Venezuela's national basketball team flew all the way to Alabama to participate in an international tournament, only to discover they were the only international team there. Also, the "tournament" was just one game. You've done it again, Birmingham, Alabama.
The Venezuelan squad says they came to Alabama (that should have been their first warning sign) under the impression they would take on squads from Nigeria, Uruguay, and Liberia, among others, in a week-long competition between friendly nations. You know, international diplomacy and all that. Instead, they got one game against the semi-pro Birmingham Gladiators and a tour of the local YMCA. No other international teams showed up and the Venezuelans had to go begging among the city's Latin American community for free dinners. The team now wants organizers to reimburse them for $18,000 in lost expenses.
In his defense, the promoter, Anthony Toney of Birmingham, says he did take care of the hotel and airfare (he has receipts!) and the only reason that six other teams weren't there is because they couldn't get visas to enter the U.S. That doesn't mean the "Freewill Games" were a disorganized mess! Now, let's congratulate the Gladiators on their "championship."
Also, Venezuela is run by communists so maybe they got what was coming to them. First of all, they trusted a man named Tony Toney. Second, does any "league" sound more fake than Toney's "Americas Basketball International"? Finally—and I can't stress this enough—why would anyone think it's a good idea to go to Birmingham, Alabama?
(Hey, do you want to hear a funny joke: Birmingham, Alabama wants to host the 2020 Olympics! That's the entire joke.)
Even the commenters on the Birmingham News website, who I assume are the most literate people in all of Alabama, are disgusted with the city's latest black eye:
Alright Birmingham! Those Olympics are a lock! Can't wait to see the dome!"
"TYPICAL MAGIC CITY HOSPITALITY. COME TO BIRMINGHAM AND WATCH YOUR MONEY DISSAPPEAR! THIS TOWN IS A JOKE. WHY DID MAYOR LANGFORD LET THEM GET HERE BEFORE THE DOME WAS BUILT?"
"Surely, the Mayor could have given them each a Pat Robertson New Testament and a unicorn . . ."
"That would be embarrassing, were we not numb to Birmingham's embarrassments, now."
"See! If we had our dome we could host more major events!!! Wait a minute, let me see if I see flying pigs."
"Absolute disgrace. B'ham is as B'ham does..."
"Another great humiliation for the city at the hands of a crooked promoter. If we were to build a dome, who the he11 would show up to play in it?"
"Is the Fair Park area eactly what we want international, national, or even local people to endure for a basketball game? .... I guess Fair Park really wasn't that bad of a choice........I mean whats the difference between 5,000 empty seats and 18,000 empty seats? The goal is still the same height!
"the Fair Park area is reminiscent of a third-world country!"
"Fair Park? Haha. Why on earth would international team come to play there? I bet I could ball on these scrubs. I can't help but feel that Larry is somehow involved in this...."
"I was going to call B'ham the Detroit of the south; then I remembered Detroit has the Pistons."
And these are people who like Birmingham! Don't worry—there's still plenty of racism, xenophobia and gay bashing left in the comments.
In case you're wondering, Larry (a.k.a. LaLa) is Mayor Larry Langford who dreams of building a spacious domed stadium that will attract all manner of tractor pulls and swap meets, dragging Birmingham squarely into the 20th Century. The "groundbreaking" was last Tuesday, even though they haven't even finished the blueprints yet. Just don't clap too loud, sports fans! You wouldn't want to compromise the structural integrity of the roof!
Venezuelan national team shows up in Birmingham, but no tournament [The Birmingham News]
Birmingham, Alabama's quest for a Domed Stadium [Birmingham Dome]
The Freewill Games [ABI Basketball]
Groundbreaking for Birmingham's dome facility confronted by strong winds and opposing voices [The Birmingham News]
Let Me Tell You Something About Birmingham, Alabama [Deadspin]