2016 May 20
The day started about as early as day can start. I fell asleep about 11:30 after my late night balcony session. Again, I slept with the sliding door open for fresh air and the anticipation of the morning sounds. Bang. I thought it was a gunshot. Bang. I sat up in bed. BANGbangBANGbangBANG…
The hotel next door decided 12:08 was a good time to celebrate something. The fireworks last only 5 minutes and lit up the Riverwalk. A sigh of relieve that my imagination had gotten carried away, and back to dreamland. I was fast asleep when the phone rang. It was 2:35. It was Robert. There were guests in the lobby complaining about the noise from the players’ rooms. The hotel isn’t happy, Robert isn’t happy, and now I am not happy. I walk down there and it’s clear what room is the problem. I stand in the hallway for just a moment trying to decipher the voices but there are many, players and Cheer Squad alike. I knock on the door authoritatively. The hysterical sound of people shhhh-ing others and then a lone player opens the door as if he had just been awoken. It takes all I have to maintain my stern face and deliver the message that there have been complaints about the room being loud and it has to stop. He assures me that he understands and it will. I go back to my room, set an alarm for 10 minutes and head back there. As I approach the room, I see a Cheer Squad member scamper back to her room in what I believe are her pajamas. While it is slightly better, it is not acceptable. A different player opens the door when I knock the second time. I tell them to clear the room now. He agrees. I go back to my room and set my alarm for 30 minutes. For the third time I walk the length of the hallway. Halfway, I pass a room of Cheer Squad voices, I pause listening for the typical baritone voice of someone over 5’5” inches tall. I don’t hear any. I move down to the original noisy room and it’s quiet. I am relieved and head back to bed for the 4th time tonight.
There is a speed bump in front of the hotel. As speed bumps go it is not that impressive. When a car drives over it there is no sound. But at 6:23, a rattling old vehicle full of unsecured cargo rolled over it. The noise was multifaceted. Shaking vehicle, clanging cargo, and the ever present beep. Welcome to sunrise. There is a heavy fog covering the area. This city is situated in the valley of some mountains so the fog is not lifting any time soon. No “once in a lifetime’ morning view today either. Well, I am up. I check my social media, text Joan, and start to pack. When all of that is taken care of, I go downstairs for breakfast, then I walk a few blocks to a coffee shop. I place my order in Chinese and actually get what I want. Yes! Then I almost balk at the cost, $12 RMB. I put it into my currency converter and see that $1.83 USD is a very fair price for a steaming cup of black coffee. Back to the hotel, up to my perch, and the comings and goings along the river, which included a 20 minute exercise session for hotel employees that looked like line dancing class.
Today we have a short ride to Quzhou City. I am thinking I can get some reading done, maybe even catch 20 winks on the bus. Nope. I am sitting next to Kyle, who is a very interesting guy. Deep. Inquisitive. Smart. He is always working on something: writing music, writing a book, trying to line up his next basketball contract. He has lots of energy. When we arrive it’s time for the routine. Lobby. Room assignments. Laundry out. Go to eat. Some of the players are having roommate drama. Not everyone wants to room with everyone else. I get it, but it’s tiring after a while. I have decided for the next few hotels we will just pick randomly, and if they get a bad pairing we will just blame it on my hat.
I hand out the keys, work through the drama and the players are off. Only to return very quickly because housekeeping has not prepared the rooms yet. Some are just messy, some are gross. Ladies are working frantically under the watchful eye of the manager and everyone is situated within 30 minutes. Sitting at lunch was the most peaceful thing I have done so far. Robert and I just chit chat about the American mentality and how it differs from China. I told him that what he admires about American athletes (big, strong, aggressive) is not what they do, rather it’s who they are. A tiger cannot change its stripes. It’s rare for an athlete to completely turn it off when they are not competing. He seemed to understand, and he seemed to like the nature reference. The afternoon is free and I tell all the players to use it to rest. Hopefully they do.
The rain is coming down pretty hard as drive to the arena. The police car lights in front of and behind us make cool reflections through the bus windows. The ride is short and we hustle through the elements. Inside the place is pretty small. I would guess the seating capacity to be less than 3,000. The game is delayed because fans cannot get inside efficiently. The place is packed by tip time. The game is also being televised locally. I would imagine with the density of population, that there are several million people able to watch this game at home. Imagine that. My pregame talk is about why people watch sports on TV. One is escapism from their day to day life. Another is to have the chance to see something they have never seen before. My final point, you never know when you are going to see the greatest game you ever saw. Sports is the ultimate reality show. I tell the team to be the best show on TV tonight.
We get off to a decent start and that was almost enough to salt things away. Their coach implored them, played different line-ups, utilized several defenses, but we had the answers and controlled the game. At the half we were up 9. The excitement came as the second half got underway. The Chinese knew this was their last chance. They didn’t just trim the lead, they took it. But this group of guys has grown, and we stayed the course. It wasn’t long before we were back ahead. And then the floodgates opened. By the middle of the 4th quarter, we were up 20 and on cruise control. The final minute and a half we lolly-gagged, gave away a couple nothing 3’s and avoided any of the pleasantries that marred the previous few games. The final was 97-85. Seven games, seven wins.