So before talking about Team USA's second consecutive snoozer-cruiser in the World Championship, I'd like to pay respects to a great American, Ann Richards. A former governor and state treasurer in Texas, she passed away Wednesday. And while feeling sad watching a CNN report on her, I then found myself laughing out loud.
They were replaying part of her keynote address from the 1988 Democratic National Convention, a speech that had a few classic zingers. I remember: It was July, and I was watching it with my dog (he wasn't paying very close attention, though) in a little duplex in a west Tennessee town where I had my first newspaper job.
If common sense were water, Ann Richards would have had her very own ocean. Being so funny, charismatic and hardworking on top of it, she seemed almost too good to be true. I was wishing it was her that the Dems were
nominating for president then.
you're wondering how I'm going to steer this back to basketball and the World Championship, aren't you? Piece of cake. The Dems' convention in '88 was at the Omni in Atlanta. Five years later, another Texas woman put
on an unforgettable performance in that same building: Sheryl Swoopes.
Oh, and a kid from Ohio did pretty well there, too: Katie Smith. Swoopes' Texas Tech team beat Smith's Ohio State team for the NCAA title. Now, 13 years later, they're both still among the best in the game, playing for Team USA.
Wednesday's 79-46 victory over Nigeria wasn't quite the beautiful basketball clinic that the Americans' opener against China was, but it more than got the job done. Again, all 12 U.S. players scored, this time with DeLisha Milton-Jones getting a team-high 13 points.
But she also was the high contributor, with five, to the one area of the game that concerned coach Anne Donovan: turnovers. The Americans had 22. It should be noted, though, that none of them were by starting point guard Sue Bird, who had seven points, six assists and two steals, plus played the most minutes for the Americans: 24.
It would be really nice to one day see Nigeria have a top-notch women's basketball team. And there is talent in that program, including some players -- such as Itoro Umoh (Clemson), Mfon Udoka (DePaul) and Ugo Oha (George
Washington) -- who had Division I college success. Incidentally, all three were born in the United States.
Right now, though, Nigeria has no realistic chance against Team USA. The Nigerians shot 20.7 percent from the field, attributable in large part to how ruthless the Americans' defense can be. This is a U.S. team with a lot of players who are not only skilled on defense, but actually like to play it.
As much as they can be a stunning offensive unit, the Americans embrace and even enjoy defense. Looking at all the success this USA program has had, especially in the past decade, you can see one player in particular who embodies that: Swoopes.
And with that, we're going to pass it back to Ann Richards. Through the miracle of the Internet, it took just seconds to find a recording of her keynote address at the Omni 18 years ago.
So I listened to it again and guess what? She actually made a hoops reference. I certainly had not remembered that.
She said, "You know, tonight I feel a little like I did when I played basketball in the eighth grade. I thought I looked real cute in my uniform. And then I heard a boy yell from the bleachers, 'Make that basket, Birdlegs.' And my greatest fear is that same guy is somewhere out there in the audience tonight, and he's going to cut me down to size. Because where I grew up, there really wasn't much tolerance for self-importance, people who put on airs."
I don't know how much basketball Richards ever played after that; Texas politics is more like knockdown, drag-out, no-holds-barred wrestling. But I think she's some place now where, figuratively speaking, all of her shots are falling.
Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed to this report.