Saturday, April 28, 2012

One Night in Budapest


As I mentioned in my last post, I spent the month of February in Hungary playing for ZTE KK in Zalaegerszeg, Hungary which is about 2.5 hours from Budapest. When I signed the contract I was excited to see the country because I heard only good things about it from former teammates who have played there. I had also heard great things about Budapest. This was interesting to me because I do not normally think of Budapest when I think of great European cities. My mind was completely changed after spending one night there.

I knew I needed to make it to Budapest as soon as possible when I learned that I was going to be leaving Hungary. Unfortunately my team made things a little difficult for me. I needed to receive my money before I left and the guy who was supposed to give it to me never seemed to be around. I had heard he was in Vienna and then I had heard he was skiing in the mountains and then they just didn't know where he was. I was growing extremely frustrated because I wanted to get home and also because I wanted to be able to see Budapest.

I planned my trip when I finally received my money and the team booked my ticket home. Since Liz was pregnant and I had things to do back in Milwaukee, I only had one night to spend in Budapest. My main goal was to walk along the Danube River and soak it all in.

I arrived in the city at 3 o'clock, checked into my hotel and immediately took the subway into the center. I am a fan of public transportation when I travel but I always make sure to see if it is safe beforehand. I asked my coach and he told me there would be no problems. Before I left the hotel, I took a city map and asked the concierge which subway stop to get off at. I was a little disappointed that it was cold and snowing but I was determined to make the most out of my trip.

The subway ride into the center was only 20 minutes and I was excited to see another European capital city. After examining my city map, I got off at my subway stop and took a right. Apparently I can not read a map very well because that was the wrong turn to make. As I said earlier, I wanted to walk along the Danube and see all the major sights. If I would have taken a left, then I would have been at the Danube in 5 minutes. Instead, I wandered around downtown Budapest for an hour before I got to the Danube and when I finally got there, I was at the wrong end of it. It was a very frustrating experience because I missed all of the light of day, I was wet from the snow and I had no idea where I was. I spotted a Starbucks on my wandering though and purchased a cup of coffee as well as some cool Starbucks Budapest and Hungary mugs to cheer me up.

Hungarian Parliament building along the river. 

I was overwhelmed when I finally got to the Danube because Budapest is an unbelievably beautiful city. The crummy weather and snow actually made for an amazing backdrop and the cold and wetness was all worth it. My only regret is not having a better historical understanding of the main sights. The historian in my was very disappointed although I was still very impressed without the historical background.

I spent the next 2 hours walking up and down one side of the river. I wanted to make it to Fisherman's Wharf and see a great view of the city but it was late and I did not have time. Of course the batteries died on my camera after I took 2 pictures but I quickly found a convenience store and took some more pictures.

Fisherman's Wharf
I wanted to get a typical Hungarian dinner for my last night in Hungary but I could not find a place that looked good. So, I found a T.G.I Fridays after a stroll down Andrassy Avenue (the Hungarians call it the Champs Elysees of Budapest.) I have never seen a Fridays in Europe so I just had to eat there. I would have been disappointed in myself if I didn't.

Opera House on Andrassy Avenue.
After dinner, I found my original subway stop and made my way back to the hotel. I couldn't believe how close it was to the Danube but whatever. I called Liz up right away and told her that we have to make it to Budapest again one day. I think there will be a trip to Austria and Hungary one day in our future so she can see all that Budapest has to offer.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Catching Up

Geez, a lot has happened to me since the last time I updated on the world of basketball. I left Macedonia, I went to Hungary, I left Hungary, I started using my college degree to substitute teach and our first child was born. This post will be pretty long but I hope to catch up on everything.

I will start with leaving Macedonia. I have tried to write about this experience numerous times but when I re read it, I feel like I come off as being another entitled athlete. Skopje was not a good place for my family and me. This was the first experience I had overseas that I did not enjoy and I dreaded going to practice everyday. I thought things would get better when my wife Liz came but they only got worse. We really liked downtown Skopje but things on the basketball side were not going well. I felt pretty terrible bringing her into this situation because I came home grumpy from practice every day. Our plan was to deliver our son in Macedonia but I soon realized I did not want to continue with this plan.

The team made things easier on my wife and me when they decided to sign the starting center from the Macedonian National Team. I honestly felt nothing when they did. He is a great player and a national hero and they would have been fools not to sign him. My services were no longer needed and it was actually a very relieving experience.

MZT has had a lot of success on the court this year. They finished in 1st place in the league and won the Macedonian Cup and they currently hold a 2-0 lead in the Championship over rival Feni. I made some very good friends in Macedonia and I wish those people, the fans and my old Coach all the success in the world. The same can not be said for the management there. I will not wish them anything because of the way they disrespected my wife me. I will leave it at that.

Me with 2 of my American teammates Cade Davis on the left and Noah Dahlman on the right. Good basketball players and better people. 

So, we were back in Milwaukee in late November and I was pretty happy about it. As much as I wanted to be out on the court, I was that much happier that I was no longer in Skopje and with my old team. Things looked pretty promising for me out on the job market as well. The NBA lockout was over and jobs were supposed to be opening throughout the world. My situation was a little bit different though because Liz was pregnant and the due date was during the end of the season or during the beginning of the playoffs. Because of this, my agent had to look for teams that were willing to accommodate us or for jobs that would be finished by our due date.

It was actually very nice to be back in the United States during Christmas because it was the first time I could enjoy a full Christmas season at home since I was in high school. This time was actually very busy for us too because we were trying to get everything set up before the baby came. I fully expected to have a job after Christmas and to be back with a team before the New Year. I actually had a job offer from a team in Chile that an agent from Facebook got me. The story from this is actually pretty good and will make an excellent blog if I ever get around to writing it.

I obviously didn't take the job in Chile and remained in the United States into January. I was growing restless  and spent most of my time working out at the gym and waiting by the phone or by my computer for news. I guess I was a little naive to think that teams would be willing to accommodate my situation with my wife. There were a few teams that were interested in bringing me in but they did not want to bring Liz over and they would not let me go home to be with her for the birth. Wanting to be with Liz for the birth of our first child was a no brainer and something that I was not going to miss.

In the middle of January I went over to the Menomonee Falls School District to apply to be a substitute teacher. I did this once before when I came home early after my first year in Massagno, Switzerland. It was a great experience and I loved doing it. Subbing was great too because I went to Marquette to become a teacher. Everything was all set to start teaching in the Falls when my agent called me in late January.

A team called ZTE KK in Zalaegerszeg, Hungary wanted to bring me in. The team had won only 1 game and were in danger of moving down into the 2nd league if they lost the playouts. I was going to come in and help them save their team and their season. ZTE did not have a true center on the roster and I was just what they needed. The deal was for me to come over on a 10 day tryout period and if the team liked me then I would officially be on the team. Joining the team would also let me be home for the birth of our son.

Downtown Zalaegerszeg. I lived right behind the church.
So, on February 4th I took off for Budapest, Hungary and was about to play for my 4th team this season. Hungary is a beautiful country and it appeared I was finally in a good situation this season. The squad had a practice game on my first Thursday there against the 2nd place team in the league. The Coach wanted everyone to play 20 minutes and that is exactly what happened. I played really well in my 20 minutes and had 12 points and only missed 1 shot. Some of my teammates came up to me and thanked me for coming because they said I was just what they were missing. Two days later I played my first real game with ZTE and I scored 15 points on 6-8 shooting and had 4 rebounds. We lost the game but it was a close game and frankly we should have won. I believe if I was there longer then we would have won. My tryout period was set to expire and I thought I was a lock to continue to be with the team.

Unfortunately, I was hearing rumblings from people that I had a knee problem. It was pretty interesting to hear from other people that I had a knee problem. I have worn a knee brace ever since my freshman year at  Marquette and have sometimes even worn 2 for comfort reasons. I have never had knee surgery and have only had tendinitis in my knees. That is why it was very upsetting to me for these people that do not even know me to tell me that I have knee problems. My performances on the court were good and were only going to get better as I got more accustomed to playing with my new teammates. The team told me that they wanted to extend my tryout period for a few more days so they could see me in another game and make their decision. I was very reluctant to do this and wanted to tell them to go to hell because I knew that it meant they were still looking for other players and didn't want to keep me. They kept using my knee as an excuse and it really bothered me because nothing was wrong with it.

I had 1 more game with ZTE to stick around and to get more stats for next season. The next game was on the road at Kaposvar. I played pretty good and had 13 points on 6-10 shooting with 3 rebounds. I honestly should have had 17 points but the ball slipped out of my hands on really easy layups. My point guard hit me with great passes and the ball just slipped out. I am man enough to acknowledge it. We really should have won this game and lost it because of the refs. A sad reality of basketball overseas is bad and crooked refs. I fouled out of this game on 4 offensive fouls. I never picked up a 5th foul but the scorers table had me for 5. So, I knew my time with ZTE was over when I "fouled out."

ZTE decided that they didn't need a center and wanted a 3 man instead. This basically went against everything my teammates had told me and the Americans on the team were sad to see me go. ZTE went on to lose the next games by 10, 37 and 29. Matter of fact, they didn't win a game the rest of the regular season. I can't say I am sorry to see this though. The Coach was fired 2 weeks after I went home.

ZTE also managed to do a smear campaign against me. Another team in Hungary wanted to bring me in but they had heard that I had a bad knee so it scared them off. I was pretty ticked at some members of the management. There were other things that went on but I do not want to get into them now but I might save it for a future post.

So, I made my way back stateside and got ready for the birth of our son. I got back to subbing in Menomonee Falls and then added Brown Deer High School and Middle School to my schedule. I love working in the schools and am very happy that I get to do this and work with the kids.

I believe everything happens for a reason and it was actually a good thing that I left Hungary before I was supposed to because Liz went into labor on April 15. We headed off to the hospital at 11 pm that evening and at 2:01 pm on April 16 we welcomed our son Jamie Christopher into the world. I want to write a blog on this soon because it was one of the happiest days of my life.

Our little Jamie C!
So, I am sitting here with my son as I write down the last words to this blog. It hasn't been the best year for me on the basketball court but I am one very fortunate and happy father. I hope to update the many exciting things to come for the Grimm family on this blog. I also hope to update a lot more and I hope people keep reading.

Thanks and until then.........