Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"You Sound Like You're From London!"

I can't tell you how many times that phrase was said during our day-trip to London.  I don't even think God knows.  It's a quote said by Paul Rudd from the movie, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and sounded like the perfect icebreaker when talking to complete strangers actually from London, an act which I did a lot.
One of the more popular topics of conversation with the Londoners was what football(soccer) team they supported(root for).  If you didn't know already, I'm a huge Manchester United fan and an even bigger Wayne Rooney fan so regardless of their answer to the above question and whether they wanted to hear it or not, I gave them by best Martin Tyler impersonation of a Rooney goal.  The Chelsea fans hated it, the Man U fans loved it.
Aside from high-fiving other soccer fans, I have to say London is by far the coolest city I've ever been to.  All in one day, we went to see Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the buildings of Parliament, the Prime Ministers house, and we traveled up the London Eye, the world's largest Ferris wheel situated in the heart of the city.  We also did some shopping in England, which included a trip to London's Nike Town.  As you might have guessed, this store had a whole floor dedicated to Europe's most prominent football clubs(teams).  On full display were the full authentic kits(jersey + matching shoes) from clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool FC, Chelsea, FC Porto, Inter Milan, AC Milan, FC Barcelona, and Real Madrid.  In my opinion, after studying each kit and balancing all the pros and cons, Inter had the sickest jerseys of them all, which is important information because everyone knows having fashionable outfits plays a huge role in determining which team you choose to use in the FIFA video game.
You might have heard about it already, but I'm keeping a list of every state and country I've scored a basket in.  Basketball has provided me with some amazing opportunities to travel and see new places, so this is my way of keeping track of where I've been because of the game.  Prior to this trip I was at 26 states and 5 different countries.  The trip I just took was my 5th overseas adventure, including previous stops in Ireland, France, and the African nations of Senegal and Mali.  Obviously I added two countries to my list, Belgium and Germany, but I didn't manage to find a hoop while in England.  What I did manage to do is to persuade some kids playing soccer in the park to stop their game so I could shoot an undefended penalty kick.  Characteristically, I buried it in the upper left 90(corner) and walked off the pitch(field) without another word.
Our next stop after London was Dusseldorf, Germany.  From there we played two games, in as many nights, winning them both.  We cruised to victory in the first game but the second one proved to be much tougher.  For one thing, the fans decided it would be appropriate if they brought their Vuvuzelas to the game and blow them at random times, like when I'm shooting a free throw.  I take back what I said about bringing Vuvuzelas to Assembly Hall, that would be a dire mistake.  Furthermore, this team featured former University of Arkansas multi-sport athlete Marcus Monk.  From what I can tell from his Wikipedia page, he spent the last couple of years in the NFL, spending time with the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers, before getting cut ahead of this season.  Can't make it in the NFL, try professional European the division 2 level.  We won this game by a two.
Side note: Before we go any further, I want to take this time to express my distaste for carbonated water.  Two games in Germany, two games we were forced to use bubbly, tasteless, gas water as hydration.  I guess anything to get an advantage on the Americans.
Finally, we did play one last game in Belgium on our last night abroad but there's not much to say about it except that we won by fifty.  Everything about this trip was awesome and I'm grateful for the experience.  We had a great time both on and off the court and you couldn't have asked for a better group of guys.  Even coach Price joined in on the fun and jokes.  I want to say thank you to coach Weber, coach Price, Global Sports Academy, and everyone else involved in  making this trip possible.  It was an experience I will never forget.

The team in front of Buckingham Palace
Brandon and I in front of the buildings of Parliament

The Wayne Rooney display in Nike Town

The London Eye

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Where Did My Thursday Go?

Being stuck on an airplane for 8 hours is no fun. Good thing I’m somewhat of an experienced flier and know how to beg for an exit row. And I got lucky enough to sit next to a 10 year-old kid from Belgium who didn’t mind me stretching my legs every so often. If he did mind my legs in his personal space, I wouldn’t have known it because we both couldn’t communicate to each other. There’s something about younger kids speaking a language I don’t understand. I don’t like it.

The excitement on this trip started before we even left the city of Chicago. Surrounded by a circle of 6’5, 300lbs bodyguards, was Aubrey Graham also known as the rapper Drake. As excited as I was, I wasn’t nearly as thrilled as Brandon Paul who hopped up from seat to plead for a picture. Brandon got his picture.

All I did is give Drake that awkward stare that says, “I know who you are but I’m not going to tell you, I’m just going to tell the people next to me.” It’s just like the stares my teammates and I get when were out to eat at a restaurant around Champaign, except on a different level.

So our flight took 8 hours and left Chicago at 6pm and arrived in Brussels at 9am the next morning. If you’re counting at home, obviously I’m missing a few hours somewhere. My Thursday night was accelerated at an alarming rate. It was only dark for three hours! (I know this because I witnessed it. It’s physically impossible for me to fall asleep anywhere but a bed.)

I see it as time travel, but I guess the most logical reason is because we traveled against the rotation of the Earth with a turbo boost of tail wind and a helping hand of changing time zones. But even with all that said I’m still seven hours in the future and you’re not, ha!

After surviving practice on the day of arrival, our first full day here we toured the city of Bruges, Belgium. Bruges is most famous for being the lace capitol of the world. Lace panties, lace bras, lace placements, yes that kind of lace. During the tour, we ate lunch in the town square, and I couldn’t help but notice the ridiculous prices for food and drinks. Considering the outrageous conversion rate from the U.S. dollar to the Euro, which is $1.30 to every Euro right now; it was 12e for a bowl of spaghetti, 4e for bread sticks, and 6e for a liter of water! The whole time I’m thinking I could go to Olive Garden in America and have this exact meal, with unlimited salad, bread sticks and WATER, for half the price in American dollars.

The first game was also that day and as you can imagine it was full of tired eyes and jet-lagged legs. Even though we were a step slower than normal, we still pulled out the sloppy win by 10 points or so. No one’s arguing, a win is a win.

The next game we played was after another nights rest, and we definitely played like it too. Everybody was up bouncing around, getting hyped and couldn’t wait to get started. We won this game too, and I even managed to put together a solid game. I blame it on the pregame meal though, which consisted of an authentic Belgium waffle, smothered in strawberries, chocolate syrup, and vanilla ice cream. It was delicious.

I think that pretty much covers everything for now, as we don’t play another game for a couple days. Tomorrow we travel to London, England to sightsee and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve always wanted to go to England and now I got the chance. I may never get another opportunity like this so I'm going to take full advantage. I’ll make sure to post some pictures when I get back. For right now, here are some of the pictures I’ve already taken. Enjoy!

Don't forget to follow me on twitter: @tylergriffey
Even though @coachjayprice seems to be beating me to the updates.

The team in front of the Atomium in Brussels

The view when we climbed to the top.

Canals in Bruges, Belgium

Action shot!!