Have you ever thought what it was like to be a Rock Star and go on the road for a month traveling in planes, trains, automobiles, plus busses? Over the next week, that is what we experienced. After our heart breaking, floor slipping loss in Qianshan, we left AFTER the game for a 5 hour bus trip to Nanjing. What this allowed was for us to sleep on the bus (which I certainly failed to do) through the early night and then check in to a hotel for 5 hours of sleep. Shame on Qianshan for not building an airport next to their new arena that we had just christened. Nonetheless, we then boarded a plane for Shengyang but just for boredoms sake, a quick bus trip to the city of Fuxin. Fuxin was a small town of 4.5 million. Small… you ask? I learned during this trip that there are 99 cities in China with a population no less than 3 million residents. The United States has only 9.
We celebrated our completed trip at Kentucky Fried Chicken. The players were jubilant at the sight of “good home cooking”. It must have been the right recipe for winning. We played the Romanian’s again and this time spanked them 53-47. That sounds like a halftime score. Truth of the matter is, we are playing by FIBA rules, the international guidelines. FIBA plays four 10 minute quarters; 8 minutes less than the NBA and the same amount as college basketball. Throw in the fact that the Romanian’s held the ball a great deal on offense and that sums up the low score. What was most intriguing about this game was not the sellout crowd of 7,000 but the mere fact that the game was shown live on China TV throughout the entire country. I’m not going to fib to you and say all 2 billion residents of China watched the game on TV because I know of a few farmers that we passed by earlier that day that did not have electricity in their shanties. But more colorful and sweet softening to the ears was the Fuxin Pep Band playing that American classic folksong, “Oh Susannah”. If that wasn’t enough, they then led into one of all our favorites, “Jingle Bells”!. Was this a mockery of the U.S.A’s basketball representative team, the Santa Barbara Breakers? Absolutely not! But, it certainly did throw us off as it was September 20th, not December 20th. The fans mobbed the players after the game and of humorous significance, guard Tim Taylor ran up into the stands and led 90-100 young teenagers in shouting out loud, “USA, USA, USA”. It was a fun way to win our first game in China and feel just a little bit at home in the process.
The following morning, we took a 15 minute ride to the Chinese Basketball Academy. It is the only Academy in China that houses over 500 boys and girls in the age range of 13-17. They live there year round, honing their basketball skills while also taking up the basic classroom studies. This is a government supported program to induce the development and quality of Chinese basketball. We were besieged by all 500 or more as we got off the bus and headed into the large gymnasium. Our players, Mark Dawson, Keith Closs and Allan Purnell put on quite an entertaining dunking show, 1 on 1 contests and signing autographs for the next hour. That was followed by a meeting with the Chinese coaches who gave each of our players and myself several beautiful gifts. One thing I have learned, the Chinese folk are not selfish. They are very generous in giving special gifts that will long be remembered. We later returned to the hotel for lunch, a nap, massages ($14 an hour) and left for the Fuxin Arena for another game against the Romanian’s and great anticipation of what the Fuxin Pep Band might have in store for us this evening. Well, they did not disappoint us. Not only did they do a re-mix of “Oh, Susannah“, they added “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. Did we get the same results that evening on the basketball court? Yes, we did. A 73-68 victory. Are we now going to be playing Christmas songs and “Oh, Susannah” before every Breaker game back in Santa Barbara in the months of April, May and June? Yes, we are!