After the USA men's basketball team blew out Spain recently, the majority of the Spaniards wanted nothing to do with the American media. Considering how Spain got drilled after expecting to be competitive against the U.S. and the racially insensitive ad its players were recently involved in depicting themselves as stereotypically Chinese by making their eyes slanted, it was probably best that they kept their mouths shut.
But Spain guard Juan Carlos Navarro, formerly of the Memphis Grizzlies, did come out to talk to the Spanish media for about five minutes in the mixed zone interview area. After he was done with his home country folks, I asked him a question. He responded by saying, “My English not very good.”
I told him, “Well, it was really good when you were playing for the Grizzlies. I interviewed you once by your locker.”
Navarro was stunned when I called him out and I could see that he understood every word. If they beat the Americans, I’m sure his English would have been better than mine.
I must admit, I was in tears during the down moments of the USA women’s volleyball victory over Italy on Tuesday night. A Chinese dance team comprising of men and women came out and did one dance routine giving tribute to playing the game of volleyball. The other was in funky hip-hop fashion. The men were particularly awful, but seemed to be having a great time smiling and grooving in the process. They reminded me of when Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri played the Spartan cheerleaders in the old Saturday Night Live Skit, but ten times funnier.
It’s always interesting to go to different sporting events across America to test the different cuisine at different stadiums. Just last month I had a great grilled bratwurst at a Chicago Cubs game. So what type of food do they have for the hungry fans in Beijing at the Olympics? Cold hot dog in a bag. A giant helping of Peach yogurt (which is actually tasty). Popcorn in a movie tub that didn’t come out a hot popper. Spicy rice cake snacks. Pringles. Snickers. Ritz crackers. Ramen-like noodles with beef put in hot water. If you’re going to come to an Olympic event, I suggest you get something to eat before you get here.
I was told by several people before I came to Beijing that trading Olympics pins is a big deal here. They actually have people on the sidewalk outside the Main Press Center at the Olympics sitting on the ground that do nothing but trade pins all day with people from all over the world. Unfortunately for us Globe writers, the only thing we were given were ink pens. The pin enthusiasts didn’t seem interested in those.
Riding a cab in Beijing is an adventure. And they don’t call them cabs, rather taxis. These tiny cars look like the ones that fit 20 midget clowns at circus. I don’t know how many times I saw my life flash before my eyes while a bus seemed to be coming in my direction or after two taxis nearly came to blows. Also, humans don’t have the right a way here. Buses and cars do. So if you get hit by a bus or a car, it’s your fault partner. Amazingly, there are few very accidents.
The China Daily newspaper is definitely very PG. There will be nothing bad said about China in the publication’s here, guaranteed. Remember when the U.S. men’s volleyball coach’s wife’s father was stabbed to death at the beginning of the Olympics? The next day it was about a six paragraph story with bare minimum information in the China Daily. Sad. No public apology to the family either.
China's State Television CCTV has its own brand of ESPN SportsCenter-type show that seems more The View than sports news. While one athlete was being interviewed, there was some sad music being played in the background. I asked a Chinese person nearby why the sad music was playing. They answered, “Because he is telling an emotional story.”
Chinese from China that I have asked about Chinese food in American said they have never heard of a fortune cookie, orange chicken, crab rangoon and sweet and sour pork. I feel like I’ve been hoodwinked back in the States for a long time. But I do appreciate not getting chicken with the head still on the plate back home as is the case here and a dish called fish that tastes like pork.
If you do come to Beijing, you must go to the Silk Market for entertainment purposes. For Californians, it’s kind of like going to the swap meet. I’m 6-foot-7 and a big dude, and they swear they got some jeans and T-shirts that fit me. If I have to go to Rochester Big & Tall to get my gear outside the Natick Mall back home rather than get something inside the Natick Mall, I’m sure I can’t get things here where the average dude is about 5-5 and 120 pounds. But they tried to trick me into buying something any way. I must admit, I got hoodwinked on an 80GB IPod that I bought for the same price I could have bought it in Boston. I did get hooked up on an MP4 camera with HD video, music and games that isn’t being sold in the U.S. yet. The lady thought ESPN’s George Smith, Boston Globe assistant sports editor Gregory Lee and myself were famous after they saw the word “NBA” on my business card. I told them George was a big TV star back home, which he is, and that Lee was USA forward Tayshaun Prince. They gave me a discount on the camera phone after we signed a couple T-shirts.
One woman also went ballistic on me when I told her I didn’t want to buy a scarf. She told me she was upset and she would cry if I didn’t buy it. She also got loud and I told her she needed to cool down on the acting. Her act ended up working since I ended up buying. I guess I’m a sucker for potentially crying women all over the world.
At USA men’s basketball practice on Tuesday at Beijing Normal University, several of the players were going crazy over former U.S. gymnastics star Dominique Dawes, a very stunning woman who is working for Yahoo! At the Olympics. One, who I will keep anonymous, said he has had a crush on her since he was a kid and was giddy. Yes, these guys have millions of dollars and are famous, but that doesn’t mean they got game when it comes to the ladies.
One night Globe co-worker Patti Wen, who is Chinese, took Greg and myself to a Chinese restaurant in an alley somewhere in the heart of the town where he could get Peking duck. The food was delicious and service was phenomenal. Afterward, she took us through some back alley way in the dark to go to our first visit to the Silk Market. I felt like I was in the real hood of Beijing and for a while it seemed like two dudes were following us. The last time I had my antenna on that high was when I made the mistake of picking up a girl for a date late at night in South Central Los Angeles about 10 years ago on a street where the street lights weren't working. I didn’t think they had hoods in Beijing. Remember what Ice Cube once said, “Every hood’s the same.” I guess such is the case whether in the U.S. or China.