#FlightNation!!!!! I’m behind trying to keep this current, but this international basketball touring??? When I say it’s a grind, it’s an understatement.
The last blog was mostly about game 1 vs. Argentina, so I’ll use this blog to share some fun stories. So about the tour. People are wondering how it is. Honestly, it really feels like stick star tour. We flew in to China, landed and got on a quick bus to our first hotel in Shanghai. The next morning we took another 2 1/2 hour bus ride to a train station, only to hop on another bus for a 2 hour ride to Bozhou. Fortunately, we got to hang there for a few days and played our first two games.
Bozhou was apparently a small city, but to us? It wasn’t small at all. Our first two meals were KFC, and while that might seem strange, the reason is that when Americans cone to China, the food and nutritional differences has a tendency to bother most people’s stomach a bit. I think it was a way to make us feel some comfort during the discomfort of traveling to such a different land.
Whatever the reason, I personally liked the KFC. Being that I’ve visited other countries already, I already had an understanding of how an American restaurant chain in other countries is usually much different abroad. In Sri Lanka, KFC is amazing…so much that I really don’t like KFC as much back home. I don’t know if it has to do with the freshness of the chicken, GMO’s or whatever. All I know is when I went to Sri Lanka, I ate KFC like 5-6 times in 3 weeks. It tasted amazing.
The menu is usually different, too. For example, a major downside to the KFC in China is there’s no biscuits or cole slaw (and I LOVE KFC cole slaw). I also have no idea what to call the sauce we used. There wasn’t bbq, honey mustard or anything. A cross between bbq and sweet and sour maybe. It was tasty though. Ordering the food was also crazy. We get all of our meals paid for, but we were struggling trying to figure out what to order. We settled on 5 family buckets, but that wasn’t enough. I decided to order more. I thought it was another 10 piece, but it turned out to be only 5. Oh well…LOL. We figured it out.
I was excited to discover I was able to use one of my credit cards there, only to be severely let down when I tried to use a credit card everywhere else. In fact, the airport was the only place I’ve been able to do so. We also decided to get our money exchanged away from the airport (exchange rate is less valuable there), but finding an ATM has also been tough. Needless to say, I’ve thus far been struggling a bit to purchase anything extra. I got to an ATM yesterday though, so I’m in the Yuan game now. HAH! Word of advice – exchange your money BEFORE visiting China, and don’t count on using any credit cards.
In terms of traveling, we obviously look like a basketball team. I chose not to say anything initially, just to keep things as much under wraps from our competition on the tour, but we’ve added a few additional players around 6 current Florida Flight players. 2 of those players are huge, and one is like…REALLY huge. He’s actually 7’6”…Mamadou N’Dyai (I’m going to save the other player announcement for the next blog). Traveling around with Mamadou is everything: exciting, hilarious, engaging, and…just special. I mean…when we walk around, we get major rock star treatment, because he sticks out everywhere. People stop and stare in amazement, with most of them instantly grabbing for their camera.
That experience has shown me an entirely different side to real baller celebrity life. He’s been pretty cool about pictures, but prefers for people to ask first. He doesn’t like people who try sneak capturing pictures and videos on the side without asking. So we sometimes pull out all of our cameras to film those people when they try (just to show him we’re with him and care about that stuff, too). What’s crazy and interesting is when we start filming them, they get shy and annoyed and stop filming. It’s one way of teaching people the opposite perspective. That’s not to say he doesn’t allow it to go on. He just prefers people to ask first.
We’ve already taken hundreds of pictures with fans along the way, and we are only 5 days into the tour. It’s just been crazy. Before and after games has been even crazier. It actually feels scary…like a mobbing. The fans love the players of course, but I’ve gotten waaaaay more love then I thought I would being the head coach. After the Serbia game, I got stuck in a huge crowd and could barely move. We were all screaming out to each other asking if we were ok. We were trying to get to the podium for a team picture, but a few of us couldn’t move our way through the crowd to get there. It was crazy…kind of exciting, but still pushing towards the scary line.
The other part is that we’ve lost our first two games, but at the end, the fans still prefer to mob us afterwards. That has to really suck as an opponent of ours, but there’s nothing we can do about it. The downside for us is the difficulty trying to smile and enjoy those moments after losing. Those that know me know that I absolutely HATE losing, so after both games I was ready to head straight to the locker room, but nope…not an option. Fans in the lower bowl section are allowed to access the floor after games, and they…are…ready to go as soon as the buzzer sounds.
That’s the other pretty awesome part. We are out here playing in front of thousands of people, a huge change from back home. In fact, we’ve already been talking about how it’ll be when we get back. We are going to go from being absolute rock stars, playing in front of thousands of people here in China to playing in front of a couple hundred. Maybe (hopefully) that’ll change soon. I think it’s just as much more exciting and fun for fans as it is for players when there are larger crowds to play in front of. I do feel like this experience and opportunity to play in China is altering the perception of the Florida Flight to onlookers. It’s hard to be perceived by most as a legitimate pro basketball team when you have the Orlando Magic next door, and your players make no where NEAR the amount of money those players do. It’s even worse when you have all of these other leagues in teams declaring themselves pro but not hitting the basic essential marks for a real pro team. I’ll tell you this, though: our guys are ABSOLUTELY worth the price of admission. If most of these guys got the benefits and resources available to top level college and NBA players are, many of them would seriously shine!
We are about 30 minutes away from our next stop, so I’ll end this here. I can’t wIt to share the rest. I’m even more excited to share the video footage. The WiFi situation is making that difficult, but I’ve got it all. You all will definitely enjoy what we’ve got coming home.
Until next time…