice it to say that Becky Hammon has succeeded at every level as a point guard who can score big and still distribute the ball. In high school she was  South Dakota Miss Basketball as a junior and as a senior she was voted the South Dakota Player of the Year after averaging 26 points, 4 rebounds and 5 steals per game. Her teams at Colorado State reached the Sweet Sixteen, but she was not initially drafted into the WNBA.

Instead, she found her way the the New York Liberty via stints with regional teams in small National Women’s Basketball League, where she quickly became league high-scorer.  Once she earned a roster spot as a third string point guard on the Liberty behind WNBA and women’s basketball legend Teresa Witherspoon.  Within a year, Hammon displaced the aging Witherspoon as starter, became a fan favorite, and was voted a team captain.

Becky+Hammon+Olympics+Day+1+Basketball+ugyDEvF5f4elDuring her off-seasons, Hammon supplemented her career by playing in Europe, where women’s basketball is taken more seriously and more opportunities exist for female players. Her career would take her to Spain, and then to Russia, all while still maintaining her WNBA career back in the states.  Along the way, she became a six-time WNBA All-Star, was a multiple-year selection for the Euroleague All-Star team, and won the All-Russia cup.  Early in her career, Ms. Hammon was part of Team USA, but she was denied a tryout for the 2008 Olympic team, despite her stellar performances.  Determined to play on the world’s grandest basketball stage, she took the unconventional step of applying for Russian citizenship.  She was accepted, and quickly made the Team Russia roster.  She would become a major contributor in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games–despite a small degree of controversy over her vagabond credentials, and the fact that, while uncommon in basketball, changing citizenship is a fact of life in many Olympic sports.

greg-popovich-explains-why-becky-hammon-has-what-it-takes-to-be-an-nba-coach.jpgFast forward to 2014, and here is Ms. Hammon, breaking another convention while breaking through a glass ceiling that extends far beyond basketball to all sports.  There is no reason why a woman can’t coach men–after all, men coach women–and it’s going to be exciting to watch her prove the point.  I’m thrilled for her, for my daughters, and for all the young women who will once again see that there is nothing beyond their reach.


On Dan Snyder, The Redskins, Free Speech and Flag Desecration

Wow!  That’s a lot for one little article, eh?  A few weeks ago, I posted on my support of the effort to encourage Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins NFL football team, to change it’s name. A similar post planted elsewhere on the web stirred up a dialogue with a fellow I know from our high school days back around 1798.  I like this guy a lot, have a ton of respect for him and his perspective, agree about half of what he believes while the other half, well, I don’t agree with it.  In any case, I wanted to follow up on that original article with his response to me, and then–since it’s my Blog and I’m Emperor here, my response to him.  It’s good to be an Emperor–I always get the last word.

First, in case you missed it, the link to my original post–the responses follow.

Randy said:  Chuck–I myself do not have an issue with this, with me being part Cherokee…it’s a name and they the Redskins do not use it in a derogatory manner. Why does PC have to come into play with everything? It’s call the 1st amendment…freedom of speech…freedom of expression…why do we not see more advertisements about desecrating the US flag…why is that freedom of speech & freedom of expression. IUP and a lot of universities caved…they should have just left the NCAA and joined the NAIA. The Native Americans have no problem living in tax free reservations gambling casinos and all that….this issue to a lot of them it is about heritage and to a lot of them it’s about money…if you can step on, piss on and burn my flag well then you can say redskin because the constitution that I took a life long oath to protect and defend says you can. Just because people are offended doesn’t mean it should be stopped…if it were that way we would have to just sit in our houses and do nothing not even read a book…that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it…Semper Fi!!!

— Randy

Then I said:

Until recently, I agreed with you on this specific issue, and I’m still pretty much with you on the PC thing, but I’ve given it a lot of thought–not just because of this video, but because so many people seem to feel so passionately about it that I decided it was worth further consideration, and what I came down to was this: it’s not about being “politically correct”–a term I don’t like because it’s emotionally charged, vague and subjective.

I don’t go to church nor subscribe to a specific political philosophy–in general my conservative friends disregard me as a raving socialist and my liberal friends tend to snicker at my rough edges and bluster while, I suspect, being privately horrified by my foul language, gross insensitivity, potential fascistic bend, and questionable intellect –not necessarily a bad thing on any of those counts. I try to live my life by a simple code that I’ve yet to refine, in terms of a definition, but the gist is to conduct myself in a way that lands me somewhere in the center of the being fair, being respectful, and being good.

I think this is an issue of respect.

As for the first amendment, I agree in principle–I would not support a call to force the Dan Snyder & company to change the team name by force or law, but I do support people using their freedom of speech to call on him to do so. And yes, I think he has the right to tell ’em all to go to hell, too.

On the totally different issue of flag desecration, I’m (again) with you on principle: I love this country (though not blindly, I love it for the worst of it as well as the best) and think it’s a foolish, useless, and disrespectful act (see, there’s my “respect” thing again). I understand it’s a protected right, but I still don’t like it. Nevertheless, I enjoy the irony that when some angry yahoo burns a flag he is undermining his own anti-American statement, because in that act of destruction he is proving the greatness of the nation he’s acting against, as well as the freedom and protections that nation provides him. Still makes me sick to see, of course. Does that make sense? I wrote a better explanation elsewhere–I’ll try to find it and tack it on later.

Finally, a flag-burning missive from “the old blog.”

I’ve noted, quite after the fact, that another crop of earnest, unwashed underclass rebels took time out from their busy days to torch tiny paper copies of Old Glory in the sun-dappled comfort of my alma mater’s iconic Oak Grove. Groovy, right?

I mean, I guess you’ve got to go with whatever gets you off, but I find flag burning to be just about the least productive, most self-indulgent and ridiculous form of self-pleasuring protest possible. It accomplishes nothing beyond annoying people who neither care nor understand what you think and wouldn’t change their minds even if they did. But it feels so good! Look how angry I am! See how revolutionary I feel! It’s a ME ME ME sort of thing. Might as well jump up and down and wave a pair of pink pompoms. ME ME Gooooooooooooo ME!

Burning tiny little paper flag replicas, fresh out of the old HP printer, advances the comedy from the ridiculous to the absurd. We’re talking protest and Monty Python skit. Reminds me of the 18″ stonehenge in This Is Spinal Tap.

My comment in the university paper sums up the remainder of my sentiment (conveniently cut and pasted just ahead, mostly because it’s a pretty paragraph that I like a lot). But I’m not merely trying to add some bulk to my blog, I’m gearing up (hear the grinding?) to include some thoughts on patriotism , protest, and participation in the democratic system and this seems as good a place to begin as any.

pposted 10/16/07 @ 12:37 PM EST

My view from the hard left: flag burning is a self-aggrandizing, unproductive burlesque that ultimately undermines whatever issue the action is intended to protest. It’s the polemic equivalent of a toddler’s tantrum. The irony of flag-burning is that the act itself reinforces the very ideals our flag is intended to represent. In burning our flag, one may be voicing his or her dissatisfaction or opposition, but he or she is likewise making a very profound demonstration of the the freedoms we are supposed to enjoy. Better to target our anger at those whose actions fail to live up to those ideals, who misuse the trust and power commended to them, than the symbol these despoilers stain.

Another new feature: an accounting of sounds. It’s like having a soundtrack. An imaginary soundtrack for the Most Widely Unread Blog on the Web.


How To Determine If Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened?

Here’s the official Chuck Junk read of the day…

How to Determine If Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions

Rev. Emily C. Heath Clergy, United Church of Christ


Uncle Tupelo


I’m sitting here listening to Uncle Tupelo’s landmark album “No Depression” for the thousandth odd time–and I wanted to take a minute to thank Brian R. who introduced me to the band in it’s dying days back–oh–about 20 years ago. It took some urging–I thought Uncle Tupelo was a silly name and didn’t exactly rush out to the store, though I’m very, very glad that I finally did manage to pick up a used copy of No Depression down at the now defunct Paul’s Records on Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield, Pittsburgh’s “Little Italy”, in 1994 (Paul’s  lives on today as Sound Cat Recods, the coolest music store in the coolest city in the USA.)  Uncle Tupelo has since become one of the prime makers of the soundtrack of my life–I’ve got a couple of teenagers who, through no fault of their own, can sing along with I belt out “Give Back The Keys To My Heart” in the truck.

Scan11109Brian, I don’t think it’s possible to adequately thank you–those were a couple of good years, though….

Well, back on point, what I actually have my hands on here is the “legacy edition” of this album, which features 17 extra cuts–demos, alternate versions, and goodies like that.  The only thing that could be better is if I had a chocolate malted milkshake while I listen and type this.  For those not familiar with Uncle Tupelo, they were one of the best indie bands from the late 1980s uncle-tupelo-no-depression-legacy-editionand early 1990s.  A little country, a little punk rock, and a whole lot brilliant, they were gone before the mainstream could find them, leaving behind four absolutely genius albums and planting many of the seeds that grew into the wildly popular genre.  One of the reasons the band was so great was that it featured two fantastically gifted songwriters–Jeff Tweedy and Jay Fararr–and there just was just not enough room for both of them to fully express their different, though complimentary visions.  Tweedy went on to found the band Wilco, while Fararr led Son Volt, in one of those rare instances in which the parts turned out to be so nearly close to the whole that both bands flourished.

Here’s an historic video:

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Best Damn Quotes #4: John Jay Chapman

“The battlecry of freedom may become a dogma which crushes the human soul”

–John Jay Chapman