Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Basketball Rules

There are a few different rules in European basketball that are different from American basketball. One rule that I would love for America to adopt is the flopping rule. I hate when players flop or act when they try to draw a charge or a foul. We were pretty big on trying to draw charges when I played for Marquette. If a player avoided or didn't try and draw a charge in practice, then the whole team was put on the line and we had to run. I remember trying to draw a charge during a game my Junior year at Marquette. The ref just looked down at me as I was lying on the floor and he said, "Seriously Grimm? Get up, you are twice his size."If this were to happen in Europe then I would have been issued a technical foul. The other team would have been awarded 2 free throws and the ball.

Greg Paulus should have received a technical and had his man card revoked.

Another rule I would love to see adopted is the goal tending rule. This rule would allow the offense to tip the ball in while it is still in the cylinder as well as the defense to knock the ball off the rim while it is still in the cylinder. I think this makes the game pretty exciting as it could lead to displays of exceptional athleticism with exciting tip dunks. I haven't really adjusted to this rule because it has always been in my head to not touch the ball while it is on the rim. The adoption of this rule would also lead to more uniformity in the global game of basketball.

One rule that I don't like is the unsportsmanlike foul on a fast break. When a player has a clear path to the basket, the defender is not allowed to touch him. So, even if you try to go for a clean swipe or a clean block and you happen to foul him, you are whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul. The foul gives the offensive player 2 shots and the ball back. Another reason I don't like the rule is because so much is left to the referee. One ref sees the rule one way and another ref sees it another way. I think American referees enforce our rule pretty well. We know what is an intentional foul and what is not.

Traveling is also a HUGE issue for Americans in Europe. Players fresh out of college tend to get whistled for traveling a lot during their first year. It seems that European fans of basketball think that all Americans travel with the ball. The frustrating part about the rule is that it is enforced differently in every country and sometimes with different referees. For example, I have seen in some countries that a player has to almost slap the ball down to the court when on a fast break instead of grabbing it with 2 hands and then putting it down. I was whistled once in Switzerland because I drove with my right hand and crossed over with my left foot. Another referee came up to me and told me it was a good move but the ref that issued the call was used to working in Italy and that it is always a travel in Italy. Being big is also an issue when it comes to traveling. If you look too big to make a good move, then the ref will almost always issue a travel. Very frustrating!

Traveling pretty much anywhere in world except Cameron Indoor.

Also, players can't call timeout in Europe. Only the coach can call timeout and only in a deadball situation. I am a little embarrassed to admit that it took me 2 years to learn this rule. I would always wonder why there were such long stretches with no timeouts during my first year.

I can go on and on about different rules but I won't go any further. With basketball being a truly global game, I think the rules need to be uniform across the board. This would help us Americans in global competition so we don't have to sweat out as many games in the Olympics or World Championships.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sights Around Skopje

Since the blog post about the Kumanovo game, some people might have a negative view of Macedonia. My wife and I really like living in Macedonia and living in the capital city of Skopje. I wanted to share some pictures I took around the city the other day to show how neat it is. I know a lot of people back at home know nothing about the country or city so I will offer some explanations and fun facts.

In the center of the square in downtown Skopje is a statue of Alexander the Great or more accurately "Warrior on a Horse" as it is officially called. There is actually a little bit of controversy surrounding the statue. There is a lot of tension between Greece and Macedonia which would take a long time to write about and understand. Basically Greece claims that the name Macedonia belongs to them because it is one of their northern provinces. They have even blocked Macedonia's entrance into the EU and NATO because of their differences. Obviously there is a lot more to it than that but this is a blog and not a complete history lesson. Anyways, Greece claims Alexander the Great as a Greek and not Macedonian so they view the statue as a slap in the face. I hope I got that right but that was how it was all explained to me.

There are many other statues in the downtown square. I can't tell you who any of them are but I can tell you that there a lot of men riding on horses. If I ever have a statue of me, then I want it to be me on a horse because I think it looks awesome.

The Vardar River runs through the center of the town and this stone bridge connects the square to the old town. The bridge is actually a symbol of the town as it is seen on the coat of arms of the city. Just below the bridge there is a statue of 2 women diving into the water and if you look hard enough you can see them. I thought it was pretty neat!

Did you know that Mother Theresa is from Skopje, Macedonia? This is the Mother Theresa Memorial House. It was built where the Sacred Heart of Jesus Roman Catholic Church once was and was the church that Mother Theresa was baptized in. If you look closely you can see 2 of my teammates in the picture as well.

There are many other great things to see and do around Skopje and the downtown area is very pleasant. Coffee shops and restaurants are plentiful in the square and I have spent a few afternoons sipping coffee there. Mountains surround the city and atop one of the mountains is the Millenium Cross. From the Cross you can see the whole city. There is also an old castle in the city called the Kale Fortress. I actually don't have any pictures to show of the cross or the castle but hopefully I will get them soon.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I know Halloween is over but I found something pretty scary on Macedonian television the other night. I was channel surfing with my wife after our game and came across the Wisconsin Badger football game on Macedonian television. The Badgers haunt me from 5,000 miles away.

Our television.

Living in Wisconsin during football season is pretty terrible for me. Every Saturday I have to deal with everyone wearing Badger gear and every Sunday I have to deal with the green and yellow Packer gear in church. It is like I am living in a nightmare.

Of course I am only half joking. I have a lot of friends who went to Wisconsin and my in laws are big Wisconsin football fans. My in laws have also been Marquette Basketball season ticket holders since the early 70's so I think that outweighs the Badger love.

My father in law is the Badger fan in the middle at the Michigan State game this year. I can't remember who won though?

I just can't get down with the Packers though. I have always not liked them. I just don't understand how people think the colors green and yellow look good together. My wife is a huge fan as well as the general manager of my team here. Unfortunately I can't talk a lot of smack being a lifelong Lions fan.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Culture Shock

In my 6 years of playing professional basketball, each season brings new experiences and surprises. My travels have taken me to 19 different countries and there has been something surprising in everyone I have been too. I can remember asking for ranch dressing at a restaurant in Lugano, Switzerland during my first year. The look on the waitress' face was priceless as she just stared back at me. I can also remember my disappoint my first year when I couldn't find Lucky Charms in the cereal aisle. I didn't know if I would be able to survive without marshmallows in my milk. Also, most shocking of all, no Mountain Dew in Europe.

I learned to bring my own ranch dressing and of course I eventually got used to no marshmallows in my cereal. I still haven't gotten used to the no Mountain Dew. Those little things are nothing compared to the culture shock I have had here in Macedonia though. I am not saying it is bad, I am just saying that it is different.

The language is probably the biggest culture shock in any country that I have been too. I can study a language all I want but when I get around native speakers it is completely different. In my other travels I have been to countries with Latin based languages and my years of studying Spanish helped me understand a few things here and there. I have also made it a point to take classes or learn the language where I am so I can communicate at the store or with the fans. Last year I became pretty good with French and the year before with Italian. Here in Macedonia, they speak Macedonian which is a south Slavic language. It just sounds like white noise to me when I hear people talk. I understand absolutely nothing and that makes it really hard to tell a cab driver who doesn't speak English where I need to go. It is also impossible to read because they use the Cyrillic alphabet. Thankfully a lot of the people here in Skopje speak English.

There are a ton of stray dogs here in Macedonia. When the city catches a stray, they don't put it down but instead have the dog spayed or neutered so it can't reproduce. You can tell the dogs that are fixed because they have a yellow tag on their ears. I guess that's a good policy but it is really difficult for me to see all of these random dogs. The Grimm family always had a dog when I was growing up and we even had three dogs at one point so dogs hold a big place in my heart. My teammate and I were walking home one night and we actually had three dogs follow us home. It broke my heart when we had to shut the door on them when they were just sitting there wagging their tails.

Another thing that tugs at me is the people that are constantly picking through the trash. I can't take a short walk without seeing at least one person going through the trash. It is just tragic to see so many people doing it. I don't really want to say more on this subject.

Apparently a horse and cart are still an acceptable means of transportation here in Macedonia. This was the most surprising thing I have seen here. The Amish are the only people I have seen driving a horse and a cart back at home. I think it is even more surprising because of how urban Skopje is. This is the capital city of Macedonia and there are people riding horses around it. I asked my teammate what it was all about and he said that is just how it is here in the Balkans. So, I guess it is not just unique to Macedonia.

These are just a few of the things that I have encountered in my time here in Macedonia. I'm sure I will see more things on my travels and I will just learn to live with them.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


I would say that I have had an uneventful basketball career and by that I mean that nothing crazy has happened to me in games. Yes, I have had a lot of personal and team success but nothing that makes a really good story. That was until last night.

We had been preparing all week long for our game against Kumanovo. It was a big game for them and for us as well. Kumanovo is celebrating their 65th year of having a basketball team and they picked our game for their big festivities. Their gym is big and holds 5,000 people but they wanted all of the room in their gym for their fans and banned the Family Aerodrom (our fans) from the sport hall. That was a little hard to believe too because our fans have not been banned from our other away games and just add to the great atmosphere at the games.

When our team bus pulled into town we had to stop at a police check point. I don't know the exact reason but I suspect it was because they didn't want any of our fans sneaking into the town. I have never had that happen to me before but I thought it was kind of cool. It just showed how important of a game it was.

The gym itself was old and for lack of a better word, crappy. There were holes in the walls, the chairs in the locker room were all broken into pieces and there was standing water in the bathroom that smelled terrible. I guess these things mean nothing to the fans because the gym was loud and packed.

I got dressed pretty quickly because I wanted to get out onto the court and get a feel for the rims. As I was walking out of the locker room one of the team vets stopped me and told me not to go out yet because I would get things thrown at me. I had to wait for the whole team to be ready so we could go out together.

We left the locker room after Coach's pre game speech and headed out onto the court to some of the loudest boos I have ever heard. It wasn't just boos either. Old men were spitting at us and little kids were flipping us the bird. The crowd also broke out into some pretty raunchy chants. My teammates told me they were just singing some fun songs when I asked them but after the game they told me what they were really saying. I don't know they age demographic of my readers so I won't put them on here but I would be afraid to tell my mother what they were saying.

We were ahead the whole game but the fireworks really started after halftime. The Kumanovo fans decided to give us a confetti shower while we were warming up after the break. It took awhile for the 2nd half to start because as soon as the custodial staff cleaned it up, the fans would throw more on the court. It was very frustrating because we just wanted for the half to start.

With 1:56 left in the 3rd quarter, a lighter was thrown from the stands and landed at my feet as we lined up at the free throw line and then the show started. The refs told both teams to return to their benches as they met at the scorers table. Macedonian rules states that if the game is delayed 2 times by the fans then the fans have 10 minutes to evacuate the building and the game will resume with no fans. If they fail to leave then the game is played the next day with no fans in the gym. We know this rule quite well because it happened to us once already this season at home.

The official at the scorers table packed his things up and returned to the locker room. The fans did not appreciate this gesture and pelted him with various objects as he was escorted out by security. The security guards also instructed us to return to our bench as things began to be thrown our way. We had a covered bench like the ones you see at soccer games. The security guards also surrounded our bench so we were not attacked by the fans. One of my teammates stood up briefly and an 8 inch piece of wood was thrown at his head and narrowly missed him. Things were getting really crazy.

We just assumed the game would be resumed the next day because the fans were obviously not leaving the stands. Amazingly the official came back out and ruled that only the 1st three rows of the stands had to be vacated and the game would be resumed. I guess this was not according to the rule book but I was happy that we would be playing again. We had 5 minutes to warm up and we would start the game with 1:56 left in the 3rd quarter after a 35 minute break. As we were warming up about 5 fans were flipping me the bird and kept calling for me to come over. I just averted my eyes and kept doing my thing.

We came out after the break and Kumanovo didn't score the rest of the quarter and we led by 11. The game was hot all the way to the end and we wound up winning 88-81. With about 3 seconds left in the game the fans started throwing more stuff on the court including full bottles of water, coins and lighters (a lot of people smoke here.) We were so hyped we won but left the court with our jerseys over our heads to avoid getting hit by anything big. The locker room was pretty rowdy after the game. We were high fiving and screaming. Our coach even handed out a few high fives which he never does so it must mean he was pretty happy.

I wanted to get out of Kumanovo after the game and return home to my wife. There was just one problem though, apparently there was a threat on the team after the game and we couldn't leave the locker room area without a police escort. I thought we were in the clear once we were on the bus but I was wrong about that too. Coach told us to pull the window shades and move to the inside seat of the bus. Apparently, the fans planned to attack the bus with rocks on our way out of town and he didn't want us hurt or cut if the windows were busted open. We had another police escort and thankfully nothing happened to us.

We had a team pizza dinner once we got back into Skopje which was very fun. Unfortunately it made Liz very nervous. She saw that there was a long delay in the game and was scared about that and when I didn't return right away she was scared something happened to us. I received a long hug once I walked into the door.