TrueHoop: Coleman Collins
I did a lot of traveling this summer. I visited Sweden for Midsummer, visited my favorite Peace Corps volunteer and quasi-brother in the Philippines, spent a month in Spain -- Barcelona, Madrid, San Sebastian. I had a wonderful dinner at one of the best restaurants in the world. There are a lot of stories and experiences I'll eventually share, starting with this:
I'm at a bar in Barcelona, watching the World Cup. It's a small Irish pub around the corner from our apartment, a spacious spot in El Born that my friend Vita so graciously offered Matt and I while she was away traveling the month of June (thanks Vita!) The U.S. is playing Slovenia. There are about four or five Americans milling about, making idle chatter.
One of them approaches me. "Hey," he says, "aren't you the Unfiltered Sake guy?"
"Why, yes," I say, flattered.
"Coleman Collins, right?"
"One and the same."
"I really like that blog you have, man, but you never update it."
"I know, I know, I've been busy traveling, working out ..."
"And TrueHoop, too, man, you don't write for TrueHoop anymore? I loved those!"
Well well well now, I thought to myself. You have really done it now. Now you have a public. A readership, however small. It's been confirmed, on a different continent no less. You gots to do better. And I assured him that I would, and here we are again. I am going to make an effort to go from writing once every few months to once every few weeks, or maybe something more frequent than that. Starting today.
Two quick sports-related things:
1. I'm back with the same team from last year in Germany, and I feel very fortunate to be here. Though we had a bit of a down season last year, we've got a revamped roster and some good momentum coming into this next year. Currently, two of our players are playing for the German national team in the World Championships. When we get them back we'll be well on our way. I spent the first part of last year playing out of position at the 5, but we've brought in a little more size and I'll be able to play the 4, my natural position. I'm excited about that.
I'm also excited that I'm in a familiar environment. A lot of times playing overseas, you're sort of wedged in where people think you should fit, given a week or so to pan out in the style that the coach/GM/megalomaniac rich businessman/heir thinks is appropriate. I'm glad I've got a great coaching staff in my corner, that understands where I'm effective and how I play best.
A good example of this is my former college teammate Jamon Gordon. He just signed with one of the top teams in the world -- Olympiakos. He deserves it, too, but it hasn't been easy -- he's played in a lot of bad situations in various countries over the past few years, until last year he found a great team in Greece and dominated, earning his way to the best team in the league. Congratulations to him, and best of luck. Outside of making the league, that's one of the best gigs you can get.
We're all fortunate to be playing this year. I often call my job recession-proof, but it's not true. The recession affects all of us. NBA teams have cut payrolls and carried fewer players (as opposed to filling the IR with healthy bodies) forcing a glut downwards. Top European teams (often bankrolled by psuedo-interested dilettantes that spent lavishly, operating at absurd losses, in times of plenty) have slashed salaries out of necessity. The specter of a possible lockout in 2011-2012 has scared a lot of guys off of the D-League, adding even more players to the European pool. The various minor leagues in the States have folded due to economic pressures. Second and third leagues in Europe are consolidating, or folding. The country with the most notorious reputation for not honoring contracts (Greece, outside of the top four or five teams) is going through one of the most painful recessions in the developed world.
A player with a contract and a check that comes on time in this market is a lucky man.
2. College football season is here! College football is my favorite sport to watch. I grew up in Atlanta and have always followed SEC football. I became a Virginia Tech football fan in college. We started the season with a loss to Boise State, I couldn't watch it because of the late start time. But I definitely root for the Hokies.
The problems start when I have to explain college football to my European friends.
"So, the players don't get paid."
"No, well, they go to school for free."
"But school is what, a few thousand dollars?"
"No, college is very expensive in the States. Like $30,000 or more."
"Do the coaches get paid?"
"Do people pay to go to the games?"
"How much is a ticket?"
"40 dollars, maybe. Could be more."
"And the players don't get paid?"
This can go on and on and on, and I find myself defending a ridiculous system. The B.C.S. is the worst. How do you defend what is basically an illegal (should-be illegal) price-fixing, oligopolistic cartel?
"There's no tournament?"
"No, they vote on the teams and then they put the votes into a big computer and then the computer says who can play in the championship game."
"That's how they decide who's the best?"
(weakly) "Well ... yeah."
Never mind the fact that the BCS is controlled by the teams from the power conferences, and that the polls are voted on by coaches from same. Never mind that the teams that make the BCS games split up a huge pot, bringing millions to those same power conferences, making them more powerful.
A top player can get suspended for having a meeting (a meeting!) with Deion Sanders and be ruled ineligible for the season. And all of this ridiculous sound and fury about supposed meetings with agents in Florida, and the NCAA "cracking-down," "investigating," "sanctioning," etc. Million-dollar investigations into whether players attended a party that was thrown by an agent. All of this effort to "protect" players from this ominous boogeyman -- the evil, underhanded agent.
This is not to say that all of them are pure in their intent, but one thing has always be true -- the agent can't get paid until after you, the player, do. College football coaches get paid their money whether their players graduate or not. They get paid when the star running back blows out his knee and gets replaced by the hotshot freshman. Even after they get fired, they will still get everything promised to them by their contract. People forget that college scholarships are only good for one year, renewable. A coach can simply decide not to renew it, to "encourage a transfer." Of course, football players have to sit out a year if they do, unless they move down to 1-AA (or whatever they call it now). But a coach can switch schools with impunity.
Those are a lot of loosely-related complaints, and there's much more where that came from. Suffice it to say that everything about college football makes me very uncomfortable, except for the games, which I will be watching exclusively on an illegal streaming website this fall as my own private way of sticking it to the man.
All that aside, I am very, very excited about college football starting. It's a great product.
I have very particular tastes. If I am trying to find something to eat, and I'm the one doing the cooking, my favorite things to eat are baked chicken wings and Ramen noodles. They have to be chicken-flavored Maruchan Ramen noodles. This is very important to remember. Some people think you can just eat Ramen noodles as a full meal, in a bowl and drowned in water like some common soup, but I've found that they work best as an accompaniment to something else. So chicken wings are served with chicken-flavored Ramen, roast beef with roast beef Ramen, and so on. There's an art to it. The most important thing is to strain the noodles in a colander, and then add the seasoning when they have dried somewhat. In this way the flavoring adheres better to the noodle, and only then can the full power of the Ramen noodle be experienced. Try it at home.
You don't believe me. Trust me, I've heard all the naysayers. "Ramen noodles have absolutely no nutritional value." "How can you eat something that can be buried for ten years and not go bad?" "I thought those were for poor college kids." These sentiments are all somewhat true, but they are irrelevant. Who cares that they're high in sodium and have no vitamins? Ramen noodles are tasty and delightfully inexpensive - for 12 cents a pack you can eat like a king. It's your own personal recession special. I challenge you to find a better food value in this day and age.
This isn't a story about Ramen noodles, though, because I don't have any here with me. Strangely, the Germans do not share my love of Ramen, and I have had trouble finding them at my local store. This is a small tragedy, but I adapt. I am a very good cook. One of the best dishes I cook other than baked chicken wings and Ramen is spaghetti. I learned from the best. When I was about seven or eight years old and both of my parents were working, my father decided it was high time I learned to cook something so I could feed myself for a change. One day, we stood in the kitchen, huddled over the stove.
"Now listen up," he said, "and pay attention. I don't want to have to repeat this." I straightened up, all ears. I had conquered the microwave, except for that one time when I microwaved a spoon in a bowl of Spaghetti-O's, but no one had found out and the microwave still worked. Now it was time to move on to bigger and better things. He cleared his throat and began the lesson. "Any idiot can make spaghetti. You put water in a pot. Put a little salt in the pot, maybe a little olive oil. Then you put it on the stove. You make sure the stove is on," he said, gesturing to the knobs in front of us. I nodded and made a mental note. Make sure stove is turned on. This was clearly a step I would do well to remember. "You wait till the water is boiling. Then you put the spaghetti in. When the spaghetti's done, you strain it. That's it."
"What do you mean, 'boiling'?" Boiling. It was a nice, round word and I rolled it around and repeated it for a bit. Boy-yull-ing. It was news to me and sounded strange and important. I decided right then and there to bring it up casually at school. "Did you watch that new episode of "Doug" last night?" my classmates would ask. "Oh no," I'd say, "didn't have any time. I got carried away boy-yull-ing some water, and, well, you know how it is." Boiling water was clearly something that grown-ups did, and once I learned how to do it I'd be well on my way.
As I mouthed the word, giggling at its strangeness, he narrowed his eyes at me, probably second-guessing the decision to leave me alone near an open flame. "Pay attention. Boiling is simple. There will be bubbles coming from the water. Big bubbles. They'll be rising and popping really fast. You'll be able to tell. I hope."
"Ok." Bubbles were familiar territory. Show me a little kid that doesn't like bubbles, and I'll show you a future mortician. "But, wait - how do I know it's done cooking?"
He laughed and put his arm around my shoulder. "Ah-ha. That's the best part. But let's just keep it between you and me, alright son?" I nodded vigorously. At that point you could trust me with anything. I was a vault.
He glanced over his shoulder as if to be sure no one was listening, whispered in my ear. "You get it out a piece at a time - use a fork so you don't burn yourself or anything - and then you throw it at the wall. If it sticks, it's ready to eat."
"Spaghetti can stick to a wall, without glue or anything?"
"It most certainly can. And if it doesn't stick, you just wait and keep throwing strands of spaghetti every so often until one does. That's how you know. Only don't tell your mother I told you. It'll be our little secret."
I was beside myself. Who knew cooking was so fun? Boiling water with bubbles floating all over the kitchen and popping overhead? Spaghetti that magically stuck to any surface? It was almost more than I could bear. I composed myself, tried not to let on how excited I was. "What about the ceiling? Would that work too?"
"Sure, why not? I don't see why the ceiling'd be any different. If it's done, really done, it'll stick to anything. Got it?"
I nodded again.
"Ok, good. I'm gonna go upstairs and watch the game. Why don't you try it out?"
He chuckled to himself and walked away, leaving me beaming, standing in a kitchen full of magic and possibilities. That was the day I made my first pot of spaghetti.
My mother came home about an hour later. "I made dinner!" I said brightly, clutching a colander half-full with overcooked pasta. She smiled weakly and took a piece, chewing and glancing around the kitchen at the other half-pot of spaghetti, the half that covered the ceiling and walls and the raw pieces that littered the floor. I'd thrown a piece about every fifteen seconds from the moment I'd first dropped them in.
"Mmmmm," she said, "that tastes really good. How'd you learn to do a thing like that?"
"Dad taught me," I said. Then I thought about our secret. "Well, he showed me a couple things, but I came up with a few ideas myself."
"Ah," she said. "I see. Good job. How about you put that spaghetti down for a second, and sweep this floor up? Where's your father right now?"
She sighed. "I think I'll go up and tell him how well your spaghetti turned out."
Over the years I have perfected my spaghetti technique, but I have not forgotten those first lessons in my family's kitchen. They have served me quite well. I make phenomenal spaghetti. I often receive compliments about the tenderness of the pasta, and I nod and accept them with a knowing smile. Because I am so good at making spaghetti, I will often find myself eating it three or four times a week. 'But what of the other days of the week?' you might ask. This problem is easily solved. On Tuesdays, most of the KFCs in Germany have a wing special -- six wings for two euros. Tuesday nights I get a big bucket of chicken wings and fantasize about having Ramen noodles to eat with them. On nights that are not Tuesdays I might order delivery from the selection of pizza and Chinese places. If I am hungry for a high-class meal with vegetables I will visit an actual restaurant.
Lunch time is simple. Connoisseur that I am, regardless of where I am living I will always be well apprised of the various buffets in the area. There is a Chinese buffet downtown, all-you-can-eat for 6.90. There is another buffet that is also all-you-can-eat, which charges 6.70. These two restaurants are directly across the street from each other. I imagine the owners, peering out their respective windows and plotting against their competitor. In my mind they are brothers who have had a falling out over their father's will. The older brother coerced a deathbed rewrite and stole the recipe for their father's secret sauce, and after years of court challenges they've retreated to their respective bunkers, silently hating each other from a few yards away. I have begun to subtly sow seeds for a price war. "How much was that again?" I ask. "Six euros even, right? No? Oh, I'm sorry, I don't eat here often. I usually go to that other, cheaper place across the street, but today it was so packed I just couldn't get a table."
When I am tired of eating Asian buffets or making lunch from cold cuts, I dine at IKEA. Most people think that IKEA is only for bland furniture and rock-bottom prices, but for those blessed with houses already full of furniture and discerning palates, it can also be a wonderful place for lunch. The food is vaguely Swedish with a German twist. I like to think of it as European fusion. Someday it will catch on elsewhere, but for now IKEA is the only outlet for the European fusion enthusiast. The only problem is that the menu never changes; IKEA's restaurant was (sadly) not designed for repeat customers. People only go to IKEA at most once a month, and even still, they won't stop to eat each time they walk in. As a result IKEA is able to keep its menu static with the average consumer none the wiser. But I am, as I have told you before, a culinary connoisseur, and I cannot help but notice. For this sad reason, the joy of eating IKEA's food is gradually lessened with each visit. I have begun changing up my order when I go there, but am secretly hoping that 2010 has a new IKEA menu in store for me. But if you haven't been yet, you should go. The meatballs are excellent this time of year.
On extremely rare occasions, I might even experiment with something other than spaghetti, but normally the sole reason I haven't cooked spaghetti is that there are no clean dishes. My apartment here doesn't have a dishwasher. This is the primary source of stress in my life. I hate washing dishes by hand. To me it's like washing a load of clothes in a river or using flint to start a fire: sure, it's noble, but there are machines that do that better than I ever will, so why bother? Paradoxically, I absolutely can't stand a dirty kitchen, so after cooking on consecutive days I tend to spend most of my time in the living room. When the living room got too dirty to bear, I found an older German woman to clean things up. For 10 euros an hour she will come in and clean your apartment from top to bottom. Her husband dropped her off, and there she was standing at my door, mop in hand and ready for battle. "Don't forget to do the dishes," I told her. "I'm planning on making something special tonight." I left her there, went to practice and came back a few hours later. The place was absolutely spotless, save for the cleaning lady collapsed on the couch, glistening with sweat from the labor. I paid her the money I owed (with a little extra out of embarrassment for how dirty the apartment was) and we said our goodbyes. Then she ambled down the stairs, out the door and into the arms of her waiting husband, who had to have been shocked at how long it took her to finish. I can only imagine their conversation on the way home. "Now, wait - just wait one minute," he says, scratching his head. "The floor I can understand. That part makes sense. But how on earth would he have gotten that stuck to the ceiling?"
Perhaps you remember, not all that long ago, Coleman Collins -- professional basketball player and TrueHoop contributor -- wrote about visiting Germany where he played in 2007-2008. Well, guess what! He's living and playing there again. This time in Ulm. He writes:
When you move a lot you pack a lot. You don't save much. You pick up and you leave and you pack your life into little rectangular things, or if the back of your trunk is big enough you toss your memories into the back. That's if you're driving away. If you're flying, and you probably are, most of your life has got to be left behind, because they're going to charge you for your extra bags, and then they'll charge you for them being overweight. So you end up throwing things away, giving things away, buying everything twice.
Coleman Collins, starring in posters in Germany.
(Courtesy of Coleman Collins)
It's hard though. Sometimes I feel like I split myself in pieces when I move somewhere, and when I move away I always leave him behind. So there's a New York me and an Atlanta me. An Indiana me and an Stuttgart me, infinite mes with mirrors in front and behind them, incubating in places I haven't been yet and buried in places I'll never return to. That's what it's like, really. You die little deaths when you leave a place that you've lived in, really Lived in, where they recognize you at your favorite places and address you by name.
Choosing what to bring is always a tough time. Throwing away bits of your life. Or bits of you.
But it's funny what you find. A note from a child, thanking me for an appearance at a homeless shelter. I don't know if I have the heart to let her know that the Indiana me is gone.
I took her Christmas shopping as part of a program with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. As we walked around the store and looked at the various items on sale, I realized she didn't understand percentages. So as we walked around the store, for every sale sign we saw, I'd stop and ask her how much the actual price was. That's what we did.
"These shoes are 50% off, and they normally cost 25 dollars. How much do they cost now?" This was the first one we'd come to, and she told me they'd cost 12 dollars, remainder 1. "Remainder? You think the cashier is gonna take remainder for an answer when we check out? No. She's gonna look at you crazy and ask where her other 50 cents is. Be serious and try again."
Maybe a bit harsh, but she got the point, and by the time we checked out she had moved on to the 25% discounts, too. We shopped and talked and learned and here was her letter, thanking me for it. Thank you for helping me with math. I'm getting a lot better. I hope you'll come back and visit us at the shelter. I couldn't make that visit, or didn't, anyway; I hope she doesn't hate me for it. I hope that meeting me, knowing me, even for a little bit of time was a positive experience for her. That's all I ever hope for with anyone, really.
So that's the bad part, the dying part. The good part is that every new place is a rebirth. And like every birth, it's a tragedy, because you know that whatever was born is going to die someday. That skin is going to sag; that hair is going to gray and fall out. Your contract runs its course, you want more money, they want to pay you less, whatever. But it's a beautiful tragedy. You meet people and make friendships, and sometimes they last. That's the amazing part; the possibility. Every baby could grow to be president. Every team could be a champion. Wandering eyes become wives, handshakes last lives. It's idealistic, sure, but I think I'm still young enough to pretend I don't know any better.
So I'm in a new place, a good place, and a new season is starting. I can't help but be happy about that.
Last Saturday I had the opportunity to participate in the JOE Joseph Abboud/NBA Block Party, at the new JCPenney's in Midtown Manhattan. There's an existing partnership between Joseph Abboud and the NBA coaches to provide sideline gear, and they're trying to expand it to include more events like this. There were a number of activities -- an outdoor basketball court, a traveling Larry O'Brien Trophy, a DJ, etcetera. The crowning glory was the fashion show: to promote their new fall collection, Joseph Abboud got ten basketball players to get up on the runway. I'd always wondered myself -- how does it feel to be really, really ridiculously good-looking?
Walt Frazier was the MC -- dapper as always, as is his reputation. He did a great job on the mic -- I may be a little biased because he gave me a nice shout-out when I hit the runway. One of the all-time greats. A friend of mine that came to the event found a way to pull him to the side and get a picture with him. "I had to do it," he said. "It's Walt Frazier. I just walked up to him and said, 'I appreciate everything you've done. You're a great man.' He didn't really say anything back, but I know he felt where I was coming from."
From Left: Toney Douglas (Knicks), Terrence Willams (Nets), Walt Frazier (Knicks), yours truly, Randy Foye (Wizards), Allan Houston (Knicks), Chris Duhon (Knicks). Jordan Hill (Knicks) is inexplicably turned the other way and thus obscured by Toney Douglas' head.
This is Terrence Williams, one of the Nets' draft picks. I had to put this up here because he looks like he's having such a good time out there.
John Starks was there as well. He's got a clothing line that he's trying to promote -- Zipway Athletic apparel. Good example of how to adjust to life away from sports. Athletes retire from their games 30 years before anyone else would think of retiring in this country; we usually imagine them sitting back and enjoying their money, but eventually, you need a purpose. He was very enthusiastic about it: "I got my hands in every part of the business. Designing, answering phones, you name it, I'm there."
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
Summer League is a whirlwind, especially once the Thomas & Mack Center begins to host games in addition to the contests being held inside tiny Cox Pavilion. If you've ever been to the early rounds of a pro tennis tournament or a PGA event, you know what it's like to bounce around between courts or tees, trying to get a glimpse of as much talent as possible.
Like any tournament, you begin to adopt favorites and follow them around. The Detroit rookies -- Austin Daye, DaJuan Summers, and Jonas Jerebko -- always put on a good show. The Warriors' Anthonys were electrifying, as were the Clippers' first couple of games when Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon worked their inside-out game. But no squad played harder in Las Vegas than the D-League Select team, and their games were imminently more watchable than most. The D-Leaguers finished Summer League with a 3-2 record, and got their final victory in dramatic fashion. Joanna Shapiro of the NBA sent me this email about how it happened while I was in the other gym watching the Clips:
[The D-League Select team] defeated the Portland Trail Blazers last night in heroic fashion. Down two without the ball and 2.9 seconds to play, Kurt Looby stole the Portland inbounds pass and found teammate Marcus Hubbard who connected on an off-balance long-range three from the right side to give the NBA D-League the 74-73 victory at the buzzer.
It was the only buzzer-beater of the ten days and it couldn't have happened to a harder-working group of guys. Several of the select team members had offers to warm the benches of the pro clubs, but opted to play in the baby blues of the D-League because they'd be assured more minutes. The D-Leaguers outshot their opponents 47.2 percent to 45.9 percent over the span of their five games, and outrebounded them by greater than four boards per game.
The D-Leaguers featured two of my favorite players of Summer League: Walker Russell, Jr. -- (the best passer in Las Vegas) and TrueHoop contributor Coleman Collins, who averaged 11.8 points per game and shot 51.4 percent from the floor.
Will any of the Selecteers get a guaranteed deal from an NBA squad? In this economy, it's unlikely. But if nothing else, Vegas affirmed what a lot of NBA people have come to realize: There is measurable talent in places like Boise and Austin ready to make good in the L.
My two favorite sports are basketball and soccer, for a number of reasons, but the main one is this: they are simple and accessible.
You don't need a bunch of equipment or space to play -- you only need a ball and a few people. As a matter of fact, you don't really need anyone else. Give me a basketball and hoop, or else a piece of aluminum foil and a trash can, and I can entertain myself for hours. Roll a round object -- anything sufficiently round and fairly bouncy -- at an able-bodied European, and he won't betray his age in the American way by stooping to pick it up; he'll juggle it with his feet, astounding you with his agility and quickness. I've seen soccer balls roll away from pickup games towards seemingly out-of-touch businessmen in suits, and they spring into action: three swift flips, a kick and a smirk. A thing-or-two shown. But I digress. Suffice it to say that you can't play golf on a street corner; you can't toss a football to yourself.
For these reasons, among others, a free charity basketball or soccer game is pretty much the most awesome event you can put on. All you need is a patch of wood or grass or turf and some people worth watching, and the rest takes care of itself. And best of all, the crowd can be right up on the edge of the action. Football and baseball games need sidelines, walls, boundaries, helmets -- not so here. Golfers and tennis players need even more space and/or quiet -- and who wants to be quiet when they're excited? Nobody, that's who.
Now take your charity soccer or basketball game and put it in New York. Since you're forced to choose, you need basketball players playing soccer or soccer players playing basketball. Take this basic concept, add a ridiculous amount of legendary talent from international soccer and the NBA, plus thousands of people who braved torrential downpours to get a glimpse of greatness, and you have Steve Nash's Showdown in Chinatown (or whatever it's called) quite possibly the greatest thing that's ever happened on a Wednesday.1
I am by no means a knowledgeable soccer fan -- most of what I know has been Wikipedia-ed or gleaned through hours of painstaking FIFA video game play -- but because I aspire to be a polymath, because I am widely considered the world's most reliable source, and because I was there and you probably weren't, I will share with you a few of my many observations:
- Chris Bosh is an awful, awful soccer player. On the basketball court he is left-hand dominant, but on the soccer field he shows no favoritism; he is equally terrible with both feet. He mis-timed every ball that came to him. He blew headers. He blew passes. He completely whiffed on the ball multiple times. The first time he got his body on the ball, it was to score a goal against his own team. Grant Hill, who is certainly no Pele, "and1"-ed him, flipping the ball between his legs on the wing. He played in running shoes that may or may not have been tied. With all of that said, he was a great sport, and by all appearances, a really nice guy. Every time the ball went near him the crowd erupted. The one time he did kick the ball, he kicked it 40 feet out of bounds and, upon hearing the tumultuous applause, turned to the crowd, and raised his hands in the air, Rocky-style. Clear fan favorite. Whenever he got close to the end-line, people in the crowd begged him to sign with the Knicks.
- Steve Nash is a pretty extraordinary athlete. Hands down Man of the Match. He scored three goals -- one of which was one-on-one against Ivan Cordoba, who is a world-class defender for Inter Milan. Also, it was a spectacular goal -- he put him through the mixer with a couple step-overs and hit it in the top-right corner of the net from the left wing (hard enough to do on a regulation-sized goal but next to impossible to do on the miniature goals they were playing on). He scored right-footed and left footed. He passed brilliantly. He tried a bicycle kick that narrowly missed the goal, but ended up getting (and sinking) a penalty kick because he got clipped, not sure by who, maybe ESPN's Marc Stein (even if he claims he didn't foul him). And he won back-to-back NBA MVP's a few years ago. How is that even possible? (Editor's note: Stein insists, and other sources confirm, that in fact that goal was later disallowed as the referee agreed Stein didn't really foul Nash mid-bicycle kick.)
- Marc Stein didn't get nearly as much tick this year as he did last year, don't know why that is. Definitely the fan favorite next to Bosh whenever he's on the field (scattered cheers of "Steiny-mo!). Didn't get a chance at MOM but certainly Twittered like a champ.
- Grant Hill knows his way around a soccer field. He had what was definitely the most memorable move of the day -- at Bosh's expense, and managed to score a goal. Played his part really well, set up everyone else on his team whenever he could.
- Tony Parker looked like he wasn't paying attention and spent most of his time laughing and joking, but despite it all, scored three goals, including two in like the first ten minutes. Good stuff.
- Thierry Henry didn't play until halftime, and even then played in black patent-leather high-tops, but still put on a show like he normally does. Fresh off a Champions League win, still finding the time to cross an ocean and play for free ... how can you not love that? This is the second year in a row he showed up -- here's hoping he comes back and brings Lionel Messi with him.
- Edgar Davids is supposedly retired, but looked like he could still get out there and play. Along with Ryan Babel, was mostly doing tricks and step-overs by himself and seemed to forget there was a game going on, but because his moves were absolutely amazing, all was forgiven by the gracious crowd. Alleged to have accidentally passed to a teammate at some point during the match. Reports are unconfirmed.2
- Ryan Babel's ball-handling skills are amazing, never heard of him before yesterday -- apparently because he hasn't gotten off the bench much in Liverpool -- but now I'm actively rooting for him to get somewhere where I can watch him play.
- Adrian Mutu was playing with a broken arm or sprained elbow or something of that nature (huge cast/brace), still showed out and played really well. There was a Romanian sitting behind me that was going nuts every time he touched the ball.3
- Salomon Kalou is an absolute beast. Far and away the most fun to watch on the field, which may have been because everyone else was chilling, but also has to be at least partly due to the fact tha
t he is a monster on a soccer field. Can't really say more. I don't know how many times he scored or if he even scored at all, but every time he touched the ball, he entertained and made something happen. He should star in a horror movie. Chelsea have an embarrassment of riches.
There are moments I have undoubtedly neglected to mention, but any omissions are inadvertent. There were so many things going on it was hard to catch all of it and take pictures at the same time. This was my second year attending the game -- last year's Chris Bosh was Baron Davis -- and it only got bigger and better-organized. Every thing went up a notch. Last year people had to fight for a view; this year they had seats available. Last year I literally had to crawl in the dirt under a broken fence to get in; this year I managed to politick a wristband. It might be hard to do next summer, what with the World Cup and everything, but somehow, somewhere, I hope it can happen again. It's been said that there are better ways to spend an afternoon, but not by reliable witnesses.
1. If you are an astute soccer fan, you know that the U.S. had a huge win against Spain the other day which sort of goes against my "greatest thing on a Wednesday" claim. If you are a basketball fan, a good comparison is Digger Phelps' Notre Dame win over UCLA. Spain is/was the number one team in the world, huge win streak, even longer unbeaten streak -- it's one of the biggest wins in U.S. soccer history. And then there's the whole rest of the world to consider, so perhaps a more accurate claim is that it was "the greatest thing to ever happen on Wednesday, June 24th between 6 and 8pm EST on the corner of Rivington and Chrystie Streets," but somehow that didn't have the same ring to it.
2. Also unconfirmed, but I hope it's true -- from Davids' Wikipedia page: "Davids played against Los Angeles Galaxy on 6 December 2008 in an exhibition match as part of an Oceania XI All Star team, despite the fact he is not from Oceania and has never played for an Oceanic club or national team." That's true love for the sport when you would literally play anywhere, and for anybody, just to get a chance at a competitive game.
3. There were a ton of different nationalities represented there, and tons of media. Fox Soccer Channel had a lot of cameras there, apparently for a documentary of some sort, and this Italian reporter claimed that it was being shown live on French TV, but I'm not entirely sure I believe that. Either way, the world was well represented. With players from Colombia, Holland, Argentina, France, Canada, Romania, Ivory Coast, etcetera, pretty much everyone in the crowd had someone to root for. Even Hasheem Thabeet showed up, taking a break from his pre-draft preparations. No word on who his favorite soccer player was. Probably Henry. Henry's everybody's favorite.
(All photos courtesy of Coleman Collins.)
While most of the basketball world was consumed by the NBA Finals, professional baller and TrueHoop contributor Coleman Collins was thinking about the events surrounding Iran's election. He writes:
This is a piece completely unrelated to sports except for three small references. Furthermore, one of those is only in a footnote, and further still, the metaphor is admittedly a bit of a stretch. This isn't about sports; this is a piece that is mainly about democracy. You may wonder what it is doing here, on what is ostensibly a sports website, but I would argue that it belongs, because without democracy, there would be no space for sports. Democracy means something -- it sets the table for all the sweet things in life that come afterward. When there is unrest in the world, the games are postponed; the Ted Williamses of the world go off in the prime of their careers to fight for something bigger than themselves. In a healthy democracy, a rivalry game can have the weight of a world war; in times of trouble, the only uniforms are worn by soldiers.
So, to the main point -- democracy is important. We saw that first-hand last November. It was a hard-fought election, to be sure, with plenty of ugly moments, but ultimately it went off without a hitch. A minority candidate was brought into power by a simple vote. He won in the state of Virginia, a state where his parents' marriage wasn't legal until 1967 (and then only by a landmark Supreme Court case); a state where he wouldn't have been able to buy a sandwich or grab a drink of water on a hot day 45 years prior. Elected to the highest office in the land without a single shot fired. There were the usual grumblings from the losing side about voter-ID fraud, but once the ballots were counted and all was said and done, everything was resolved and things got back to normal quickly. It cannot be overstressed; these peaceful transfers of power are invaluable to a civilized society. Even in 2000, when court challenges to the vote dragged on for weeks, there was no bloodshed, because by and large we believe in the system. We trust the system. We go to sleep every night knowing that we have the power to effect change and make statements about what kind of country we want to live in. Without that -- without the power of the ballot, without free will and the power of self-determination -- everything else we rant and rave about is inconsequential.1
Now consider the current situation in Iran. An election with results that most independent observers deem highly suspect. A highly controversial president re-elected with seemingly impossible majorities, followed by a concerted government effort to silence the opposition. The status quo maintained for the time being - but a glimmer of hope remains.
The people, in short, are not having it. And they're fighting back. There have been battles between citizens and police. People have been putting up a fight. They have been standing up and being counted, sacrificing life and limb for a little piece of what we take for granted.
Hundreds of thousands of people marched through central Tehran on Monday to protest Iran's disputed presidential election in an extraordinary show of defiance that appeared to be the largest antigovernment demonstration here since the 1979 revolution...... The vast and often silent march in Tehran was a deliberate and striking contrast with the chaos of the past few days, when riot police sprayed tear gas and wielded clubs to disperse scattered bands of angry and frightened young people.
The broad river of people - young and old, dressed in traditional Islamic gowns and the latest Western fashions - marched slowly from Revolution Square to Freedom Square for more than three hours, many of them wearing the signature bright green ribbons of Mr. Moussavi's campaign, and holding up their hands in victory signs. When the occasional shout or chant went up, the crowd quickly hushed them, and some held up signs bearing the word "silence.”
"These people are not seeking a revolution,” said Ali Reza, a young actor in a brown T-shirt who stood for a moment watching on the rally's sidelines. "We don't want this regime to fall. We want our votes to be counted, because we want reforms, we want kindness, we want friendship with the world.”
As much as I have always been pro-democracy, I have been equally as passionate about being anti-Twitter. 2 It's always seemed frivolous - not so anymore. Not when I can go to the thread at twitter.com/iranelection09 and see this:
RT @persiankiwi apparently at least one dead in sadatabad tonight. several demonstrators shot/missing. #Iranelection
about 3 hours ago from web
Rumors of gunshots in or around Tehran University, security forces & basij militia are said to have entered TU campus #iranelection
about 3 hours ago from web
TUESDAY is a day of STRIKES throughout all of Iran, DON'T GO TO WORK #iranelection #mousavi
about 3 hours ago from web
RT @iranbaan Former president Khatami has asked all to join march in support of #Mousavi tomorrow Enqelab Sq. to Azadi Sq 4pm #iranelection
about 3 hours ago from web
Thousands of pictures tagged "Iran election" have been uploaded to Flickr. Facebook groups organizing rallies across the U.S. Videos of demonstrations, of people chanting from rooftop to rooftop, documenting damage and bullet holes in dorm room doors - all uploaded to YouTube. This is the first revolution that is immediately accessible online - used by both revolutionaries and observers. This is a revolution led by people in a foreign country, using American websites to speak in English and Farsi to transmit ideas and plans, to warn each other of danger, to organize strikes and protests. This virtual tea party is amazing and earth-shattering and heart-breaking and admirable; it is a sign of the times, a reminder of the power of the individual. It reminds us that regardless of race or religion or political system, the ultimate power to decide our way of life resides with us. In us. This is the lesson provided to us by every popular revolution in history; what the current ruling class in Iran proved when they overthrew the government 30 years ago, what they seem to have forgotten with their overreach last week.
Now things are uncertain. This may be the beginning of the end for the Islamic Republic of Iran. It may be the perfect distraction the opening, the U.S. and Israel need to swoop in and wipe out their nuclear sites. It may be just a minor setback for the government; it is certainly possible that they'll violently crush the dissenters and carry on business as usual. It is possible that, if installed, Mousavi would be even worse than Ahmadinejad has been. There are a million ways this could play out, and we'll see for sure in the near future. There will still be the threat of terrorists lurking in Iran and Afghanistan and the numerous other countries in the region. But for now, for today, this much is certain: as I sit here thousands of miles away, in the safety of my home, enveloped in the tinny sounds of chaotic videos captured by cellphone cameras -- I am in awe. With every breathless Tweet and uploaded snapshot, I remember again why democracy matters -- why individuals matter -- and so
should you. At the very least, attention should be paid.
1 Token sports digression: Consider the much-bemoaned state of officiating in the NBA. This is of paramount importance to everyone involved in the game, because in any contest, be it an election or a basketball game, the zeal of the participants can be destroyed by any breakdown in trust. Do people go to the polls in droves when they think the votes won't be counted accurately? Do players play intense pressure defense when they keep getting called for touch fouls?
2 I have been talking and talking for weeks about meaningless Twitter is -- how no one with anything important to say could fit it into the character limit, how the fact that Ashton Kutcher has 1,000,000 followers delegitimizes the whole thing ... and now in this massive story, I have to admit I was wrong and take back something I said. Shame.
5-And-A-Half Stories About The Same Thing
I was walking through Amsterdam the other day when I crossed paths with two German women, one of whom stopped directly in front of me, looked me up and down, and turned over her shoulder to yell to her friend: "Damn, lots of blacks here, aren't there?"
She said this in German, obviously, probably not guessing in a million years that I could understand what she was saying ... but still ... hadn't she seen real-live black people before?
Then it occurred to me that, no, outside of music videos, maybe she hadn't. Some people really need to get out more.
When I was playing in Germany, we had a physiotherapist who was six months pregnant with the child of an American soldier. An African-American soldier. One day she was talking about potential places to live in America after she gave birth. She asked me where I was from. "Atlanta," I replied. "Georgia. Great place to live. You'd love it."
She looked worried. "Georgia?" She was confused, dumbfounded. "But how will we live there when he is so... "
She pointed to her arm and rubbed her skin ...
"And I am so different? I am hearing that they are not liking the blacks there. I have heard that they are hanging them from trees. They will not welcome a family like ours."
"No, no, that was ages ago. 40 years or more. It's not like that now. You'll be fine."
"Oh," she said. "Perhaps. But it's very still sad that people can treat each other like that. It is very shameful." Then she shook her head and sighed, looking off into the distance, deep in thought about America's sordid past.
And I agreed silently for a second, but then I thought: A lesson in 20th century race relations from a German?
It's incredible how immersed Europeans are in U.S. politics. During the 2008 primaries I was in Munich, at the Hofbrauhaus, and got into a discussion of the primaries with an old German man who was better-versed and more passionate regarding the American government than the average American. He was fiery, and prone to hyperbole. He said that George W. Bush should be executed for what took place at Abu Ghraib; for Hillary Clinton, he used a German expression that can probably best be translated as "power-horny."
Obama he used lighter terms for ("probably a crook, but who knows"), but most people I've met overseas basically worship Barack Obama.
In the hallway to the bathrooms at a club in Paris, I saw Obama posters everywhere. Obama as Superman. Obama and McCain as boxers, facing each other (High Stakes Fight! See it Live: Tuesday November 4th 2008).
Wow, I thought, they like us ... they really care! The thought makes the freedom fries go down even smoother.
Nowadays when you're black overseas, you will invariably be accosted by a street vendor; probably African or Indian. They will look you deep in your eyes, raise a fist in the air, and shout "OBAMA!"
The first four or five times this happened to me, I thought to myself, yes, OBAMA, indeed. The world is changing, I thought. The tide is turning. Free at last! Let freedom ring!1
Unfortunately, whatever enthusiasm I had was short-lived. A clenched fist held aloft in solidarity only ever held an imitation Gucci belt or an Eiffel tower statue. They were doing what any great capitalist would -- seizing upon the zeitgeist to make a quick buck off some sucker on the street.
Let this be a lesson to you, dear reader: Brown skin does not a brother make.
Nowadays when I hear someone run towards me yelling, "OBAMA!" I say as loud as I can, "GUANTANAMO!" and then head in the other direction.
I was in Paris at a bar, sitting around, when the bartender attempted to strike up a conversation. He started with the usual question: "So where are you from?"
Him: But where are you really from?
Me: Oh, Atlanta. But I live in New York.
Him: No, where are you from? Like, where were you born?
Me: New Jersey.
Him: But you're African, right? You come from Africa?
Me: No, I'm American.
Me: Yes, 100%. Both parents.
He stared at me skeptically, unbelieving, and sat silently, searching for a subject change. After a minute or so, he went down the bar to get someone else a beer. When he came back, he gave it another shot:
Him: So, really, 100% -- who do you think is the better player, Kobe or LeBron?
1 Fun Fact: In Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, he makes reference to a few seemingly obscure mountains.
"Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee."
Well, friends, I am from Stone Mountain, Georgia, five minutes from the actual mountain. Its significance in the speech is two-fold:
1. The KKK used to conduct meetings on top of the mountain.
2.There is a gigantic carving on the side of the mountain, featuring three confederate luminaries -- Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee.
Irony of ironies (or fulfillment of a dream): the area surrounding the mountain has changed tremendously over the years. It's overwhelmingly black now; there are 60-70% majorities in most areas with a "Stone Mountain" address. So now there are black people climbing to the top of the mountain, riding on the train around the mountain, and best of all, sitting in front of the carving every summer to watch the laser show.
[Funnest fact of all: At the end of said laser show, the figures of our beloved Confederate war heroes are lit up by lasers. Their figures flicker. They are seen to mount their horses and appear to ride off into the sunset. The South rides again! The spectacle is awesome. Everybody cheers.]
Late Friday night, while we were all watching LeBron James make history with an incredible three points in one second, professional basketball player and blogger Coleman Collins was at the tail end of a busy day enjoying life in Paris. He writes:
SECOND PERSON IS THE NEW FIRST
You are sitting in a tiny, non-descript hotel room, sniffling and looking at the directions on a pack of decongestants that you've brought with you from the States.
It says clearly, in semi-boldish type, "If you consume more than three alcoholic drinks a day, consult a physician before using." Do you drink three drinks a day? Well, normally not, not usually, but tonight you did. And tonight you were in Paris, and tomorrow you'll be in Paris, and history is likely to repeat itself.
Tonight was a whirlwind.
You look in your pockets and see some strange-colored pieces of paper of varying sizes. On second glance, it's money. The problem with foreign currency, you've decided, is that it doesn't feel real when you spend it. It's Monopoly money. Tonight you may have put houses and hotels on Park Place and Boardwalk for all anyone knows. There's no passing GO, save for the ATMs around the corner. No Free Parking. Paris is expensive, but you've resolved to rein it in from here on out. Next time you'll do better.
Yesterday? You flew in from New York last night/this morning. Connecting flights. Detroit. On your first flight, Delta was apparently recouping fuel costs by running a part time day-care. On your row. There were children drooling all over the place, somersaulting down the aisles, slapping each other with seat belts. No one seemed to mind. You tried to sleep.
The second flight was worse. There was a guy sitting next to you that smelled like he'd slept in a giant gym sock. And it wasn't a violent smell, like a fart. A fart you could understand. It comes on strong, punches you in the face and then it fades into the crowd. Not this -- this was an underhanded, passive-aggressive smell. This smell was like a girlfriend moping around the house with a sad look on her face, looking absolutely heart-broken, moaning, groaning and begging for attention. You ask her "What's wrong?" She sighs, looks away and says: "Nothing." Forcing you to keep at it, attending to her until she's ready to stop acting. Never-ending. Annoying.
A passive-aggressive, tempermental stench, with no explanations and no reasons and no end. This for 9 hours.
In Paris, you got off the plane and found your brother, your homeboy from high school and your way to your hotel. You'll be here for a while, ostensibly to celebrate your brother's master's degree (shout-out Columbia University Class of '09!) but really just to go. Because Why Not? The rooms weren't ready yet, so you went across the street and got some good food and some good wine. You tried out your French and find it improved. You've worked on it since the last time you were here. You ate and requested simple things in halting French (en peu plus d'eau, s'il vous plait?) and you felt good about yourself. The sun is shining.
You paid, and returned to the hotel, and your rooms were ready. And you slept. You slept away the flight on a pseudo-twin bed. You woke and showered and met up with some girls you'd met somewhere before. Then you traipsed through the streets, taking pictures left and right until you came across a boat that tours along the Seine. You hopped aboard. It was nice, but the breezes off of the river were too cold after a while. It was ten o'clock, and for some reason the sun was just then going down.
Then you grabbed some food and spent more Monopoly money (Reading Railroad this time) and you sat and basked in yourself. You're young and it's Paris and it's springtime, and that should have been enough, but it wasn't quite. Not yet. Always more around the corner. You moved to your favorite bar, Caf Charbon, and spent the night there. You drank at the bar and at the club next door and then spill into the street around 3 o'clock. It was pitch black but the lights were shining bright and the people's smiles were shining brighter. You picked up bits of French conversation. Were accosted by a random bum or two. Argued about German soccer. Everyone grabbed crepes with Nutella and bananas, and ate eat them hungrily, washing the night down with empty calories. The luxuries of the young and highly metabolic.
You head to back to the hotel. It's almost 4. You brush your teeth and make your usual preparations. A thought -- it's Friday. Ten o'clock in America -- ten in Cleveland. There are things going on: Important things. Your first love.
You frantically turn on the TV, but of course it's not on, and you fire up your laptop and go on ESPN. GAMECAST -- live stats. Acronyms melt together: MINFGFT3PTREBASTPFPTS. They refresh themselves, and refresh themselves, and numbers appear, moving your imagination as you sit there, a stranger in a strange land, staring intently at a glowing screen in a nondescript hotel room. And now, as your brain cues up the sounds and the sights that are missing from the box score, you wouldn't rather do anything else. When the last shot comes, you're shocked by how beautiful it was from so far away; from here, the worst seat in the house.
(Photos courtesy of Coleman Collins)
The NBA does a lot to promote the D-League. A lot of it, sadly, doesn't work. The truth is that most NBA fans just aren't that fascinated by basketball that's almost as good as the best basketball. It's not fair, it's not right, but it is.
To me, however, the D-League represents a wholly different opportunity. While it may not be a source of many headlines, there's no reason it can't be a source of tremendous stories.
Pay someone a million dollars as an NBA player, and there is a natural tendency to get conservative around the media. Why be pubilc about the time I tried to shoplift a comic book, or punched my brother in the face, or disappointed a teacher, when it could somehow interrupt the PR-based gravy train of contracts, endorsements, and celebrity that are my career?
But outside the NBA, people are ready to tell some stories. And as luck would have it, Coleman Collins, a 6-9 power forward who just finished a season as a Fort Wayne Mad Ant (and used to play at Virginia Tech and in Europe, and has played some NBA summer league) can write!
He has agreed to keep a semi-regular blog on TrueHoop, as he travels the world, works out, and lives the life of a professional basketball player this summer. I'll let him introduce himself.
As a general rule, I hate introductions. Every introduction is, at its core, a plea for attention. "This is who I am," you are saying. "Notice my posture -- my handshake is firm! Like me! Love me! Friend me on Facebook!"
You are the oddly-dressed kid on the playground -- a sad fact that is only magnified online.
Let's just make this as quick and painless as possible.
My name is Coleman Collins. I am to be listened to, read, and taken seriously (at times) because I am smart enough to have found a way to make a living playing a game. The game is basketball. I am a Professional Basketball Player. I have been a PBP for several years, on the outskirts of the NBA, the inskirts of the D-League, and deep in the nether regions of Europe.
With the publication of this entry I will have become a Professional Writer as well. This is because I am getting Paid, and handsomely at that; my contract is striking for its genius and simplicity. I have been contracted to write semi-regularly about anything and everything. I will be getting compensated, as is my custom, on a strict per-consonant basis.
As you are undoubtedly aware, this method of payment can occasionally be distracting -- it lends itself to obscure discussions of Eastern European politics and marine biology -- but I assure you that I am a different breed of PW. There will be no consonant-spiking here.
The things written will be what I am absolutely sure are true, or what I am completely positive are not true. The discerning reader may decide which is which. There will be no retractions; or, failing that, all retractions will be made halfheartedly and grudgingly, through gritted teeth.
Irony and sarcasm are still alive, I hope, and if not we will do our best to resurrect them. There will be many topics to discuss over the summer.
Plenty of basketball, of course.
We will take all questions and comments concerning the game's past, present, and future. We will discuss the various leagues -- NBA, D-League, Europe, elsewhere. There will be insights into things pertaining to the business of Playing Basketball Professionally. This will unavoidably be basketball-centric, but there will ultimately be more than that. There will be Paris. There will be glimpses of the Monaco Grand Prix. There will be buckets of international intrigue. There will be a lot of New York, and various other cities. There will be random capitalization and entries written entirely in the second person. And pictures, lots of pictures.
And after this sentence, with two exceptions, there will be a strict ban on the phrase "there will be." Because, having read this, you are already well-apprised of what there will be. There will be life, the universe, and everything.
More than this I cannot give, and more than this you would be unwise to expect.
(Photo courtesy of Coleman Collins.)
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
The Fort Wayne Mad Ants -- known best for what J.E. Skeets has termed its diabolical mascot -- took four-year Virginia Tech power forward Coleman Collins. Scouts like his defense and his face-up game, but Collins may have to work on his...drive:
Moments after being told he had been selected by the Mad Ants as the No. 6 pick in the first round of the NBA D-League draft, Collins, while driving about an hour outside of Washington, D.C., hit a deer."
"I'd say it was more of it hit me, he said in a telephone interview. "The deer sprinted from the right side of the highway and hit my front right headlight, and I've got a flat.
The 22-year-old 6-foot-9 power forward who played four years at Virginia Tech said he is fine, but that his car was "a little messed up.
The irrepressible D-League mavens at Ridiculous Upside have plenty of good stuff on Friday night's draft. The Tulsa 66ers took Florida big man Chris Richard with the #1 pick. Richard had a cup of coffee with the Timberwolves last season and also spent time with the D-League's Sioux City.
James Mays went second. In ACC play, Mays showed himself to be an agile, active big man with a pretty good handle. He's unpolished, but with some refinement, could potentially find himself on an NBA roster.
For the full draft board, click here. See anybody you think has a pro game? Favorites from your college fandom? Tip us off in the comments section.