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!

No comments:

Post a Comment