After all this travel and preparation, the last thing we needed was confusion surrounding our game. But please believe, that's exactly what we had, right up to the last second. The night before, the 1st word was we'd be playing at 4. There were all types of beautiful explanations offered and it seemed like we were being placed in a prime position, in terms of visibility, on account of our groundbreaking participation in the tournament.
That changed to a very alarming 11AM start as we left the meeting the night before. But this changed AGAIN to "You need to arrive at 11, but won't play til the 4th or 5th game."
As it turned out, we started to get loose at about halftime of the 4th game...that's when we discovered we were actually playing in the 6TH GAME! For all my athletes out there, you know what it's like getting into your zone, mentally preparing to go to battle and locking in that focus. Needless to say, it was quite frustrating to have to ease up on the throttle and return to a degree of normalcy for the next hour. This after sitting in the sun for the last 7.
But it was what it was, and none of that had any relevance when the jump ball went up (at 7:30). The team we were matched up against was from France. It was clear from the start that our lack of size was going to be a factor. Either a plus (if we could outrun them) or a minus if we could not defend the post. I told the guys, don't stress, your 1st shot will probably bounce of the top of the backboard somewhere because of nerves, but we'll settle in and find our rhythm eventually.
We'd spoken the night before about establishing ourselves in the first 3-5 minutes to wipe clear any doubts that may be there. True to form, we did set the tone for the game, unfortunately for us, it was BRICK-CITY. We were getting great looks. Penetrating and dishing. Finding the open man. Taking the same shots we'd been hitting for the last 2 months. But this go round, none of us could connect. 3 minutes in, we were down 9-0.
After Matsu hit our 1st jumper, ST heated up, burrying 3 3-pointers to bring us as close as 5 at one point. But in the 2nd half, a few defensive lapses and continued poor shooting did us in. I ended up 1-4 from the free-throw line. And in a classic case of self-fulfilling prophecy, my 1st free-throw hit the backboard so hard, I saw a few people duck behind the glass!!
Free-throw shooting also did us in as this (so-called) rough tournament was officiated a lot tighter than any of us had expected. We ended up losing by about 15. It sucked. After all the wworkouts and energy we put in to get there, to have it all come to a screeching halt was quite the disappointment. I think what made it most frustrating is we didn't play a good game. Had we had a good showing and still lost, then so be it. But to not play to our potential when the spotlight's on,really sucked. But Cest La Vie...
For all of us involved it was a great learning experience in both life and basketball. As a team we got solid confirmation of what we'd already suspected....we were short and it cost us. Again, we could have won games with that roster, but our margin for error was slim to none without the bigs to crash the boards and defend.
On a personal note, it was a great experience for me to go out and compete against a roster full of professionals and still hold my own. Someone mentioned I had the talent to play in the B league in Paris, which came as a pleasant surprise, but a move I don't forsee coming to fruition anytime soon. For the time being I've got my hands joyously full here in Tokyo!
AFter the game we were all starving, but Jason decided we needed to go the Eiffel Tower straight away because there was no telling where everyone would be tomorrow. A rationale I respected 100%. At 9:55 I discovered that the grocery store was closing at 10, thus giving rise to the windsprint of my life! I will make it!! And I did just that..jogging up at 9:59, where I received a not so warm welcome from security who forbid me from entering the store. I begged and pleaded with the man, but to no avail. I smiled and gave him one of the "Thank You's" That translated to "Fuck You very much!" and kept it moving.
As I headed toward the train station, I saw the fellas and put in my request with Jason to grab some food real quick. Access denied. He was dead set on getting there as soon as possible. I bit the bullet on this one...not the least bit happy about the situation, but still being understanding of his vision and commitment to us throughout the process.
Once inside the turnstalls, a light shone from heaven and a choir sang out..."Aaaaaaaaahhh" God himself manifested right before my eyes...in the form of...a vending machine! YESSS! Atsushi, Emma and I all stopped to get snacks to tide us over for the journey. When we walked down to the platform... the team was gone!
UNBELIEVABLE! What could this possibly accomplish? We all still need to meet at the tower, so what are they just gonna wait for us at the station? Why couldn't they just wait for us there so we could all go together? No big deal, we'll see em in a second.
We got to the station and there was no sign of them anywhere. Forever optimistic, I said, "Come on, we'll just walk to the Tower, I'm sure we'll find em over there."
To make a long story short, we got there, and looked at every single tourist in the face all to no avail, as they were nowhere in sight. And there we were, at the Eiffel Tower, the most anticipated moment of my whole trip and none of us could stop and appreciate it the way we wanted because there was an underlying sense of urgency/disbelief/frustration with the way things had unfolded. We snapped a few pictures, searched high and low before resigning to the fact that we were not going to find them.
By now we were so hungry, it didn't even matter anymore. So we ended up hunting down a restaurant where we could finally sit down and feast. I must say, it worked out pretty well because Atsushi used to live in LA, so his English is on point. And he's a hilarious dude, so we ended up laughing the night away over pizza and some drinks.
As we were eating, I glanced to the left...did a double take...and shouted.."NO WAY!...NO WAAAAAAAY!!" Standing there across the street from us, were friends Emma made at our hotel a couple days before who were from Oakland. A father who looked to be in his mid 50's accompanied by his 2 sons, both of them cuties. They joined us and we all shifted to a kiddieland frequency, which was just what the doctor ordered after such a grueling night.
We later caught up with the team as they were heading to the station, and they told us we were the lucky ones, cause they were all hungry and in no mood to be sightseeing!! God works in mysterious ways!!
True to life, we've got those good days and bad days. But it's better to have them in Paris than at home!!