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Foreign Player McDowell “Blue Christmas”

Posted December. 24, 2003 22:50,   


“Honey, I am sorry for not being with you this Christmas. I am desperate to see my son (20 months). I feel sorry for not playing with him. As soon as this season ends, I’ll run back to you….”

Thirty-two year-old foreign player Johnny McDowell of Mobis is called “Black Tank.” This is seventh time that he has spent Christmas in Korea, a foreign country. McDowell, who has played in Korea for the longest among foreign players from the ten professional basketball teams, speaks Korean so well that he is told “you have almost become Korean.”

When it comes to major holidays, even he cannot help but feel homesick. He usually says, “Yearning for the family is the biggest hardship of living in Korea.” Especially in Christmas, which is regarded as the biggest holiday for Americans, yearning can become more significant.

Ahead of Christmas, his wife Christy (28) visited Korea year after year since their marriage in 2000. However, McDowell has to spend Christmas alone this season due to a mismatched holiday schedule.

Even though he calls his wife, an elementary school teacher, it makes missing her even greater. He made an “indirect meeting” with his son (Johnny McDowell Junior) in Atlanta through internet visual chatting. During ordinary times, he also used to watch his son by setting up internet connection in his dorm with his son’s kindergarten class.

McDowell spent this Christmas with Mobis’ interpreter Lee Hyun-do (30) instead of his family. Lee invited McDowell, cooking pasta by himself, on the afternoon of December 24, Christmas Eve, at the Ulsan Mobis dorm. 26-year-old Bassette, another foreign player of Mobis, also joined.

McDowell clinched the foreign player MVP title for three consecutive years (1997-1999). However, his position on the team has narrowed this season. Because the team atmosphere is depressed, the team status is low and Choi Hee-ahm, the former head coach, resigned in the middle of the season. Before he was the best below the rim without a rival, but now things have changed. “Useless McDowell” sayings have also appeared. So there is rarely anything that makes himself stand out these days. He wanted to take a rest if at all possible, but he went to the gym even on December 24 to practice.

McDowell said, “I am sorry for my poor performance this season. Tell my fans that I will do my best in the remaining games.”

Everybody is happy and cheerful at Christmas. Merry as it is, the sadness of foreign players who are away from home becomes deeper.

Won-Hong Lee bluesky@donga.com