In Beijing right now, thousands of the greatest athletes on the planet are proudly representing their countries, hoping that four years’ worth of training will culminate with a position on top of the medal stand, watching their flag raised as the national anthem plays — a moment they’ve dreamed of since childhood and surely wouldn’t trade for anything. But not all of the world’s top athletes share this deep sense of nationalism. Take, for instance, Johan Santana. In 2006, the then-Twins ace participated in the inaugural World Baseball Classic, pitching for his home country of Venezuela. But when the tournament returns next spring, he tells the Post, don’t necessarily expect to see him on the mound in red, white, and yellow. It’s not out of fear of injury, though, or a sense of commitment to his employer, the Mets. No, if he decides not to represent his country, it’ll be because he didn’t really like some of the off-the-field aspects of the 2006 tournament: a lack of hotel rooms, no tickets to games (which surely means no free tickets to games, for family and such), and our favorite, suffering a postgame meal of Burger King.
Now we’re not sure exactly what he means by “no hotel rooms” — that’s the Post’s phrasing, not a direct quote — but we suspect Santana wasn’t living out of his car for two weeks. And while the image of a clubhouse spread of Whoppers is pretty funny (perhaps because we also envision Santana wearing one of those cardboard Burger King crowns), couldn’t he just, you know, buy his own food this time around? Hell, he’ll make $20 million in 2009; he could feed the whole damn team if he wanted. We’re just glad major leaguers aren’t allowed to play in the Olympics. We’d hate for Santana to find out what they’re feeding the athletes over there. —Joe DeLessio