LET THE ROCKET RIDE

Posted: September 1, 2011 in NBA

An interesting story came across my desk the other day and my editor told me I should do a piece on it. Actually it happened nothing like that, I am my editor and a shaky one at that but I do what I can. This story involves a proud past resident of our great country who wishes to give back.

The story involves former Raptors forward, fan favourite and now current San Antonio Spurs player Matthew Bonner.

Matt Bonner was once upon a time a beloved athlete in this city by the raptor’s fan base and Toronto community. He was nicknamed the “Red Rocket” for his fiery red hair, and constantly being caught riding the TTC to be economical and blend into his surroundings.

I for one was a huge fan of him as he was the every man that all fans wish their stars could be. He would be found reading at book stores around the city, eating at restaurants not reserved for the rich and famous, and would chat with people when recognized on transit and at these other locations.

He took his pride and love for the city/country to such lengths that he actually married a Canadian woman whom he met while playing in Toronto and has a Canadian daughter. Further more, he has a grandfather who came from Newfoundland. He also currently has a home in Toronto which he plans to move back into full time once his playing career is done

The story behind all this is that Bonner is awaiting approval of his Canadian citizenship to play for Team Canada in Olympic qualifying games with the eventual hope of playing in the Olympics while wearing the Maple Leaf.

Now I for one being a radical self-proclaiming Canuck and Canadian fanatic could not be happier at this news. An American born not only wants to return here to live out his post career life, married one of our own and fathered another proud member of our country, but he wants to represent us? Amazing, best decision he could ever make.

Athletes’ faces glow when talking about competing for this country, with a gleam in their smile and a twinkle in their eye. Clearly Bonner has watched the same sporting coverage I have with a Canadian bias instilled in him by his wife and wants to feel that same joy.

But for some reason the process of making him a Canadian citizen is back logged and taking longer than I feel it should. This man was employed here, owns assets in the country, has a wife and a relative who were citizens and wants to contribute, yet we’re not granting him his citizenship?

Now I will honestly admit, I have zero knowledge of the citizenship application process as I was thankfully born and raised here and birthed the beautiful right to call myself Canadian. But I for one want to welcome this newcomer with open arms as fast as possible.

He has stated emphatically that he loves this country and cannot wait to become Canadian officially/legally and to start playing for our country. That’s exactly the type of people we need coming into this country and the kind of player’s we need in our athletics programs.

Canadian basketball is nothing to brag about, well not seriously at least. Thanks to Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns we have gained some recognition as a country able to produce players with some talent on the hard court.

The past few years we have been sending more and more talented youth down to the states on athletic scholarships, most recently notable Tristan Thompson, who was selected 4th this year in the NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

There have also been notable improvements in our youth programs and NBA alum running camps to help our middle and high school level ballers get the coaching and exposure they need to get scholarships of their own.

So in sum, the first notable thought here was about how proud I was to hear that Bonner truly and honestly wants to play for Canada. He wants to represent us as one of our own and help us win some games. My hat goes off to you Mr. Bonner.

My second thought was how I usually hate when athletes do this, leaving one country to play for another, but I feel like he is a special case. He is different to me because a) his family history, b) he actually lived and worked here, and has a wife and child who are both outright Canadian, so he’s already half-Canadian in my books.

When I heard about Canadian, well formerly Canadian, Dale Begg-Smith who quit the Canadian ski team to ski for Australia I was appalled. Who quits their country because it “clashes with business interests” to then ski for another country who is more flexible? This is not a team you are asking to be traded from, this is your country, your fellow canucks!

The Olympics and international competition for your country is about just that, your country. I read that he moved to Australia with his brother when he was 16 (Wikipedia), but you are still Canadian blood and Canadian at heart and you never turn your back on your country like that.

Another example of weak heritage ties to play for another county is Chris Kaman. He has dual USA-German citizenship because his great grand parents were German. Great grand parents? Come on, you are American play for America, if you can’t then be a fan.

I am aware there may be a slight double standard poking its head out here, but I will argue that Bonner is different because he has closer (grand parent vs. great grand parent) ties to relatives, as well as he owns property and married a Canadian. Two things that Kaman did not do yet still he claims he can play for Germany, as an American.

This is the beauty I think of sports and mostly national athletics, there is not basis for your emotional connection or reasoning to the rules you make. Now I feel that these rules I have put forth are pretty standard and my feelings are justified. I would NEVER EVER want to play in an Olympics if it wasn’t for Canada. I am Canadian and if I cannot compete for them, I will cheer for them with all my heart and soul, period.

You can call shenanigans on this if you want, but you would be wrong. Your country is your blood, your soul, your people. It is everything who you are, a lot of the person you have become is related to your country because of your communities, peers and leaders help shape your ideals. Obviously parents do a lot of this too if not most, but I’m sure you see my point.

Anyways in conclusion, Canada please let the Rocket ride again. He wants to play for a country that could benefit from improving its international basketball prowess and an NBA name that we recognize wouldn’t hurt. Hopefully the next time we see them play we’ll be seeing red, and it won’t just be on our jerseys.

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