Johnny-on-the-Spot … by john Foster …
There are some who think the swap of Brittney Griner for Viktor Bout was not a good deal for the United States.
Brittney Griner is a 32 year old professional basketball player for the WNBA’s Mercury Phoenix.
We got her released by giving the Russians a convicted arms dealer, affectionately known in some circles as the “Merchant of Death”.
Ms Griner played college basketball for a few years as a member of the Baylor Bears before turning pro.
She got arrested in Russia, where she played with the Russian women’s club team, “UMMC Ekaterinburg” during the WNBA off-season.
In February of 2022, she was detained by authorities at a Russian airport for possession of “cannabis-derived oil cartridges” in her luggage.
It seems the Russians take a dim view of bringing vape cartridges with hashish oil traces into their country, accidently or not.
Oh, by the way, a week later, the Russians invaded Ukraine and that brought severe sanctions by the U.S. and others.
I’m sure that helped negotiations to get a professional American basketball player out of a Russian prison.
Now the guy the Russians wanted out of a Federal prison in Illinois, where he was sentenced for 25 years for conspiring to kill Americans, among other things, is, at best a “shady character”.
Viktor Bout was thought to be the inspiration for the arms dealer, played by Nicholas Cage in the 2005 movie “Lord of War”.
Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges in July, but in Russia, you still go to trial.
Early in August, she was found guilty and sentenced to 9 years in a Russian penal colony.
It is interesting to note that there were reports in early June, U.S officials offered to release Griner and Paul Whelan in exchange for Bout.
Whelan is a retired U.S Marine whose been in Russian custody for nearly 4 years, serving a 16 year sentence on an espionage charge.
It appears Russia wanted to keep Whelan for “what’s behind door number 2” as we hear on “Let’s Make a Deal”.
I haven’t heard many say Griner shouldn’t have been released; rather this “Bout-guy” should have cost the Russians more.
From a sports perspective, the “trade” of Griner for Bout might compare to the 1989 NFL deal when the Dallas Cowboys traded running back Hershel Walker (ever hear of him?) to the Minnesota Vikings in a deal that involved 18 players and draft picks.
Walker played just 3 seasons in Minnesota and never rushed for 1,000 yards while Dallas parlayed the deal into two draft picks that went on to Hall of Fame careers (Rod Woodson and Emmett Smith) plus 3 Super Bowl trophies for the Cowboys.
It might also compare to the January, 1920 trade when the Boston Red Sox sent a pitcher/outfielder named George Herman Ruth (The Babe) for $100,000 in cash and a $300,000 loan to finance the musical “No, No Nanette”.
“No, No” Boston.
I feel this “people-swapping” method of deciding things ought to be scrapped.
I’m all for settling matters like this with a game of “Red Rover”.
You need at least 10 people divided equally into 2 teams and everybody holds hands.
One of the leader’s yells out, “Red rover, red rover, send (name) over”.
That person tries to break through the arm chain and if they don’t, they stay there.
If they break through, they bring back on of the two people they got past.
“Red Rover” might have originated in Great Britain when English children used the chant to taunt Viking invaders.
The game has also been known as “King’s Run” and “Forcing the City Gates” but it has been banned by many, due to the potential for physical harm.
As a kid growing up, we used to play “Red Rover” in backyards and on the school playgrounds.
So, put a WNBA player on one team and a Russian arms dealer on the other.
The team of negotiators would make up the rest of the squads.
The coin toss as to who gets the chance to break through first might be critical.
Years ago, someone suggested instead of wars, the nation’s leaders would “duke it out” and that’s how we would decide things.
Might change how we look at Presidential candidates because I think we’d be at a bit of a disadvantage if the current leaders of Russia and the United States stepped into the ring.
As Michael Buffer would say, “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!!”