My Spanish is limited to numbers and basic vocabulary. If backed into a corner could tell you that “I have three dogs” or that “blue is my favorite color,” so when Larry Ayuso and Christian Dalmau come out with their reasons for quitting the Puerto Rican national team, I’ll be scrambling for a dictionary. Well, unless the conversation strays and they end up talking about their favorite foods, lucky numbers and farm animals.
Frankly, though, I’d rather not clog Google Translate’s system with weak excuses when my mind is already made up: Ayuso and Dalmau are selfish idiots. What’s that, Larry? Mr. Coach wasn’t being nice to you? And Christian, you say that he was being a meanie and not letting you play? With all the free time you’ll have this summer though, it might be worth while to stand naked in the mirror and make absolutely sure your nuts are where they used to be. Christian has his 35th birthday on August 29 and Ayuso’s 33 years old, and apparently they think that national pride is optional in their advanced age.
If they weren’t willing to bend their agendas for the team’s betterment then they shouldn’t have shown up in the first place. They shouldn’t have come along for the ride as Puerto Rico knocked off Argentina, Paraguay and China in the warm-ups while the hopes of a country launched off the charts. And as with almost any decision to quit, it’s the timing that stings Puerto Rico the most. Beno Udrih is just as culpable for throwing the tantrum he did, but at least he had the decency to get his hissy fit out of the way early in the summer. Now Puerto Rico has to fly two guys—guards Guillermo Diaz and David Huertas—over to Germany for their next set of warm-ups and the acclimation process starts anew for that pair plus the ten guys who didn’t turn their backs on their teammates.
As excited as I am to see Diaz (formerly of the University of Miami, now ) and Huertas (current Ole Miss star) turn over a new, youthful leaf in the face of the veteran walk-out, I’m disappointed to see two guys give up on their country just because they didn’t have the maturity to iron out their issues like grown-ups. These are men: men who were part of Puerto Rico’s proudest international victory when they defeated Team USA in the 2004 Olympics. When Carlos Arroyo popped that jersey off his chest, I was half-pissed and half-impressed at the trademark passion of our southern neighbors. Whether I’m overhyping them or not coming into this tournament, I’ll stand behind every word if they play their hearts out the way I know they will, win or lose.
Even though professional athletes are spared some of the everyday hassles enjoyed by those less financially secure, you’ll be able to find a couple hundred guys in Turkey this summer that put their ulterior motives on the backburner to go shoot hoops for a couple weeks with their countrymen. In short, that’s what makes international competition beautiful: anyone of these athletes could tear an ACL and risk their status as employable commodities, but they’re out there anyways because they love this sport almost as much as the country that’s ushered them to success. But guys like Ayuso, Dalmau and Udrih would rather spurn a nation than put their egos at risk of serious injury.
And while the initial reaction might be shock or even anger, Puerto Ricans should take solace in the knowledge that two of their most unworthy ambassadors are sitting this one out.