Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Adventures of the Boss: Part 2

One of the really great things in college was never having to remember to bring things on road trips. Our great team managers always brought practice shorts, practice gear, game gear, socks and tights. The one thing that was left up to us to bring was our shoes. Since this was the only thing we had to bring on trips and since I have a mild case of OCD, I would check my bag about 50 times to make sure I didn't forget. I made all 4 years of college without ever forgetting my shoes. I am pretty sure though, that if someone did forget, one of the managers would have a solution.

It is a different change of pace over here and we actually have to be responsible for ourselves. We have to bring our own gear to everything. The team gave us 2 practice jerseys but it is on us to bring them and wash them. We don't even have a permanent locker room to keep our stuff in so we carry all of our stuff in a gym bag. Game days is the only day where we get a break. We just have to bring our shoes, socks and tights and the team brings the jerseys. If I were to forget my shoes I have no idea what would happen, but the Boss certainly does.

On December 6, SAM Massagno played against the Birstal Starwings in Basel. When the Boss went to put his bag on the bus he thought that it felt a little light but didn't think anything more of it. After the 3 hour bus ride we got off the bus and headed into our locker room. I was sitting on the bench and the Boss was sitting right next to me. While I am putting on my shoes, I notice out of the corner of my eye that the Boss is tearing through his gym bag and repeatedly calling himself an idiot. I ask him what is wrong and he stands up and proclaims that he is "a f***ing idiot" and forgot his shoes! The Boss then made his way back to his gym bag to check and see if his shoes magically appeared. They hadn't but he continued to look anyways. He tore though the back, taking stuff out and putting it back in. The Boss stood up again and repeatedly said that he is a f***ing idiot. This awkward routine carried on for a good 3 minutes.

While I did view the situation as hilarious, I couldn't laugh because I felt really bad for him. Stores aren't open in Switzerland on Sundays and even if they were, I hardly doubt that the Boss would be able to find a size 15 basketball shoe in them. Then a light went on in the Boss's head. I had worn my Air Force 1's to the game and he thought that he might be able to wear them. I told him that he was more than welcome to but I wear a 13 and he wears a 15 and the likelihood of him breaking his toes was extremely high. Apparently the Boss didn't care though because he was ready to suit up in my beat up, low top, and 2 sizes to small shoes.

Our team manager was freaking out. He could not have one of his Americans not play because he forgot his shoes and he wasn't going to take the risk of him breaking all of his toes and being out for the year. He also had an idea. There was a game before ours and he asked one of the teams if we could borrow a pair of 15's. They didn't have that size but they did have a 14 and they were basketball shoes. The Boss was saved! I still would have liked to have seen him hooping in my shoes but I guess that will never happen. The other shoes worked out well too because the Boss ended up being player of the game that day but he did earn him some nasty blisters.

Every once in awhile we make fun of the Boss for this little mishap but it did remind me to check my bag twice before leaving for a game.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Happy Birthday Marco!

In one of my first blogs I talked about the birthday tradition for SAM Massagno. It basically consists of the birthday boy bringing in beer and everyone drinking in the locker room after practice. Today I experienced a real Italian birthday party.

A couple weeks ago Anna, my teammate Marco's girlfriend, asked us if we wanted to come to Marco's surprise 25th birthday party. Marco is a great teammate and an even better person so of course we wanted to go. The party was set for a Saturday afternoon at 1 o'clock. We didn't know how Italians celebrate birthdays so we didn't know what to expect. What were we supposed to wear? How big of a deal is it? Do we bring something? We even wondered if there was going to be food.

As usual we were one of the first people to arrive but that was ok because it is better to be early than late to a surprise party. It was also good because it gave us time to meet some of Marco's family and friends. We made sure we parked far enough away from the house because our cars have a big SAM Basket Massagno logo and our names on the side. We waited for about 30 minutes as more people and more food arrived. When the time came we hid in a smaller room to surprise him. We didn't know proper Italian surprise etiquette so we just screamed really loud when he opened the door.

Marco really appreciated all of the family and friends that came and was genuinely surprised. It was really cool. It was also time to eat and drink once the guest of honor had arrived. Marco is from Reggio, Italy and his family brought typical food from that region. I really enjoyed the parmesan cheese and a special spinach and cheese appetizer. They also brought salted and pressed pork fat that I am not a big fan of.

The beverages had a personal flair to them as well. One of Marco's family members owns a vineyard and makes wine so there was a lot of this wine. The wine was extremely good. I liked the sparkling white dessert wine the best. Marco said he began drinking it when he was 12 years old because it was so sweet. Unfortunately we had a game the next day so I could not drink a lot but I did have a little. All of the food that was laid out was delicious and I was completely satisfied.

There was a lot of food laid out for appetizers and I was shocked when they said that lunch was going to be served. When we had our food everybody told us bon apetito probably 15 times. Then they asked how to say it in english. So, we had to explain that we don't say anything when we serve our meals. I felt kind of bad about it. Marco told us to always keep food in front of you or someone might think that something was wrong. I kept going up and getting more. It was so good. I literally could not get enough.

The party started at 1 and just kept going. They kept bringing out more and more wine. One of Marco's friends even brought his own jug of wine that he had made. I stayed with my sparkling water while everyone else stayed with their wine. Someone broke out the Italian birthday song. Not to be outdone, Kam suggested that we sing our birthday song. We sang it and everyone joined in. This happened about 6 times during the afternoon. We just sat around eating, drinking and singing. It was really nice to talk to Marco's family and find out a little more about him too.

The appetizers and lunch were great but dessert had to be my favorite. Italian birthday cakes are not like American cakes but they are just as good. Marco's cake was huge and had various kinds of fruit on top. We sang the Italian and American birthday songs again except this time we sang the French and German versions as well. I guess this is what happens when Italians consume a lot of wine on a Saturday afternoon. They even brought out a little espresso machine. I love coffee and I had some but they were trying to get me to put some Italian liquor into it. I wasn't falling for that trick. When I went back to the dessert table, the grandmother bamboozled me into a huge bowl of pudding and some more cake. Marco was right when he said they would be concerned if you didn't have food in front of you.

The biggest surprise of the afternoon came when an hour after dessert, Marco said that they were going to serve dinner soon. We just ate all afternoon and they were going to eat again. This was definitely the best food I have ever had at a birthday party but we had made other plans for dinner. We had no idea that the party would last that long. I was sad that we had to leave early.

All in all it was an awesome experience. This summer I got to experience an Italian wedding and now I experience an Italian birthday. The Italians definitely know how to throw a party.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Swiss Fast Food

I love to eat and I love the food in Lugano. Italian food is probably my favorite type of food which is perfect because of the Italian culture here. Even though I love the cuisine, there is something to be said for a good old American meal. The golden arches are known world wide and are a symbol of American culture. Fast food in Lugano is very limited. We don't have Taco Bell (my favorite), Wendy's, KFC, White Castle etc. Our choices include McDonald's or Burger King. Since the Burger King here is hit or miss, the biggest decision we have to make is whether to go to the McDonald's by the highway or the one downtown.

The menus at the restaurants bring an air of familiarity because the food is basically the same. We have the standards like the Big Mac, Whopper, cheeseburgers, and chicken nuggets. To make it even better, the fries at both restaurants are exactly the same. One particular thing I enjoy is that McDonald's has seasonal Swiss sandwiches. Earlier this year they had an excellent raclette sandwich.

While there are many similarities there are a few HUGE differences. I'll start with the beverages. Fast food restaurants only have one size for pop and they don't like to put ice in the cup. If your room temperature beverage didn't quench your thirst then you have to trek it back up the counter and order another because there are no free refills. Also, if you aren't in the mood for pop or water then you can enjoy a nice cold beer with your value meal. In my 4 years here I have never taken that option and I don't know if I ever will.

In America we enjoy ketchup with our fries and take the free ketchup pumps for granted. Here in Lugano they charge 20 cents per ketchup packet and 20 cents for mayonnaise packets. It blew my mind the first time I had to pay for ketchup. Not seeing a dollar menu in McDonald's also blew my mind. Since 2001, a dollar menu has been a familiar sight for me. I could enjoy a great meal for 5 bucks. No such thing exists here. If they have anything, they have a 2.50 menu. Right now the franc (swiss currency) and the dollar are almost the same so it is very easy to compare. A cheeseburger will cost you 2.50 and a Big Mac value meal will set you back around 12 bucks. This is not good for me because when I go out to eat I just don't get a value meal. I have to get some extra nuggets or a cheeseburger or some type of dessert. Over here that will cost around 23 bucks. For that type of money at home I can take Liz out to Chili's and eat a really good meal with free refills and all the ketchup we want.

Take Sunday night for example. We just beat a surging Lausanne team at home and are one step closer to making the playoffs. My teammates and I went out for a drink to celebrate. When the night was winding down we were all pretty hungry so Ross, Kam, Liz and I decided to listen to our stomachs and head over to McDonald's. We went through the drive through and our order was taken. I don't remember what everyone else got but I remember getting a Big Mac meal, a cheeseburger and a 6 piece nugget. I assume Kam and Ross ordered something similar. Our total was $85! We could have fed an army if we would have been in the states. It probably would have been more but we took it to go so we didn't have to pay for ketchup.

I have to say it was well worth it though. Best meal I have had in a long time. Thank god for all the McDonald's all over the world!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

3rd Round vs Nyon

We had a great 2 weeks off from games and had some intense practices during that time. We got down to work and put some new plays in and worked on our defense a little. Practice can get boring though and it was definitely time to get back to work. Our first game back from the break was against Nyon. They are one of the most talented teams in the league and one of the big budget teams as well. They have big names like Austin Johnson from Oklahoma and former Big Ten Player of the Year Terence Dials as well as a fantastic supporting cast. Despite their depth and money I felt like we could really go out and compete with them and win the game.

We expected a 5 and a half hour bus ride so left at 9:30 in the morning for a 5:30 game. What we didn't expect though was all the snow after the San Gottardo tunnel. It was snowing extremely hard and delayed our arrival. At one point we were even stopped for 45 minutes. There was talk on the bus of delaying the game and playing it at another date because of the weather and traffic but we forged ahead.

After a 7 hour bus ride we pulled up to Nyon's gym and had 30 minutes to warm up before the game started. This was in conflict with my usual routine. I like to get on the court early so I can get a feel for the rims and the court. I go through a series of post moves, short jumpers and free throws before getting ready for the game. Because of the time constraint I couldn't do my routine. When I finally did get out for warm ups I was stiff and my legs felt tight. I eventually loosened up but I noticed that the rims were tight and not very giving.

When the game tipped off I was ready to go and very excited. We were finally playing after 2 weeks off and I was expecting to win. Unfortunately, we had our worst offensive game of the year. We shot very poorly from the floor and I was also bad. My first shot was a right handed jump hook off of a dish from Dan that I can make in my sleep, except this time it rimmed out. My second shot was a left handed offensive rebound shot off the glass that rimmed out. My 3rd shot was a 2 dribble with the right spin back with the left that rimmed out. I finally made my 4th shot (contested lay up, go figure) off of a pass from Kam.

We didn't get any help from the officials in the first half either. I was called for the worst foul I have ever been called for in my life. My man went to screen on the ball and I stayed in the paint like I was supposed to. The man with the ball dribbled right into me and handed me the ball. Apparently this is a foul in Switzerland as the ref blew the whistle. I picked up a second foul soon after and found myself on the bench for the rest of the first quarter and well into the second. A minute later, Ross picked up his second foul and joined me on the bench.

Despite poor shooting and foul trouble we were only down by 9 at the half. During the intermission we talked about giving up too many points in the paint and about our mistakes on offense. If we could cut both of those down then we had a chance.

Apparently, we didn't have a chance. We continued our poor shooting all throughout the second half and Nyon continued to score in the paint. Nyon won the game 80-58. They responded well to the pressure put on them after suffering 2 straight defeats to teams below them in the standings.

As for myself, I just need to get back to work. A good friend of mine told me that missing easy shots is mental. I have to re-focus and get back on track and have a great game against Lausanne next Sunday. The game against Lausanne is a must win now. They are below us in the standings and if we want to make the playoffs then we need to win. As long as we bring it with the intensity we are capable of then it should be a good game with a good result.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Adventures of the Boss: Part 1

I am proudly from Michigan. My whole family lives in Michigan and it was the only place I knew. When it was time to pick a college I chose Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Moving to Wisconsin was hard for me. Not only was I 360 miles from home but I had to get used to funny accents as well as people using words like "soda" instead of pop and "bubbler" instead of drinking fountain (I still don't understand that one.) I felt like I was in another world when I saw people wearing green and yellow Packer gear and thinking it actually looked good. I think Honolulu blue and silver look a whole lot better!

If moving to a different state was hard for me then moving to another country was even harder. Simple acts like going to get a haircut were a big ordeal. I just stopped going one year because the girl I went to could never get my hair the way Bob could. I found myself using sign language as much as possible and even acting deaf once just so I didn't have to talk to someone. True story.

Going to the grocery store is quite the experience. Not every product has a picture and the words on the label are in a foreign language. You just kind of have to rely on looks but this is not always the best thing to do. On my very first trip to the store I could not find milk for my cereal. I asked one of my teammates and he had to show me where it was. I was expecting a 2 gallon jug in a refrigerator but instead I saw a pack of 4 one liter boxes sitting at room temperature. Definitely very different.

This brings me to my first story in the Adventures of the Boss. I have a teammate who is in his first year of playing basketball in Europe and going through all the same things that I went through. I try to help him out as much as possible but sometimes I'm just not there. I won't disclose his name here but for the sake of the story I will just call him the Boss or Boss for short.

I will preface the story by saying The Boss is very intelligent and graduated from an Ivy League university. This could have happened to anyone, but probably not. Boss doesn't speak any Italian and had the same difficulties I had at the grocery store. As anyone knows, when the weather starts to get colder, your skin starts to get drier. Well, Boss's skin was getting dry at the first sign of cold weather so he decided a trip to the store was necessary to get some lotion.

Now, the Boss doesn't know how to say lotion in Italian so he just went off of looks. He knew what a bottle of lotion looks like in the states so he bought something that looked similar. When he got home he rubbed the lotion on his face. This was a daily procedure but something was going wrong. After 3 weeks his face was starting to burn. To fight off the burning, Boss put more lotion on but to no success. The burning was getting worse and his skin was starting to crack.

Something had to be done. The Boss jumped on Google Translate to find out what the heck was going on with his lotion. The translation was not what he expected but he was relieved when he found out. Instead of using lotion, the Boss was using hand soap. He was just relieved that his face wasn't melting off.

It just goes to show you that living overseas is not as easy as living at home. Here is the soap bottle that Boss thought was lotion.

Funny Things In Europe: Real Estate Agency?

A couple of weeks ago, Dan, Liz and I decided to take a trip to Basel. It was a great day and a great trip. While we were walking around the city we noticed the Condomeria store on one of the side streets . I have an immature mind and immediately thought that Condomeria was an adult store. Apparently Dan is more mature and said that it was like a real estate agency specializing in condos. I said no way and the only way to solve the argument was to actually check it out.

I decided against posting the pictures of the more explicit objects in the windows. This blog is not rated R but the look on Dan's face says it all. Definitely not a real estate agency.