Sports Journalism Blog

I was inspired yesterday. And I have a story to tell about it.

I’m covering the 2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Sydney, Australia for USA Basketball, a beyond-incredible opportunity and one that I will be forever grateful for. It was quite a journey to get here: a four-hour flight, followed by a 15-hour flight, with middle seats on both. The 15-hour flight was a bit brutal with me unable to stretch my legs, and basically forced to sleep while sitting down – something easier said than done! But I made it, along with my professor and classmate. And while it took a bit to get acclimated to the time difference, I’ll take that tradeoff any day of the week.

Yesterday (eastern time) the USA women faced off against China; a battle that everyone in Sydney was eager to watch because of the two then-undefeated teams and their undeniable prowess with the basketball. Immediately, it was clear that there were more China fans in attendance than Americans; the noise level from the crowd made it more abundantly so. However, while I was impressed with the quantity of China supporters in the building, I still wasn’t prepared for what came next.

The first quarter was back and forth with scoring droughts for each side. The USA squad had just become whole, with the arrival of the three WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces. Shots weren’t falling, passes were being intercepted, things looked a bit shaky. But that soon changed, and from the final minutes of the first quarter until the end of the game it was pretty much all USA (minus a late run from China in the third quarter.)

Nobody told the thousands of fans waving the Chinese flag that news, however. Or rather, they probably knew and just didn’t care. Because during every moment, every defensive and offensive possession, cheers and chants were emanating from the crowd. Every time the ball went in the hoop for China, the sound was deafening. It continued on and on, no matter what the score was, no matter how far ahead the USA was. It didn’t matter to the fans from China. This was their country on the court. These players were representing their country and their pride. And every moment, every second, was worth paying close attention.

The rapt attention on display, the pride, the emotion, it was incredible to watch. And it got me thinking: patriotism is a complex word, what exactly does it mean? Does it mean blindly loving your country no matter what? Does it mean supporting everything your country does? No, not in my opinion. It means much more than that. It means wanting the best for your country, supporting your fellow citizens and being proud to be part of the same family, as flawed and sometimes difficult as that family can be. And that was on full display in the Sydney Superdome. And it was magical.

By Owen Kaelble | @OwenKaelble