justin adler, blog, buenos aires, bahia blanca, university of arizona, brooklyn, basketball, travel, paul mcpherson

Friday, July 27, 2012

USA! USA! USA! Game 2

This post will be a lot shorter and arguably sweeter than my Game 1 post.

 The US squad started out down 15. Then we came back and by the end of the first we only trailed by 2. Despite what this box score says, I'm pretty sure the US was up 20 the rest of the game. 

Impassioned by the exhibition game win, yet still completely ignorant of world politics and economics, I told Sarah the game very similar to the US economy. Right now we're down 15, but soon we'll be up 20 for the rest of our lives. 

Sarah asked what that means for Spain. I still don't have an answer for that.

 James Harden hit back-to-back threes at the end of the game, helping the US get to 100 points. If anybody knows how I can collect my free Jack in the Box tacos while in Spain, please let me know.

 I've ate paella, seen a bullfight, been unemployed (zing!), and done a lot of other traditional Spanish things. But until Tuesday night's halftime performance I'd never seen a Castell, which was high (no pun intended) on my things-to-see-in-Spain bucket list. Their performance was amazing. There's really nothing like seeing little kids climb six humans high and risk their lives to entertain some basketball fans. 

 A fan in attendance wore a Rafer Alston Toronto Raptors jersey, which was rather funny. 

 Another fan in attendance wore a Gilbert Arenas Orlando Magic jersey, which was something like George-Carlin-multiplied-by-Mitch-Hedburg-multiplied-by-Jerry-Seinfeld-multiplied-by-Louis-C.K. funny.

Monday, July 23, 2012

USA! USA! USA! Game 1

Here's my notes from last night's USA - Argentina exhibition game.

-- I thought a game featuring the Dream Team (or whatever they are calling this post-redemption redeem team) would sell out, but maybe I over estimated the popularity of the US of A, as the stadium was only 70% full. This might also have something to do with the fact that it was a game between Argentina and the USA being played in Spain.

-- Having not heard Frankie Scott Key's anthem in the past seven months, it felt even sweeter to hear the Star Spangled Banner. Typing that sentence also motivated me to use the word "spangled" more.

-- Player introductions were funny because of the terrible pronunciation of American names. Every NBA arena should have a wildly foreign PA guy and that guy should never been given pronunciation tips. Ever.

-- Kevin Durant started the game off with back-to-back threes and the USA was up 19-1 before Argentina realized what hit them. I was excited to see a good ol' fashioned original Dream Team style routing.

-- The crowd was littered with NBA jerseys, lots of great foreign knock-offs as well. As far as jersey-watching goes, there was nothing impressive, maybe the most out of place was a Udonis Haslem jersey. Maybe I just hate Udonis Haslem.

-- Speaking of hate, I really fucking hate Deron Williams and I'm not sure why.

-- I'm still really sad that D. Rose got injured and wasn't able to play. I think he's the only guy on the team besides goofy-ass Anthony Davis who I hadn't seen play IRL.

-- Back to the jerseys, Argentina’s featured a visa logo on the front and a big DirecTV ad on the back in place of player names. This got me wondering who pays for Olympic everything? Is it all sponsors? Does the US government pay for the table-tennis guys to fly to London? I really have no clue how Olympic economics work.

-- I’m kinda sad/kinda excited about the ads on NBA jerseys in 2013, mainly because I want to see who’s gonna sponsor shitty teams like the Bucks.

-- End of jersey talk: USA wore the ’92 Dream Team throwback jerseys. That was cool.

-- The Argentine team was pretty solid as they were comprised of a lot of past/current (I don’t follow the NBA that closely enough these days to know) players like Nocioni (76ers I think?), Manu (Spurs), Scola (Rockets still?), Delfino (bucks??).

-- As the first quarter drew to a close, the stadium staff brought down all the fans from the shittiest seats in the house (my seats, naturally) to move down to the empty section in the mezzanine section. Of all the sports games I’ve ever been to in my life, this is the first time that’s ever happened. 

I later re-upgraded my seats to side-view instead of behind the basket, but that staff’s kind gesture was still greatly appreciated.

-- It’s really just fucking amazing to see a line-up that has Kobe, Bron, and Durant. Needless to say those are three freaks of nature. Sure Chris Paul is good. Sure Tyson Chandler is good. But Kobe, Bron, and Durant are just insane and the fact they all play on the same team for this competition blows my mind.

It also blows my mind how those three once-in-a-generation guys (can I say that about three people?) don’t destroy every other team that is made of, at best, guys like Manu Ginobili.

-- The half time show consisted of this douchey weird speed painter who spazzed out between each stroke. At first I thought he was painting a portrait of Bron. Then it looked like nobody in particular, then it looked kinda like Clyde Drexler. I figured I was the only one in the stadium wondering why this guy was painting a Clyde.

Then Clyde Drexler walked out and I was put in my place. Chris Mullen and David Robinson also walked out (with their respective shitty canvases). I gave a salute to The Admiral. Worth the price of admission right there.

-- I’m really curious how this team goes through customs. Do they each hold on to their passport? Does somebody take care of all this for them?

While wasting my life thinking about this, I also realized that I’m still not that old/mature. Because if I was a team manager, and Kobe said, “Hold on to my passport for me,” it wouldn’t be the greatest moment of my life.

-- Argentina made it a ballgame at the end coming within 5 points in the final two minutes. I don’t understand  how that happened because we have Kobe, Bron, and Durant on the court. Maybe it has something to do with “teamwork” or “chemistry” or something. I honestly still don’t get why we don’t blow teams out.

-- Iguodala played for 12 minutes to tally 1 point, 2 assists, 1 block, 2 steals. James Harden = DNP. Bear down Arizona, Bear down red and blue. (Let the record show that I really love James Harden like every human should.)

-- USA won 86-80. KD finished with the smoothest 27 you've ever seen (actually it was just the standard smooth KD per usual) on 7 for 11 from deep. Unofficially I don’t think any of those 7 treys touched the rim. His shot is just beautiful. It makes me want to cry.

-- Post game KD was given a Tiffany & Co. sponsored trophy for game MVP or something.
The announcer described the award in Spanish. I didn’t get it. KD certainly didn’t get it. Either way it was probably the 400th trophy he’s got in his life. This one seemed to be for scoring 27 points in a meaningless exhibition game. He raised the trophy above his head for .00013 seconds, flashed a “I really don’t give a fuck about this” smile for the same .00013 seconds, then walked off.

The man wants a Gold Medal. Actually fuck that, I don’t buy it when pro-athletes say a gold medal means everything to them. He wants an NBA Championship.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Pamplona & Corn Flakes

On Monday morning, I woke up, ate some cornflakes, paid a credit card bill, and checked my bank accounts. “OK… So if I don’t eat for the next two weeks, that should make up for all the money I’ve recently spent,” I said to myself.

I had little on my agenda other than entertaining a friend, JT, who was in town, and neither of us had much interest in Pamplona's Running of the Bulls.

Personally, I'd never read Hemmingway’s The Sun Also Rises (or actually any Hemmingway book). The event as a whole didn’t really interest me and its timing fell outside of my just-completed six-week tour of Spain and Portugal. 

I'm not sure why JT wasn't into it, but that's probably why we've been friends for nearly 20 years. 

After my mundane morning routine, JT’s law school chum, Jake arrived to use our place for a temporary layover between Geneva and Pamplona, where he would actually take advantage of the San Fermin festival.

By afternoon JT was contemplating tagging along to Pamplona, but my early morning budget review was still weighing me down. I couldn’t justify taking a spur of the moment trip after just completing a 43-day adventure, especially when a few hours earlier I considered starving myself to save some dinero.

I told the guys to have fun, then I bounced out the door to head to Carrefour to buy more corn flakes to cheaply sustain myself for the next few weeks. On my walk, indecision became an even more crippling disease than it normally is for me.

I paced in circles for a few minutes, then I met JT and Jake on the street and further  dragged out my indecision as I walked them to the metro that would take them to the train station. Halfway through the walk, I said, "You only live once," remembered how much I hate people who say YOLO, and decided to go with them.

They had no plan on where they were sleeping that night in Pamplona, but I convinced myself that it would be part of the fun and that sleeping outside wouldn’t suck that much.

A four-hour train ride later and we were in Pamplona. The station was full of the worst kind of people, by that I mean drunk guys with fedoras and sleeve tattoos. 

We walked through the freshly imported revelers to the bus stop, where there were scotch-taped flyers advertising rooms for rent.

I called the first number. No answer.

I called the second one. A guy named Maximo answered  and after some quick negotiating we had a room for 20€ a person. Better yet, Maximo was going to come pick us up and take us to the place

While we waited for Maximo to drive up, we gained a fourth member to our team. A guy from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania who was as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania as they come. He sported a weird crew cut, grey wifebeater, camo Lee Dungaree shorts, black high-tops, and the most PA hick voice you’ve ever heard.

Harrisburg (we never got his name) didn’t speak a lick of Spanish, so the kind soul that I am, I took him under my wing and told him he could tag along.

Fifteen minutes after I called, a very gruff, very suspicious looking fellow in a dirty Nike sweatsuit walked up, sans car. He flashed a smile that revealed all of his two teeth and said “Soy Maximo.”


I made sure Maximo had a room for Mr. Central PA and we were off.

As we walked through the outskirts of Pamplona, I make small talk with Maximo. I learned that he was from Russia and is control of filling various resident’s apartments with tourists.

The small talk took my level of suspicion from 80% to about 10% that Maximo was walking us into a back alley to rob us.

We got to the apartment without having a gun and/or knife shoved in our faces and were shown our room. There was a single bed and a double-bed with a headboard that read “Mami” and “Papi.”

I told JT and Jake that I’m engaged and can’t sleep with anyone else so they’d have to take the double bed for a night of mami-y-papi role playing.

I then helped Harrisburg straighten out his accommodations with the Spanish-speaking-only Maximo.

At one point Harrisburg asks where Maximo was from. I told him St. Petersburg.

Harrisburg said, “FLORIDA?!” in the most beautifully ignorant PA twang you’ve ever heard.

“No. Russia,” I replied.

We asked Maximo a few more questions about la corrida. At this point I realized that the entire running lasts just over two minutes, as I had thought it was a full-day festivity.

"God dammit," I said as I began to feel that I was not that much smarter than Harrisburg.

Then we tried to crash before we’d all have to get up early for the running which starts at 8 am.

Jake was the only one of us who planned on running, so he had to get up at 4:30 to get a spot in the run. JT and I would watch, which meant we had to get up at 6:30 to secure a spot for the spectacle.

Part of me wanted to run, but the other 99% of me realized the possibly getting killed, gored, or put in a hospital where I might be deported (this was before I learned about Spain's anti-extradition laws), all outweighed whatever street cred I stood to gain. And Sarah made me promise I wouldn’t run.

Right before I passed out, Sarah called to tell me she learned that Ben from Thrillist would be running and I should look for him.

There were two Bens at Thrillist when I worked there (actually there were three, but the third was a feminine homosexual who never seemed like Running of the Bulls type).

I assumed the Ben who was there was Ben Lerer, Thrillist’s co-founder, who with his shit ton of money could easily afford to fly to Spain just for the Running of the Bulls. Plus the whole machismo-running thing seemed like something Lerer would do. 

I got mildly depressed over the obvious microcosm. The fact that I’m watching, while Lerer runs is why he’s a millionaire with his own company and angel fund investment firm, while I’m a broke-ass copywriter who has to sustain himself on cornflakes. (The fact that Lerer was born into Manhattan royalty, while I was born into a family that ran a suburban Chicago hot dog restaurant doesn’t play into this equation.)

Later I learned that the Ben that ran was Ben Robinson, who writes 2,000 word recaps of every episode of The Bachelor*. I could live with him running while I watched.

As the sun began to rise like Hemmingway said it would, JT and I headed to Pamplona’s old city.

I’d never seen a grosser first-world neighborhood in my life. Every square centimeter was covered in alcohol, broken glass, and trash. The smell of booze was 100 times more pungent than anything I ever witnessed in college.

At 7 am bars were still selling booze to patrons who appeared to be going on hour 96 of thrashing their livers.

Sixty minutes before the run began, it was nearly impossible to find a spot with a view. Twenty minutes into our search, the best we could find was a position, kneeling in the aforementioned grossness, peeking through dangling legs and two barricades that lined the route.

This would have been OK if I were 10 years old sneaking into Yankee Stadium to catch a glimpse of Babe Ruth, but there was no childhood Americana charm and a bunch of drunk tourists ain't no Babe Ruth.

Within two seconds, we went off to find a better spot. We discovered the Town Hall building's elevated statues, which we could climb and see the start of the race.

We spent the next 30 minutes standing between a statue of a soldier and two columns. This eclipsed my previous record of standing between a statue and granite columns by 30 minutes. 

As I stared into the densely packed crowd of white and red, my half-awake mind sputtered introspectively and realized this event was no different than a NASCAR race to the novice viewer. I came there to see a crash dammit, I just hoped that crash (in this case a goring) wouldn’t involve Jake or whichever Ben was there.

Finally, the fireworks blasted and the run was on.

No more than 20 seconds later, the runners and bulls had passed and my viewing experience was over. The Run made the Kentucky Derby seem like an 18-inning ballgame.

Even with a great angle, I didn’t see anything. I maybe saw someone twist an ankle. Maybe.

Underwhelming would be an understatement.

We walked back through the stream of street alcohol to the bullring, where the run concludes.

We squeezed our way through the masses and watched all the runners “play” with the bulls in the ring. I’m still not sure what the goals were, but jumping over the bulls was applauded and any attempt to subdue the bull was greeted with boos and a human-powered ass-kicking.

I learned the rules while watching. Others learned first hand, such as the kid who hopped on the back of the bull and rode it as it bucked three times. Shortly there after he was pulled off to be kicked in the head and chest a handful of times until security could pull him out of the ring.

Another guy tried to control the bull by grabbing its horns. He too had the shit beat out of him by a roaming mob as the spectators chanted “coño” and threw whatever they could at him.

By 8:30 in the morning all the running-related festivities were done and we had the rest of the day to explore a town that had little to offer other than their festival.

Seeing San Fermin in person was slightly better than going to market, but not by much. I think next time there's a tourist-trap festival in Spain, I'll save myself the trouble, pour a bowl of cornflakes, and just read the classic novel about it**. 

*I should note that Ben Robinson is an amazing dude and I respect his collection of model Deloreans and Wu-Tang records just as much, if not more than I respect Lerer’s attempt to own a stake in every Manhattan-based start-up.

**On that note, if anyone can recommend me a book about La Tomatina, that would be great. 

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Tinta En Papel

The last time I had an article printed in an actual newspaper was five years ago when I wrote for the Daily Wildcat. A lot of things have changed since then, but the ridiculously silly feeling I get from having an article published has not. 

Today I walked in the Montana Colors, where aside from being able to buy street-art and spray paint you can pick up a free copy of the tri-lingual alt-monthly BCN mes. As I walked out the door with my paper in hand, I shot the employees behind the counter a look that said, "You guys just don't get it. Man. I had an article published in this paper (note: heavy sarcasm)."

Sure my article was mediocre at best, with an attempt at journalism so half-assed that I barely got the names of anyone I interviewed and it ran on page 21 of a 24 page newspaper and this sentence is really, really long.

But at least I didn't Scott Templeton any parts of it. I actually talked to people and wrote an article from it.

For those of you who live outside Barcelona and/or don't frequent graffiti shops that sell cans of yellow spray paint for an art project that you still haven't started three months after that impulse buy; you can read my article online here. It's my "investigation" into Barcelona's tacky t-shirt phenomena. 

One day I soon I'll run a much-better written essay that'll link to my much-better written first article (or you can find that article by looking at my two-story archive on their site).

Damn it feels good to be a (half-assed) journalist.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Hydro Choco Blitz

A few weeks ago I started receiving unsolicited emails from the coach of the Lutz Chiefs Midgets, a politically-incorrect-named youth football team based outside of Tampa Bay.

At first I thought that Pop Warner coaches were the new Nigerian princes of the email scamming world, but then I learned that my email address just got mixed in with a bunch of Chiefs Midget parents.

I deleted the first five or so emails, but for some reason I decided to open and read one recently. It read:

Reminder that we have practice this Saturday at 9:30-11:30am.  It will be hot.  So please make sure that your son hydrates on Thursday and Friday.

If you have any questions, you can reach me at the number below. Thanks,

Zack Kilburn
Midgets Head Coach
To which I replied:

Coach Kilburn, 
I have my son on a strict diet at the moment where he is not to consume any water (he's only allowed to hydrate with chocolate milk). He's almost at his breaking point, but we're already seeing incredible results, so I ask that you please don't let him drink any water while at practice. I'll make sure he brings his special thermos on Saturday. 
Thanks for your understanding,

In my mind this was pure genius and I spent the next 10 minutes re-reading my response and patting myself on my back.

Six hours passed and Coach K never wrote me back. I really wanted this conversation to continue and I also wanted confirmation that my pretend son would be denied water.

So, naturally, I reply-all'd the entire list-serv the exact same message (except this time I added a "Go Chiefs!!" to give me a little more credibility).

I did not get one response.

Why won't these other parents play my stupid game and write me back? Did all 25 realize I wasn't a legit Chief Midget parent? Are they too busy raising their non-pretend kids? Are they too mature for me?

I'll never know, but now I hate them all.