Wednesday, October 9, 2013

EuroDutchBall Round 2

I am back in Holland after an awesome summer at home in Seattle. Now that I reflect on those three months at home, I believe I quite easily embodied the definition of "work hard, play hard." Now for the next 9 months it's back to the basketball grind!
This first post has a bit of everything in it so enyoyyyyyyy it whether you're at work, eating lunch, or dropping the Cosby kids off at the pool!
Business of Euroball

So far in my time here in Holland and in the professional athlete circle I have heard many stories (both unfortunate and oftentimes satirized) of teams going bankrupt or having “money problems” and thus players not getting paid! Greece is one of these countries where bankruptcy happens quite often as you can imagine. The one joke that goes around is that every American who goes to play in Greece winds up learning only one Greek word..."avrio" or "tomorrow" as this is management's response to every player who asks when their next paycheck will arrive! Always tomorrow!
I digress onto the basketball biz in Holland...The one word answer I give everyone who asks why basketball isn't huge in Holland is...Soccer; which IS huge here. While there is still plenty of money to be made playing basketball in Holland, it doesn't compare to some of the other countries in Europe and around the world. In Nederland, basketball competes with soccer for both people's discretionary spending and companies sponsorship euros. The combination of the euro debt crisis and the fact that soccer is the dominant sport, not basketball has oftentimes forced the lifeblood of basketball in Holland, the sponsors, to pull their support and money from several teams. Den Bosch (top 3 regarding budget) lost their head sponsor last year after a decade plus long relationship. It was also just recently announced that Groningen will also lose their head sponsor (~$1million/year) at the end of this year. With annual budgets for basketball teams in Holland averaging ~$700k, losses or failure to acquire strong sponsorships can mean the end to a team's success.
This business model for basketball in Holland is highly dependent on sponsorship dollars. With a lack of big TV contracts, a large population base, high ticket sales, and merchandising, many Dutch teams focus their efforts on appealing to the civic pride within their perspective town which is especially strong in Den Helder, Groningen, Leiden, and Den Bosch.
While basketball in Holland may not feel as 'big time' as in some other countries, there is more of a family, community feel to playing for a team like Den Helder than the teams in the 'big time' markets. In Holland, it is not blatantly obvious if everyone you pass in the city knows you because you are on the team; instead you are treated as someone who belongs to the town's community and thus are treated for who you are as a person rather than your perceived "fame" which I quite like!

“Import Players” What do they mean and what has changed in the last several decades.

To be quick, import players (“foreign players”) are players that enter the country via work visa to play for a team in that domestic country. Domestic players (like myself playing in Holland as I have a Dutch passport) are players that have citizenship within the country they are playing in.

The current situation in the Dutch league and many other leagues throughout Europe is that each league may place quotas or restrictions on how many “import players” or “foreign players” each team can have or in some cases have on the court at once. Imagine a coach who has to not only worry about team dynamics, chemistry, etc. but also how many import players he or she currently has on the court! 
I feel for you Coach K.... NAT!!!! Go Tar Heels!
Overseas, most teams will typically import players via the U.S. as we have one of the better talent pools. (AMURRIKA!!). This comparative advantage regarding talent varies from sport to sport.

Below is a link taken from the website of the agency I signed with regarding the basketball job market overseas and takes this topic into more depth...

 Post by Court Side.

Things for U.S. to Adopt from Europe

Metric System

The U.S. are in the minority regarding our stubborn persistence to stick with the imperial system. We received this system from the lads across the pond, whom began the conversion to the metric system in 1965. While the Brits still use the imperial system to denote measurements of speed, size, and how many stone Jared from Subway lost they have at least made the metric system the norm in government, industry, commerce, and education. The U.S. on the other hand have not...

Despite the high switching costs, and the certain lengthy transition of moving to the metric system, the U.S. would benefit and recoup these costs from this transition rather quickly as companies (for example) would not have to produce two different products (one for the IS and one for MS) and it would also bring more men to take up cooking as we don't care to remember that there are roughly 4 cups in a liter or 32 ounces in a quart. The only imperial system measurement we care about is...
Ze Pint!

While I believe Congress should have passed a law for the metrification of the US four score and seven years ago, damn near nobody sees this transition happening anytime soon as the government clearly has plenty of other problems to solve at the moment.

Driving on the freeway.

It infuriates me that when I am driving in the US on a 3 or 4 lane highway and all 4 lanes are driving the same speed blocking all of the traffic. If only I had the powers of God...
or...... Jim Carrey

In Europe, if you are in the far left lane and are going the speed limit, you will literally get run over. The following clip is a prime synopsis of such events by Michael McIntyre on Top Gear, one of my favorite TV shows...

Despite the sheer luxury and very well equipped nature that our 'company car,' the SEAT Mii, offers we still spend most of our time in said loser lane! This is mostly because of these speed cameras out here in Holland. Brutal!

 What’s New in Den Helder: quick list... 
More professional environment (new gym!)

New teammates: all money guys

Food: 2 meals/day provided by team

Living Situation: I have moved out of the Harry Potter closet into a bigger room. Euro Cribs part II coming soon!

Thanks for reading and until next time... Howdoeeee!!!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Playoffs and More What's Different

Playoff Time

Welp… after 36 regular season games, 3 cup games, and an uncountable amount of hard work at practices, the time that every player, every coach, and everybody who loves sports looks forward to all year long has arrived…the playoffs.
It’s been awhile since the last post, but like asking a close friend who works in a similar job or asking a young teenager (particularly one in High School) “what’s going on? What’s new?” The answers rarely vary far from “The usual,” “the same ol’ grind” or my personal favorite “Not much man what’s up with you?”
For me and the squad, there are a few things that have changed… 
We finished our season as the 6th seed in the Eredivisie (out of 10 teams) which is an accomplishment for a brand new team when you throw into consideration that we are young, inexperienced and were just 4 points off the 4th spot.
We are starting our playoff run tonight against the 3 seed, Groningen, who displays quite the home court advantage having only lost 2 games at home all year (both against Den Bosch: a team who we beat twice at our place in the IceDome er…um…Kingdome!)
Martini Plaza (Home of Groningen)
It's finally warm(er) in our gym! Hodoeee (goodbye) Winter and 50 degree practices; hello Spring!

How are things going?
My personal answer to the question above consists of one of the aforementioned responses as my routine has not changed much throughout the season aside from some small extra-curriculars such as

coaching the young ones...
filming, editing and producing some behind the scenes videos with the one and only Ewoud Kloos!

The Grind

In short, it has been a long first season especially when you compare it to my previous year at Santa Clara where I was finished with my season in the first week of March. This is a testament to one of the biggest differences between college basketball and professional basketball: longer grind, more is expected and it is your only real focus and responsibility (which doesn't always mean it's easier). Generally speaking, players, and even employees or students (rookies in particular) will all hit the wall at some point during their first season, fiscal year, or school year (some early on and some later on). For me and a few of my ‘fellow American’ teammates in our profession, this wall can sometime seem heightened as we are further away from friends, familiar lifestyle, and most importantly family. Thankfully, I have developed great relationships with my teammates and have developed a strong understanding with my coaches on what is expected. This has made the transition to my new job and lifestyle seemingly easier.
I recently read an article about Chris Copeland (forward for NY Knicks) and his rather unconventional journey to the NBA (via Europe) and found the descriptions of European basketball as a business and lifestyle in said article to be interesting and in some circumstances similar to my current lifestyle. While I've included a few of my favorite exerts below, I highly recommend reading the orignial article, especially if you are a basketball or sports fan and can appreciate a dreamer working hard to become successful.
  • "He knew full well that no basketball contract in Europe is ever really guaranteed and played each possession as if it was the only possession that mattered. He was a man planted firmly in the reality of his situation, and didn’t care if he was playing in a preseason game, or if there were 100 fans or 10,000 in the stands."
  • "Davis recognized he was merely a commodity, and an easily dispensable one at that. We all were. Players in Europe learn that very early on. Basketball is no longer about the so-called ‘love of the game’— it’s work, it’s survival, it’s a constant state of fight or flight. You know that there are a thousand guys back home in the States who would gladly play for next to nothing to be in your position, and the moment you slip up another dreamer takes your place."
  • "He [Copeland] was forced to learn, at the most inopportune moment of all, a lesson that all athletes must learn at some point in their lives: confidence is delicate and unpredictable and can, when you need it most, vanish from beneath you, like a slender thread that breaks and slips away. The constant balancing act of body and mind is done on such a precarious tightrope that it can take years to find the right symmetry, if at all."
  • "In Holland, as it is in most of Europe, basketball is unglamorous, a working class game. Most Dutch teams are located in gritty, gray, industrial towns where on a good night 1,000 supporters pay 3 or 4 euros to forget their lousy jobs and vent and scream their hearts out for an hour and half. The invisible, intractable barrier of celebrity that normally separates the fans and the players in the United States and some other European countries doesn’t exist in the same way, if at all, in the Netherlands."
  • "The fans are able to imagine that if these players weren’t blessed with abnormal height and athletic skill, they’d be sitting right next to them and working in the same factories that they do. Players are not exalted, but rather strive to be accepted, seen as equals, something that is both humbling and comforting."
  • "Copeland felt at ease. There was a kind of family atmosphere surrounding the team [in holland] that he hadn’t experienced in Spain, where expectations were higher. He was able to relax, and unpack his bags. He didn’t feel the constant sense of judging eyes burning a hole through him every time he touched the ball, and his play reflected it."

What’s Different
Bike Theft
If I thought bike theft was common in college, bike theft in Holland is simply part of the culture. I’ve been told that if you live in a big city such as Amsterdam, Utrecht, or Rotterdam, the big bike garages can function as a bike recycling center where people can go to find (steal) a bike for the day. Most of these bikes can be sold for less than $10 so the logic is why waste the money on a $40 bike lock for a cheap bike when you can simply pick up a different one the next day if yours is gone.
This is one of the more obvious and beautiful differences between Europe and the U.S: every building is different in almost every way.

One of my favorite pics of A'Dam
Both World Wars destroyed many large cities, towns, villages and in the aftermath people rebuilt their businesses and homes in different intervals from scratch using different materials and different blueprints.
Rolling R’s and throat disease sounding G’s
Not much to be said here: the Dutch language (if I’m honest) sounds slightly better than German which is clearly the most romantic language in the world! For me, I find it amusing when I try to whisper anything in Dutch as it sounds like I just yelled it. My mom and many Dutchies will find the following comment funny: if I am in another country other than Holland, I can pick out a Dutch family, couple, or person from a mile away.
Euro the Fuck Up! (I'm allowed to print this as I'm still in Europe and anything goes...yuh!)
This has been used on many occasions since I’ve arrived here in Holland.
  • Shopping: away with the baggy, in with the skinny is Europe’s motto for swag (and mine as well)
  • Smoking cigs: as common as finding someone in the US in their early 20s who is into Coachella, Avicii and that broad named Molly
  • Donor Kebab fast food: You can find these everywhere! This has essentially replaced my Taco Bell. Hate to say it though my Dutchies, I think Taco Bell takes the cake. (Shout out to the Taco Bell on El Camino Real in Santa Clara: I’ll be seeing you again soon, SCU Grad week 2013 baby!)
  • Carbs, carbs, carbs: breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner in the form of sandwiches.
Our next game is tomorrow night (Game 2) and we hope to protect that home court and continue our run deeper into the playoffs! I've attached a game of mine below if you're on your couch with nothing to do for 90 minutes! This was one of the times we beat the #1 team in the league, Den Bosch. Also shout-out to Luke Sikma and Ford Burgos for winning the LEB Gold division in Spain! Time for the big time next year: ACB! (if embed doesn't work below)

Like always, cheers to family and friends in Amerika as well as new ones in Holland!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Winter Update

Winter in Den Helder

Let me start this post by saying how much I miss the weather in sunny Cal-i-forn-i-a! With temperatures reaching well below freezing, I have had to make quite the adjustment over the last few months, mostly to my wardrobe which now makes me look 100% European! I thought I couldn't get more Euro when I left for Holland....One of the challenges that has come from the cold is the fact that our gym is also freezing (around 50-55 degreez on the average day). Our club is still working on securing a permit to install heaters in the gym but until then let me present to you the Industrial Space Heater 9000…

We now have 4 of these in our gym. Enough to give you that placebo effect and also warm the gym up in 4 corners of the court

During practice and especially water breaks everyone seems to camp out in one of these corners as if it were the 4th of July up at Whidbey Island (campfires) except the only smoke that are seen is from our jerseys and skin due to the temperature difference. After a good warm-up we all stretch as a team and when I’m lying on my back, I see a small cloud of steam floating away from my jersey and skin. I feel like I just made 3 shots in a row on NBAJam. FIRE!!!

I will say that these cold temperatures have played to our advantage a few times as teams who play us in the Kingsdome er.... Ice Dome simply can’t adjust to the temperature in the early going. This translates into them shooting 20% from the floor for the 1st half.

In the end, actually experiencing a winter has been a nice change of pace as I now appreciate the sun whenever it comes out. This is very much the sentiment for anyone who has lived in a cold place.

“Athlete-Students” in Europe

The standard path towards receiving a high quality education and pursuing an athletic career is very different in Europe from the U.S. I will say that someone like me with similar athletic ambitions will usually be required to take a more unorthodox path (by U.S. standards) towards graduating college or having a high quality educational background. The reason for this difference lays in the fact that, in Europe (and other continents), if you play a sport at a high level it is most likely the professional level. While there are some colleges or universities that have athletic programs, many of them simply participate within the professional circuit. An example of these teams in our league would be Groningen, Rotterdam, and Amsterdam. Many of my teammates have entered the professional circuit as early as 16 years old.

What complicates this transition or decision to pursue a professional sports career is the fact the clubs or teams do not arrange practice times or their schedule around your academics. This is very different from the student-athlete culture in the U.S. where a number of restrictive measures or norms come into play. I’ve listed a few below…

1.      NCAA restricts teams (in theory!) from practicing a certain number of hours per week
a.       Europe: professional teams can practice as many hours as they want or is needed. (Unless explicitly stated in a player’s contract)
2.      Typically every school semester each team in the athletic program will coordinate with one another to ensure that the student-athletes will be able to take the classes they want and need.
a.       Europe: It is up to you to find a way to schedule in classes and exams around your sports schedule.

Thus the academic process for many of teammates and others in similar situations takes a few extra years as you are more of an athlete-student than student-athlete. As an example, my housemate and teammate Max played professional basketball during his “high school” years and would study for tests in Spain and then commute home to Holland to take a bundle of tests in a couple days! Another teammate of mine, Ewoud, gets his tests sent to the local school here in Den Helder where a teacher proctors them for him. This last example with Ewoud is more analogous with my academic experience at Santa Clara when I would have to take a test while away from campus for basketball travel.  

Below is one of manyexamples of how top talent develops in Europe from such a young age.

Ricky Rubio played in his first ACB (1st Division Spanish league) when he was just 14 years old!! He continued his studies even while going through all the LeBron James level of hype in Spain and throughout the ACB! Rubio now plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA!

Small Differences: Gasoline

For everyone in the U.S. complaining about gas prices let me share a number with you… $9 …is what I pay per gallon to fill up my car! Why the higher price? Taxes, subsidies, and international relationships with OPEC. In the U.S. the average tax rate on gasoline is between 15-20% where in Europe this number can reach higher than 50%. Thus instead of paying a cozy $3/gallon in the U.S., I end up having to pay upwards of $8-9 per gallon. Yuck!

[SIDE NOTE: I will say that the mass transportation system throughout Europe is much more developed than in the U.S. (excluding larger cities of course like SF, NY, and Boston) which is one way to avoid paying the higher price at the pump and it’s usually easier to travel too!]

Training Camp in Amsterdam

As a team, we are heading to Amsterdam next week for practices and team building activities. We will be staying in a hotel all next week, eating home-cooked meals, and hopefully get to enjoy a little bit of Amsterdam as well.

Until next time! HOWDOEEEEEEEE!!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday Season and More What's Different

Education System

This is one of the more interesting differences that I wanted to learn more about and share with everyone. Below are a few differences I had learned and have noticed.

One of the most notable differences between higher education (university/college) in European countries and the US of A is the price of attendance. The cost of higher education in Europe is much lower than the United States. Of course some of the lower education costs found in Europe are offset by generally higher taxes. 

A second difference is that in Holland and much of Europe, there are varying levels of High School where students are placed based on test scores and overall academic performance. If I understand it right, in Holland there are typically 3 levels of “high school” education. I think this is interesting as it increases competition among classmates and entices students to work hard.

A third difference is how the education system is structured. In Europe, there are fewer private schools and more public schools. Given this and higher taxes, there is a much more standardized and rigid public school system in place that does not give as much discretion to teachers and departments as to how the material is taught to students. In theory, this more rigid system allows a more accurate evaluation of students and ensures that they are placed in the right level of High School and also direction of study.

One final difference is that in the U.S., the education system is more in the liberal arts category covering more subjects where the European system requires you to choose what you want to do or study (i.e. business, sciences, education) at a much earlier age and hence study that subject more in-depth. I have a feeling I would have liked this system way  more as I know my parents would have preferred me actually interested and engaged in learning a subject rather than trying over and over again to beat my high score in solitaire on my ghetto windows phone or playing Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time and Mario Kart during Accounting class!

Sinterklaas & Christmas

Sinterklaas is celebrated annually here in Holland typically on December 5th (eve) and December 6th. Specifically this day celebrates the name day of Saint Nicholas the patron saint of children, sailors, and the city of Amsterdam to name a few... Listen to the hilarious David Sedaris clip or the random Sinterklaas rap below for a more comical  history of Sinterklaas.

Anyways... Sinterklaas is one of the holiday figures and traditions that inspired the modern day Santa Claus. How? While the Netherlands is not a huge country, they still participated in the colonization of the New World in the early 17th century establishing New Netherlands and specifically New Amsterdam as their primary settlement and thus passing on parts of the Sinterklaas tradition. So what happened to New Amsterdam anyway?

Yep, the Dutch were the first settlers of what is now New York…New York!. Some Dutch General paid a whopping $1,000 dollars for it even after you account for nearly 4 centuries of inflation! Quite the steal… of course this same general surrendered the land to the blokes that are the British 30 years later…too bad.

Anyway, historical connections aside, each family celebrates Sinterklaas in varying levels. Some Dutchies celebrate a mixture of both Sinterklaas and Christmas while others just celebrate one or the other. Some treat Christmas as a family gathering similar to the American thanksgiving. My family celebrates Sinterklaas for a week prior to December 5th. So every night before bed, our entire family leaves our shoes (sometimes the famous Dutch klogs) in front of the fireplace with carrots inside for Sinterklaas’ horses (I feel bad for the horses as I would usually put my basketball shoes by the fireplace right after practice!!) We then sing a Dutch song or read a poem to celebrate and head off to bed. During the night Sinterklaas arrives and places small presents in our shoes! Some examples are below...snacks on snacks on snacks!!

Peppernoten, Speculaas, and Chocolate Letter of 1st Initial!
While we are in the middle of our season, we do get some time off for Christmas: 3-4 days. Thankfully I will be making the trip back home to spend some much needed quality time with my family!! 

Happy Holiday's everyone!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Eredivisie & Cup Tourney Update


We are currently 4-4 in the league so far with wins against Rotterdam & Amsterdam (2 road wins) and Magixx and Groningen (2 home wins). The one game we should have won was the game on the road against Zwolle where we had all the momentum and then let the game slip towards the end. A lot of this was due to the fact that our experience level is not as high as some of the other teams and when you need a few crucial stops and smart decisions down the stretch, having been there before really helps, especially when you are on the road. In any event, we are learning from our mistakes and the next time we are in the position we will be sure to put the other team away.

Baby Up & Under against Rotterdam
So far our league has seen some pretty crazy scores. Teams including us are winning and losing by 20 and 30 points on any given night. I think that this is mostly due to the fact that it is still early in the season and players, coaches, and teams are figuring out how to play with each other and develop better chemistry so when things go bad they can come together and come back before it turns into these blow-out games. Another key factor to our league has been home-court advantage. While our first game at home against Leiden was a fluke (lost by 40), we have dominated games at home from an energy, spirit and execution perspective. While Holland is not very big, busing around the country to play teams the same night is tough on everyone mentally and physically. It is difficult to get yourself going right away and ready to play within an hour after stepping off the bus. This has been an adjustment for me as at SCU and almost all D1 programs around the country, the team travels the day before. We would usually have a shootaround or practice upon arriving at the arena and be able to get comfortable before we played the next day. For me, over the course of the season I will get used to this and am beginning to make adjustments such as no sleeping on the bus and keeping my mind focused by watching film.

As a team we are playing up to our coach and fans expectations but we all know that we can and will be much better as the season goes along. As I mentioned before our team is very young both in age and our experience level but we have plenty of talent that has yet to be seen. While everyone on the team has played elsewhere professionally prior to this season, aside from Storm and me, not very many of us have logged significant minutes. This has been evident for everyone on occasions including myself as I am still adjusting to playing in games for real and not merely in the last few minutes like at SCU. As a team, we need to work on our consistency as our team feels like it’s been riding a see-saw since our first game. Moving forward, the month of November is crazy for us as we have 10 games so this will be a good opportunity for us to get into a rhythm and gain confidence.

NBB Beker (Dutch Cup)

Last night we moved onto the quarterfinals of the NBB Beker which is the equivalent of the FA Cup for soccer in England. Games will be played throughout the year and the team that wins the cup is given the opportunity to participate or qualify for competitions throughout all of Europe. This is similar in soccer where you have both the winners of the domestic cup as well as the league who have the chance to compete in Euro-league style competitions. One problem that the Dutch league is undergoing is financial problems (budget constraints) as even the team who won the league last year (Den Bosch) wasn't able to afford playing in the next level competitions. The main reason for these problems stem from the '08 global recession as well as the current Euro debt crisis which continues to stretch pessimism across all of Europe. This is more true for sports (other than soccer) as sponsors have become more hesitant to put up money when the returns are not necessarily guaranteed. While I am sure I don’t have all the specifics on this completely correct, I think you get the gist of it! Our next NBB Beker game is in January.

Highlight of the game against Rotterdam!

Off the Court

My off the court routine has been more slow to what I had gotten used to in college and has consisted of roughly the same routine each day: wake-up, eat, practice, hang at the apartment, eat, practice, eat, and sleep. I have recently been getting caught up on my TV shows: Breaking Bad, How I Met Ya Muda, Burn Notice, Dexter and Revenge (Not just a chick show lads!). I am also reading quite a bit: some Dutch language learning books and some classic Tom Clancy books. Oh and I am currently waiting for COD & Halo 4 to arrive which I am sure will consume entirely too much of my free time. Aside from hanging in the apartment we have broken routine a few times to go eat out in Den Helder and Amsterdam for lunch and dinner which has been relaxing. The other night we went to go see Skyfall, the new Bond movie which was awesome! The one question I would ask is who was the Bond girl? M? That Asian chick who lived for 3 scenes? Anyways, for me, I used to watch all of the old bond movies with my dad so seeing the nostalgia card played so many times in Skyfall made me miss the good ‘ol days quite a bit!

Plastic Bottles

Like in many states around the U.S., recycling has become a more common and emphasized habit to adopt especially when you are in college and are consuming half your body weight in beer and caffeine drinks each week. Like myself and many others, I was always too lazy to save these cans and bottles to bring them to the local recycling yard to redeem my 5 cents per item. Instead I was usually relieved of this duty by Santa Clara’s favorite couple Can Lady and Can Man. 

I would include a picture of this wonderful recycling duo but for some reason the combination of keywords "Can Lady, Keystone light, Santa Clara, Ryan Alverson, and 30-rack" didn't show any results in Bing!!

Anyways, in Holland, recycling is even more 'subsidized' as each bottle (1.5 liters) can earn you up to 25 euro-cents per item...quite the deal!


Over the last several years, I have gotten used to missing out on being home for Thanksgiving. Despite this, I believe playing basketball professionally in a foreign country gives me plenty of reason to give thanks to family, friends, teammates, and all who have helped me along the way!

Shout-out to SCU BBall 

For beating St. Louis (Top 25 team) on the road the other night! One thing I do wish we had over here was ESPN and some magical way to erase this time difference so I could watch the games without having to wake up at 3am (which I might have to do when they play the most hated team in America...Duke!). Also congrats to Kevin Foster for breaking SCU's scoring the beginning of his senior season!

Until next time...Doeiiii!! (Dutch phrase for see ya later)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What's Different & Funnies (Cont'd)

What’s Different (Continued)…


My diet has not changed much. I am still cooking all my typical college meals with a few additional tweet-able works of art on the side. So far my most cooked meals have been:
  • Breakfast: scrambled eggs with peppers, ham, cheese (sometimes in Benson breakfast burrito format), toast with Nutella & peanut butter and Vruchtenhagel (Dutch sprinkles), and some yogurt or fruit. The Dutch don’t do breakfast as big as us Americans do!
  • LunchMostly sandwiches with some of my new favorite drink…SISI (better than Fanta in my opinion!)

  • Dinnerusually some chicken or beef with rice or pasta with a side salad or other vegetables. This seemingly bland combination of food is made much better with my #1 favorite sauce or topping: Sweet Chili Sauce!! Awwww yea!! (Pauly D Voice)

What is very cool about the Dutch and many other Western European countries is the fact that nearly everyone knows more than their native language and English. I will admit that it is difficult to learn a language in any environment when you are not forced to speak it each and every day and when you don’t grow up with it. However, in Holland, everyone speaks English very well even from a young age which I find impressive and equally annoying as I am not forced to practice my Dutch! Don’t worry mom, I’m still trying…

An example of this multi-lingual culture is exemplified by our coach Jean-Marc Jaumin who is from Belgium and he speaks…wait for it…wait for it...5 languages fluently: English, French, Dutch, Flemish, and Serbian. It is funny to see this as in the U.S. many of us have 2 or 3 languages on our resume but can really only speak and can carry on a conversation in one…English. I can attest that while my Dutch and French comprehension on paper or in a classroom style environment is still resume adequate material, I can’t say that I can consistently carry on a conversation like my teammates or coach can in their arsenal of languages. Of course part of the reason why my coach and teammates speak so many languages is due to the fact that their job has taken them to different countries for years at a time. Max (my teammate and housemate) spent 3 years playing basketball in Spain when he was younger and picked up Spanish very easily. In addition many of the European languages transcend boarders for a variety of reasons.

One of the reasons for this is due to the nature of the EU and its immigration laws established under the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992 which so happens to be one of Holland's oldest cities and the place I was baptized. Specifically, these immigration laws enable anyone that holds citizenship in one of the 27 member countries to live, travel, and work in any EU country of their choosing. Despite this treaty, it is still somewhat difficult to attain citizenship in many of the EU countries as each country has varying nationality laws. For example, I am a Dutch/U.S. dual citizen because my dad is American and my mom is Dutch. However, I was born in Saint Germain, France (basically Paris) and was not able to attain French citizenship using common methods because French nationality law requires you (like most industrialized countries except the U.S.) to have either a parent of French nationality, or attain citizenship through naturalization aka be 18 or older and have been living in France long enough to know that the phrase “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?” is not a 5 star pick-up line! Although I’m sure the legendary Barney Stinson might have 2 words in mind in response to that last sentence...

In the end, it has been fun to see and hear a lot of languages over the last few months and hopefully I can get my Dutch speaking prowess to my mom’s level!

[A.D.D. SIDE NOTE: The comparison I often contemplate regarding the EU and its’ languages and cultures is imagining if each state or region in the U.S. spoke a different language! The interesting thing is if you throw away the Louisiana Purchase and a few other historic moments, you might have had a more proportional “America” existing today consisting of English, French, and Spanish speaking populations.]

Dutch Culture: Friendliness

In the 2 months I have been here in Den Helder, I have run several examples of what a nice and friendly community it is. I am sure that this is a combination of the city’s size and also the Dutch culture in general, but I continue to run into examples of both teammates and people who are willing to help you out. For example, on several of the bus rides, a number of my teammates Jasper, Quincy and Jeroen (a few I've seen) are always willing to share food they brought with them or let me use their phone to Skype home after a win. This is cool to see as this friendly, “thinking about others” attitude goes a long way, especially in a team environment and is one that I am trying to emulate more and more each day! Another example is that upon walking into a room or by someone, they give you a friendly smile or a "HOYYY!" (casual hello in Dutch) and ask you how you are doing and mean it!

Funnies: Trips to Amsterdam

Trip #1

A couple weeks ago, a few of us went into Amsterdam one night for Mark Hill’s 25th birthday. We got into Amsterdam around midnight which is about right on time by Amsterdam standards. The only problem we ran into was parking which was non-existent. After 15-20 minutes of touring Amsterdam, driving up and over the canals, we finally found what looked like a feasible parking spot. The only problem was that we either needed to bend our car like an accordion or we needed to make room. So whad we do? Seeing that the car in front had a little bit of room, we picked up the car’s booty and made room for our car! After a nice parallel park job we were on our way to the nearest club!

Storm & I.
Most comfortable chairs I've ever sat in!

Me, Max, Mark, Storm, and 1/2 Stefan!
Trip #2

On our last day-off, a few of us: Max, Quincy, Storm, Mark and I headed into Amsterdam for the day. We took the tram into the city as parking during the week and during the day can eat your wallet alive. Upon arriving, we started to meander our way through the downtown shopping area. I managed to improve my Euro-appeal quite a bit with a jacket and pair of skinny jeans! We then went to Dam Square where they had a carnival set up like in the end of the Greece movie which was fun!

Euro clothes fit me better!
Soon after we made a visit to see the ladies of the Red-Light district; *Prostitutes: I will reserve my judgment on this part of Dutch culture to history… Anyway, 20 minutes and €50 later…I’m kidding, I’m kidding! A few minutes later we were on the set of the new movie Dutch Street Hooligans...

Ajax sent Man City packing with a 3-1 victory in the Champions League group of death; only a few more games left! All in all a fun day and will definitely have more good stories from A'Dam! Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Start of the Season

Some Links

Dutch Basketball League Homepage.

Den Helder Homepage

Below is what our practice schedule has been like more or less for the last couple weeks. We will sometimes have 2 or 3 games per week depending on the schedule. I will admit, I do miss the NCAA restrictions on how many hours per week each team can practice!!

MondayFitness (lifting) 9:30-11am ... Practice: 5-7pm
Tuesday Practice: 10-12pm ... 5-7pm
Wednesday: Practice: 10-12pm ... 5-7pm
Thursday: Fitness/Shooting 9:30-Noon ... Practice 5-7pm
Friday: Morning off ... Practice: 5-7pm
Saturday: Gameday
Sunday: Only day to sleep in…day free!

* I will usually have physical therapy 2-3 times per week too depending on how I'm feeling...

Game-Day routine:

The game day routine has not changed much for me since my days at Santa Clara. We still have shoot around in the morning (9:30am) and film sessions before the game. The only difference so far is that I don’t need to worry about school or work on the side which is a change of pace as I can now get a quality pre-game siesta in before the game! 

On all of our road games we take a bus which is consistent throughout the pro basketball leagues throughout Europe. Unfortunately for us, Den Helder is located at the very northern tip of Holland and so when we play teams like Weert who is in South Holland, it means a long 3-4 hour bus ride the same day of playing a game which can be difficult especially if you fall asleep in an awkward position on the bus. Although I shouldn't really complain as after talking to Mark Hill who played in Germany last year and Luke Sikma who now plays in Spain, they had to bus 6-7 hours for certain games. I guess it’s a blessing that Holland is smaller! We will usually get to the games 60-90 mins beforehand and unlike warm-ups at Santa Clara, our warm-ups are more unstructured in that everyone gets loose on their own until about the 30 minute mark where we do a quick team warm and then go into lay-up lines. And by far the best difference in warm-ups is that we are allowed to dunk!! Ayooo

College v. Euro-Ball: Some quick differences...
  • Four, 10 minute quarters with unfortunately no TV timeouts which I am also missing from Santa Clara now that I am playing heavier minutes!
  •  Referees are um …different. Many of the coaches in the states, especially one in particular would not have any soles left on their dress shoes if they experienced these refs! STOMP STOMP! Foul?! On who?! [Hopefully no dutch refs are reading this...]
  • Traveling rules in Europe are far more stringent. If I catch the ball running in transition or coming off a screen I need to immediately put the ball on the floor or else the whistle blows. The refs here look to see if you have picked up your pivot foot before the ball hits the floor which for me has happened quite a bit as they don't call this in the States so long as you do it quick enough! Seems rather elementary but when you've been doing one thing for 22 years and then forced to adjust in games, it can be difficult.
  • Less 1-1 and more team basketball.
  • 24 second shot clock…this speeds up the game a lot too. Still find it hard to believe that in High School in Washington we didn't have a shot-clock at all. Damn you Mercer Island and Coach Pepple for your meticulous motion offense that seemed to run for minutes at a time!
Day-Day Routine:

Like any job, I have already settled into a rather consistent routine day after day. Throughout the week, I will wake up at 8:30am to my phone's alarm ring which is currently the beginning of Ambition by Wale as Nokia’s alarm ring drives me nuts. I am still on the life long search for that perfect wake-up alarm ring. For breakfast, I will usually have a bowl of American coco pops, toast or yogurt, and a ham, pepper and cheese omelet...unless the following happens...

(I cracked up when I first saw this ad; happens to the best of us!)

After I munch breakfast down we will either have fitness or practice in the mornings. Fitness is different as there is really no structure or specific lifts that we need to do (unlike college where you have a strength coach directing you exercise by exercise). This gives me the time to fix my knees and do my 500 pull-ups to keep my beach body up to speed…oh wait, I’m not in California anymore, scratch that!

After the morning workouts or practice we will have some down time to go to the local Albert Hein (grocery store) to get food and try to avoid the candy/licorice aisle which was a problem from day 1… [Side Note: black licorice was practically born in Holland. Everyone loves it which is something I can’t say for too many Americans! I guess it’s an acquired taste. Maybe this is why?]

(Nom Nom Nom!)

After the morning workouts, (depending on when my physio appointment is) I will take a nap. In college, I didn't nap at all as I would have class or work but ever since coming here I have been extremely nap-prone, mostly because of the heavy 2-a-days. I will wake up in time to grab a sandwich and drink up before practice starts at 5pm. So far the toughest thing for me about practice is getting loose and ready for practice (especially if it is the 2nd practice of the day). I know this is not the case for all my teammates but for those who have been on my teams in the past know that I have been getting “old” since High School! Occasionally there will be practices or workouts where I will summon some youthful athleticism and throw down a couple dunks but as of late, “mystery bounce Phil” has not made any appearances as my body is still getting through some nagging injuries (knee, hip flexor) which I guess is part of the job. Still not sure if this physical "pain" is analogous to the stress or mental "pain" that I would be enduring if I were working in the corporate world but nevertheless it’s still a job that comes with its own set of responsibilities and there will be plenty of time to find this out later!

After practice is over, I will shower and stretch a bit. When I get home I will cook some grub or gobble up the leftovers and park myself on the couch in front of the TV where I am currently finishing up Breaking Bad or watching highlights from the Presidential Debates or should I say the “No I’m telling the truth, he’s not” debates. [Political Side Note: The two candidates or parties seem to be getting more and more childish with these debates. In each one, I can picture a political cartoon that depicts each candidate as young siblings and Martha Raddatz and Jim Lehrer as their parents who are trying to figure out who broke the lamp on the kitchen table. "Well he started it!!" is the kind of tone I get in these debates. Instead of discussing what needs to be done to specifically fix "the lamp", they continue to bicker over whose fault it was and which side is telling the truth. While I wasn't a political science major and probably don’t follow politics as closely as I should, I think  it’s a little annoying that to a certain extent I don’t know who to believe during these debates as both candidates have been known to well... mislead, deceive and lie. Instead I need to sift through the “non-biased” websites to find out which facts were truthful and which were misleading or taken out of context. I guess this is why I'm not a huge fan of politics!]

My Chris Matthews style rant aside, my after practice routine ends at around midnight when I hop into bed. As with many Bach’s in our family, I still find it difficult to get to bed before midnight. I don’t know who carries that gene but damn I wish I could get to bed earlier without the help of a girlfriend, parent or 6am practice!

Thanks for reading! So far we are 1-1 this season and hope to get win #2 against Nijmegen this coming Saturday at home. The next post will have some more specifics about the last few games and a continuation of What's Different topics!