As a North Carolinian, whenever I see a basketball jersey with the name "Jordan" on it, I naturally think of Michael Jordan. But at the World Cup basketball tournament in Kayseri, Turkey where I was privileged to have a front row seat, "Jordan" refers to the country of Jordan. They played Germany, who beat them 91 to 73.
About the only recognition North Carolina gets from Europeans, Middle Easterners, Asians or probably most of the world is if it is identified as the state Michael Jordan is from. (For my Turkish friends who read this blog, I've included a map of North Carolina, a few hundred kilometers south of Washington, DC on USA's east coast.)
It was cool to have a front-row seat for the game, thanks to my German friends Yasmine and Erick, bloggers and photographers for http://gruebelei.de/, under the nom de plume, "Old School Baller." We met after they googled "Kayseri, Turkey," which took them to my blog. They wanted to know about Kayseri as one of the Turkish cities hosting the World Basketball Championship, and found a lot of information on my blog in English here. We became email correspondents, then Facebook friends, I found them a place to stay while in Kayseri, and this week we had the delight of meeting each other face-to-face for the first time. Who says blogging doesn't have ancillary benefits?
(Because their blog is in German, I can't read it, but I put this entry about their strong impressions of Turkish and Kayserian hospitality and eagerness to please through Google translator and got a fair sense of their mostly positive experiences in Kayseri. They joke that Google translates basketball "fan" as "ventilator" but I find it better than that.)
The Jordan-German game was actually anti-climatic, since both teams were no longer in competition for the championship title. Both teams played rather lacklusterly. There were a lot of empty seats at the stadium in Kayseri. I was interested that one of the players for Jordan (photograph above), Rasheim Wright, was born and raised in Philadelphia, and that a number of NBA players participate in the quadrennial World Cup basketball competitions. But this year, few NBA stars did.
Even so, the US is still in the competition. They've beaten Slovenia, Brazil, Croatia, Iran, and Tunisia. As the Tehran Times reports:
"USA joins Turkey and Lithuania as the only teams that advanced through their groups without being defeated." Next, USA "takes on Angola, and the winner of that game will play the winner of the Russia vs New Zealand Game."
I, of course, hope USA and Turkey make it to the final game! Our countries need to learn more about each other.
When Turkey Plays at World Championship, Scantily-Clad Dancers are Absent," The New York Times reported, suggesting the growing political influence of conservative Muslims in Turkey was the cause of the immodest dancers' removal at some games. That wasn't true at the game in "conservative" Kayseri that I attended. Scantily-clad dancers performed before the Kayseri audience without incident, as far as I could tell, as my video clips below illustrate. I've already written that Kayseri's reputation as a culturally conservative Muslim city seems exaggerated. As an American, I find Kayseri very friendly.
The Carolina Tarheels' blowout victory over Michigan State for the NCAA Title cements UNC Coach Roy Williams reputation, following in the great tradition of his mentor Dean Smith. Video highlights of the game. Williams has matched Smith's two national titles and who knows, he may bring off another one or two before he retires. It's fascinating to read how Williams was a small high school coach in Asheville in 1978 when Smith asked him to return to Chapel Hill to be an assistant on his staff. Read Keith Jarrett's piece, Williams' long-ago decision set career path. Now, Roy Williams is Hoops New Dean.
Add to this list of the greatest players in Tarheel history Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson.
Tar Heel Fan Blog: "UNC now assumes it’s place as the premier basketball program in the
country. In a matter of six years back in Chapel Hill Roy Williams has
taken the program from the brink of imploding to three Final Fours and
two national titles. According to Jones Angel last night, UNC is
101-14 in the past three seasons. Wow. The senior class graduates
with a record of 124-22. We are living in a golden era of Carolina
basketball one that rivals the 1991-1998 stretch in Dean’s final
seasons and Bill Guthridge’s first."
I think of how much my college roommate, the late Larry Gang, and my father, the late John Buie, would have enjoyed this victory. In 2005, when I boasted on this blog about Carolina's last NCAA championship, Larry chimed in.I hope he and my father are enjoying this victory in Blue Heaven.
I'm trying to pass on the legacy to my 12-year-old son by playing basketball with him several times a week, teaching him the history and by participating in the Facebook UNC Basketball Fan Community. Alex usually beats his old man. He sometimes taunts my slowness on the court by calling me "granny." Recently I beat him in a close game and my retort was, "don't you feel humiliated, beaten by your granny?" Even though I'm not a lot of competition for him, I think I've had some role in the development of his confidence as a player, his improved ball-handling, and his enjoyment of the game. He's going to basketball camp this summer.
"It's not easy to say goodbye, but it's time.
Thirty-nine years flew by so fast that trying to figure out what is the
highlight of it became next to impossible. Well, there were those 26 trips to the Final Four. And that
Duke-Kentucky game in 1992, which came a year after that Duke-UNLV
game. Both came after a famous shot by a famous player in 1982, which
came a year before a famous coach was seen in New Mexico, running
across the court looking for somebody to hug. Yes, fabulous moments. Geez, has it really been this long?" Read the whole thing.
"Dead coaches live in the air . . . live / In the ear / Like fathers, and urge and urge. They want you better / Than you are. When needed, they rise and curse you they scream / When something must be saved." -- James Dickey, in poem, "The Bee."
"These days, if you want the sound of a gruff but kindly coach in your ear, ordering you to get the lead out, you merely have to go to a bookstore, where every coach with a decent winning percentage has had his wisdom scattered between hard covers." -- Dwight Garner, New York Times.
(Read in the context of the death of David Halberstam, a great journalist and a great coach/mentor to many journalists.)
For the fourth year, my son Matthew, 22, is biking across Iowa this week as part of RAGBRAI, "the longest, largest and oldest touring bicycle ride in the world," along with 15,000 or so riding companions. Started in 1973 by the Des Moines Register to prove that Iowa is not flat, the ride has evolved into a traveling roadshow or carnival. The Register'sweb site is doing a great job covering the ride on the web, displaying many photos and videos, including those shot by participants and emailed or uploaded, as well as blogs and message boards. Participatory journalism at its best. The enclosed photo is from the Register site, but it looks like Matthew (coming up from behind). Of course I'm sure there are a lot of young guys wearing sunglasses and helmets on the ride that could be mistaken for Matthew. Lance Armstrongis participating in part of the ride to dramatize the need for cancer funding. I tell friends Matthew and Lance Armstrong are biking across Iowa together. Actually, Matthew only saw Lance pass by him in a blur at 30-miles-per-hour with a crowd of other people trying to keep up with him. Lance is participating in only part of the ride.
Matthew reports that Monday's ride -- which he started at 7AM and didn't finish until 6 PM -- was the hardest he's ever experienced. It was blazing hot, the hills were steep and went on for hours, and "even the downhills felt like uphills." "Why did I choose to do this?" Matthew asked himself. But Tuesday was a breeze, and he's gaining a strong sense of accomplishment from the ride.
Tonight is a crisp autumn evening. Egg-shaped moon. At the baseball field, my eight-year-old
catches his first fly ball, and exclaims: "That was amazing!"
This painting by John Newby captures such memories of childhood: "The batter swings and hits a high fly ball: it's coming to you! Heart pounding, you position yourself, glove extended, eyes riveted on the ball. It seems to hang, suspended above you, and then falls into your glove with a reassuring smack. Your first catch and the batter is out: your mom smiles and your dad is ecstatic." Check out his site. If you like what you see, post a comment here.
Washingtonians are thrilled to have a home baseball team again. Washington Cheers As Long-Sought Team Makes Winning Debut. (Great slideshow on Washington Post site.) Also, check out the home page for coverage of the Nationals on WashingtonPost.com. My eight-year-old son and I had the privilege of attending Sunday's game between the Nationals and the Arizona Diamondbacks at RFK Stadium. What a barrel of fun! The Nationals won 7-3. It was their fifth straight win. We sat near NBC's Tim Russert, and Democratic political consultant James Carville. I brought a video camera to the game. Here are a couple of video clips from our experience.
You can now watch Nationals baseball online -- the local tv blackout doesn't include the web. www.nationals.com
"The arrival of the Washington Nationals has changed...not just the way I look at sports, but more importantly, the way I look at Washington. For 15 years, I've felt like a resident alien here; now, a brand-new baseball team has made the city feel like home. " -- Steve Hendrix, The Washington Post.