One of the first things the wife of a professional athlete usually tries to find out after her husband signs with a team is if any other players on the team have a wife. And not that any wife or girlfriend isn’t wonderful, but you especially want to know if there is one who speaks English. This past August when Joe signed in Barcellona and I looked quickly to see who else was on the team, the prospects of another American woman were not looking good. The other American passport player was from Panama and the rest of the guys were Italian passports (at the beginning there was also a Greek player as well). But after the whirlwind of getting Isaiah’s passport and arriving in Barcellona, Joe told me one day that his teammate Ryan was an American (with an Italian passport) and so was his wife. As he was leaving for a preseason road trip, he casually said,”Oh yeah, I gave Ryan’s wife your cell number so she is going to be calling you and coming by today.” I got nervous all of the sudden. That first meeting can be a little timid as you get to know one another a bit, but I was so excited to have some company. So when Edwina called a few hours later, I said I would definitely enjoy it if she came over. So about an hour later she was there and we hit it off immediately.
No matter what, the women in this world will bond because no one else can truly know what our lives are like. We have similar stresses and are on the same ride throughout the season as our husbands/boyfriends share a common goal. But with Eddie it was like instant friendship. I remember talking non-stop that first time together (and every time since). We had both been Division I athletes (Eddie ran track at Bucknell), both had babies only 1.5 months apart and both shared a bunch of other common interests. Although our backgrounds were very different, our personalities meshed so well that we could talk about anything. Eddie was often the reason I had a smile on my face during the days in Barcellona this season. If only we hadn’t been across town from one another (in Barcellona that is a big deal), I think we would have hung out almost every day.
Eddie is such a wonderful example of supporting her husband even when it means a serious sacrifice to herself. Eddie gave up her job and familiar world in the U.S. to live with Ryan in Italy where he was playing in the Italian divisions with no other Americans. She totally had to assimilate herself to the culture that he had grown up in, but was completely new to her. She took the initiative to learn Italian on her own and made friends with people in the places she lived. Without her effort to become part of the world where Ryan was working to achieve his dreams, Ryan probably would have had to stop playing. She is an awesome woman and I hope you enjoy getting to know her a little better.
How did you and your husband meet?
Ryan and I went to HS together but we hung around different crowds. Both being athletes, we eventually crossed paths but it wasn’t until the end of our senior year. Summer after finishing our freshman year in college, we were set up by a mutual friend and we have been dating ever since, even though we attended different universities 4 hours apart. We were both busy in our respective sports so the distance wasn’t really an issue.
Where was the first place you lived internationally? Can you tell a little more about the experience?
It was in Ragusa, Sicily. It’s a beautiful city with lovely views but any stay beyond a week is too much. I’m being biased as I have lived in other Italian cities that I have enjoyed much more, but after that year, I gave Ryan a really hard time about any team showing interest that was in Sicily. It’s isolated and I was amazed by how old the general population was. It seemed that the city was comprised of people either over the age of 60 or under the age of 16. I didn’t speak of word of Italian and we have mostly played for B1 teams where there are no Americans. He would be gone for almost three days for away games and I literally knew no one. We had very limited access to the Internet and phone. We were always having issues with the young couple who lived below us. A combination of factors made that year my most difficult year living abroad.
How many years has / did your husband play(ed)?
Ryan has played a total of 8 years including this one.
What cities have you lived in internationally?
Ozzano, Italy – Ryan’s first year playing professional abroad. I stayed in NY and worked and only visited for the last two months of his season.
Ragusa, Sicily – 1 year
Osimo, Italy – 3 years
Cremona, Italy – 1 year
Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto, Sicily – 2 years
If you had to pick a favorite international city, which one was it and why?
My favorite international city is a city that I have never lived in but have visited countless times. It’s Bologna Italy. We have great friends there that we consider family. Ryan grew up with them in the same apartment building when he was younger. It’s a perfect mixture of not too many tourist but still international enough and I have always considered it a home away from home.
Please share one funny moment in your life as a Basket Wife.
I’m not sure this is funny as it was really scary for us. One warm evening while watching a movie with Ryan on the couch, we had left the window open. None of our apartments
in Italy have ever had screens. With only the low corridor lights on, we noticed a shadow swooping and flying erratically in the hallway. We both looked at each other and knew immediately that it was way to large and fast to be a moth. It was a bat. We spent the rest of the evening completely covered from head to toe with brooms in our hands trying to coerce the bat back outside. Scary for us but funny for the neighbors.
What was the toughest struggle you encountered in your life as a Basket Wife?
My toughest struggle with being a Basket Wife is living in an environment that is so homogenized. Being half Black and Chinese, I have always been different but growing up in New York, everyone is different and no one really stands out. I attended a college with an extremely low minority rate and I think my experience in Italy would have been much more difficult if I weren’t already sort of accustomed to it from my college years. I have had a few experiences here in Italy where I was treated unfairly and I attribute it to the fact that I’m different and have a more difficult time defending myself verbally, but of course that is subjective.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned as a Basket Wife?
The greatest lesson I have learned as a basket wife is that as much as I love being American, I think its important to assimulate to whatever your new environment entails. My first year I didn’t speak the language, I didn’t like the food at the time (Sicily has a LOT of raw fish), I wasn’t used to people invading my personal space and the hard stares made me feel uncomfortable. It was just so different than what I was used too. I think my largest struggle was just simply not being prepared. I have since learned to live in my settings and make it my home instead of always waiting around for the season to end. “When in Rome!!!!”…or Osimo, or Cremona, or Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto!