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Monday, 30 March 2009

Week In Review: Fc Porto Hoops

This is the first in my video chronicles. All game recaps will be in video form for now on. I hope everyone enjoys and thanks to everyone following!


Cribs: Porto, Portugal

Hey everyone,
I thought that it was about time to change things up and add a few new ideas to let all the readers get a different perspective. Rather than just writing and posting photos I am going to start with videos. This first one is our apartment on the eight floor of our building. Our team provides it for us. Take a look! Some of you may have already seen this if you are friends with me on facebook. (The sound cuts out at times, SORRY!!) Enjoy


Sunday, 22 March 2009

The Rocks and Sand

are two things that are a common fixture on the gorgeous beaches off the coast's of Portugal. They give definition to the churning waters that thunder against the coast. It is an incredible sight to see. When the water turns furious during the night, as if a struggle for power between land and sea had erupted, the coast becomes engulfed and upper regions of the beach are no longer dry-zones. The rock formations are at times minute and barely noticeable. As fast as a world class sprinter can run a 100 meters, a look further up the coast can give way to enormous structures. Surely unconquerable water for a vessel. This was in part the reason the Portuguese coast was impenetrable for many, many years. With the Portuguese being world class sailors that they were; in their time. When Christopher Columbus was in search of backing his quest to find the Americas he turned to the Portuguese who vetoed his plan. Leading Columbus to trek north to neighboring Spain for a second opinion. 

The coast was dominated by the Forts that are strategically placed to ensure the Portuguese waters, people and prized possessions within her land were safely Protected from would be wrong doers. The rock formations around the Forts have sunken many ships due to the lack of visibility. They lie at points so high, and other times resting just beneath the tide. Portuguese will tell you that the amount of victims their water and Forts have taken are uncountable. Visiting one of these Forts over the past weekend was a blast from the past of sorts. The preservation of the artifacts were incredible. You could feel a sense of how it used. Places where canons would lie, and where few still rested, placed at strategic points to allow offense from all angles, outposts for lookouts, that could not have been the most entertaining job to have. 

This was a time spent without ipod's or portable dvd players or cell phones! Just think of the times you sit and are bored somewhere with a few minutes on your hand and were able to occupy yourself with electronics. We live off them! Now imagine sitting in a cold brick lookout post for hours at time fighting to protect your country while canons chimed off all around you. Barely eighteen years old, surrounded by eruptions and turmoil.  Looking to your left seeing a fallen comrade. To your right, a shattered fortress wall. Staring out only to see the enemy closing in on your position ready to key in and finish off the job. My imagination can tend to run wild more than I could possibly explain, and I wondered to myself. In those waning seconds as the enemy closed in making the end no longer a possibility or a sentence punctuated with a question mark, and now a sure thing. What would be flowing through the one's mind?

Fear? Maybe a feeling of content? Solace? Regret over past relationships or words unspoken to loved ones? What would be left of you when you no longer took a gasp of air? When you did not walk through the doors of your home to greet your family after a long days work? How would the day go when you were not there for Thanksgiving or Christmas? Would the laughs still be as loud? Would the nieces and nephews that you watched grow from a seed that could not hold a bottle, to a vigorous train wreck waiting to happen at every corner remember you? When my time comes what will be left of me? After I stop dribbling a basketball to the delight of fans and team owners how loud will the crowd cheer when I am six feet under and my remains wither?

What happens when the end hurricanes through our lives leaving a wake of sadness and tears. Sooner or later we all become nothing but "Shadows and Dust" (Proximo- GLADIATOR the motion picture). As I sat on the beach thinking back on my life realizing how lucky I am to live my life in other countries pursuing my dream playing basketball. I came over the answer to all these questions. That being the two things that regardless of time, days, weeks, months, years, and so on, remains constant on the glistening coasts of western Europe......THE ROCKS AND  SAND.

The tide was just strong enough on this day of self-reflection for surfers off in the distance to combat the rocks of the coast, and the churning waters to catch waves.  As I held a hardback journal in one hand & pen in the other critiquing my performance in our match the day prior, I stared out on the beach. The two images I could not get away from remained intriguing me. A particular set of rocks sat lay just where the reach of the tide would totally cover them. Kept my fascination. I was with a group of friends that must have thought I was antisocial. My eyes steady. My left and right brain sparked with astonishment at one simple fact, these rocks. Picture a shark's teeth and imagine it turned into a rock  about the size of a basketball. Jutting from the sands. Spaced out perfectly as only mother nature could so that the tide would rush around the rocks covering them entirely. Each tide would retreat and leave a new formation. A new mark in the sand. What caught my eye most was  that though we go to beaches and we leave footprints. We watch the tide rush and retreat we laugh as kids, we run from the cold water. Each new tide erasing all signs that anyone was ever there.

Millions of people came to this beach, the footprints had to be unthinkable. But you would never know that anyone had ever been except for those I witnessed that day. Yet the rocks stood as a steady reminder of the past and history of this foreign land I now call HOME AWAY FROM HOME.  One day I will be called, my number will be up and I will go onto a better place. When I do what will be left of me? Of you? Will I be the sand, washed  away to sea and trampled by tourists?Lost due to red tide like the beaches in my native Florida. Will I be lost? In the years that I live I hope that my life will leave a mark so that when my end comes and I become shadows and dust my friends and family will celebrate my life. Not shed a tear. Crack open a bottle of E & J Brandy and tell all the embarrassing and crazy stories that defined my life and made me who I am. 

I want to be remembered the way I think of the soldier in the Forts of Portugal, I want not to be the sand...but a steady reminder of power and strength...when that day comes I will be  THE ROCK.

HOOPS WEEK IN REVEIW: With 3 games left in our season spread out over the next month we are now on a 4 game win streak. We won by around 30 points over a team that before my arrival my team had lost to. Things are looking up and we traveled last night for an away game. We won a hard fought game.  Wish us luck! Fighting for sixth spot in the playoffs of the top eight teams. 

*Due to my post being a bit late this week the next post will follow in just a few days time!! 


Wednesday, 11 March 2009

So Close, Yet SOOO Far

Is an understatement to say the least. But the phrase is a great way to trick your mind into thinking your not halfway across the Atlantic Ocean. That is until you reach the comma in that phrase and realize the only reason you feel you just MIGHT be close to home, and those that make each day - breathe -tear, and laugh worth savoring is do to the incredible advances in technology. Facebook; Myspace, AOL/YAHOO/MSN Instant Messenger, SKYPE,  and now the creation of ESPN Sportscenter videos on the web at , that can almost provide us with the illusion of being in a regular home just enjoying the day. But trust me the difference is eminent as soon as you turn on the television to hear a language other than that native to you. Or you look outside the window to a sea of COMPACT DIESEL FUEL swallowing vehicles parked on congested cobble stone

Looking to the left - bite sized parallel parking spots that look as if a 10 - speed bike would not fit into if you removed the front tire. Scanning left, picture buildings that are so old you feel a sense of power emitting from them from miles away. Moss and vegetation consuming three quarters of a tower that could tell a thousand stories before it tells you the deepest stories of its region.  A simple act like walking down the street swirls into an eye popping  mind frenzy as you register each difference around you. Street signs,  nasal cavity-ISH  streets, the clothes people wear (This is a whole other topic, more on that later), traffic patterns, smells, colors, mannerisms. Suddenly you transform like Optimus Prime into semi-truck , from yourself into Dorothy trapped in OZ as you realize, " We ain't in Kansas anymore." With so many differences how do we keep sane? How do we keep touch with those important to us?

Well this topic is o
ne that ANYONE that has EVER been away from their home city let alone the hemisphere they are native to can agree with. Since we went over a few types earlier let me first break down who it is we keep touch with. So here they are by category.

These are the people that you speak to frequently/semi-frequently.  I have some friends that I speak to on Myspace, others that I only communicate with on Facebook. Rarely do I ever blur the two with one friend, the reason is really unknown but ask anyone that is in my situation or even those that are not and they will likely tell you the same thing. Most times it is just a " Hey!" or " How are you?" Other times you actually have a change of information worth putting your typing skills to good use over. It is always nice to get a message from someone you have not spoken to or heard from in a long time. To be so far from home and to see a message just saying " Miss you man, can't wait till we can catch up." Can have an uplifting effect. 

There are a few different types but I use mainly AOL (AIM), and SKYPE for my instant messaging. When I need to speak to my friends from overseas that are foreign I use MSN messenger due to the fact that the rest of the world seems to all use that form of instant messaging. Now the friends that you 
keep on these forms of mind tricking communication platforms are differently placed also. First of all when I use AIM I speak mainly to people that I went to college with. That was the time that I started the account in the first place so that makes sense. Also I use AIM to actually TEXT MESSAGE my friends/family's phones. It is free of charge and is no extra fee to the person on the receiving end. Great way to get a message to friends that can not talk on a pone call at the moment or are just on the run. Of course we have the actual friends and the people that JUST HAPPEN to be online when you are.

Let me tell you that when I say I lived off this form of communication my first two and a half months here in Portugal, I AM NOT EXAGGERATING. My computer crashed so I was left with nothing. Thanks to the use of wifi on one of my two best friends (1. iphone 2. Macbook) I was able to live on email and actually email my friends phones as text messages. If you do not know how to use this method contact your provider. Most phones come with an email hookup using your number followed by your at no extra fee as long as you have internet - i.e 

Before the news about how incredible SKYPE actually is I was at a loss at how to speak to family and friends at a price that was reasonable. I had only spoken to my mother two  times in almost three months....Not to mention I had not spoken to anyone else voice to voice due to the price of a call. I have a cell phone but making calls would run my prepaid european cell phone minutes at a rate that you would not believe. On the flip side of that making a call from a different country code is not exactly friendly for a cell phone bill that you want anyone to have to deal with just to hear from  you. With SKYPE I found a way to make life 90% better. Within minutes of downloading the program I set up a number with a Florida area code and voicemail that allows friends to call me anytime and if I am unavailable they can leave a message. 

Then I chose a plan that fit my needs. I only want to call the states so I enrolled in a plan with UNLIMITED CALLING  to North American cell phones and landlines for about  $3.oo a month. On top of that the more months you enroll in this plan the cheaper it is per month. Also with Skype I can do instant messaging and now have a group of friends I communicate through this mode new age communication evolution. But it does not end there because with SKYPE I can do telephone conferences with as many people as I choose that have SKYPE also. The other day after not speaking to anyone from home on the phone in forever, I had my two brothers in a conference at the same time. My mother spoke with; my two younger brothers, and both their girlfriends that all have SKYPE! On top of this I can do crystal clear video conversations! Technology is mind blowing to say the least. The best part about the smooth process to this was that if you have your contacts synched through your cell phone with the address book on your computer, SKYPE will automatically ask you if you want to load these contacts up onto  SKYPE. Now giving me every contact at the touch of a button. 

Now as all my friends will tell you I can talk forever. This does translate to my writing as it seems, so we will wind this down with the most intriguing part of life away from home. Friends and the magic ball that your absence provides you when looking at them. Quickly you find out what kind of friends you have. Some actually keep up with you. They know where you are. They want to know when you come back, and keep up with games to a degree. Friends can change though and over time we all do so it is not unexpected. What can be hard is going from speaking and socializing with friends every day, every other night. To not having touch with them for months or even until you return home upwards of six months later if not more. The average basketball season is 6-8 months and 10 months in other cases. Imagine not having more than a few exchanged words with someone you saw as a close friend and would have done anything for. Probably went through some tough times with even. It puts everything in perspective to say the least.

At first you feel a bit angered when you think about it. It is human. You bled with some of these people. Cried with even. Laughed and dined with on more occasions than you can recollect. You look back on pictures of back
 home (another Vulcan mind trick ala  STAR TREK) when times got tough or you were really 
down. My first term playing was really tough in Denmark. I lived on myspace and FACEBOOK constantly reaching out to people. Trying anything to keep a piece of home. You just come to realize that it is a part of growing up and you can not expect everyone to put you in the center of their universe when you are off making your dreams come true. 

Relationships are a WHOLE other topic. Imagine having a significant other, or what you thought was that to you or worthy of future inauguration into a higher role even.That person being out of sight but NOT out of mind for months at a time. Stressful to say the least. How can you make it work? How can you keep touch with the people that matter most and care most about your well being. Aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, godsons/daughters, grandparents, moms/dads, business associates and more? It takes effort that is for sure. Without the correct balance some will feel left out, others will feel let down. Some will forget about you and you will do the same. Relationships will be bent to the point of fracture, and possibly sustain a crucial relationship-ending break. Hopefully a clean one, that allows the wounds to heal in full. Though sometimes you do not want them to. Just to have the memory of that time when things were easy. When you were not halfway across the world while you leave those behind that matter most. Forcing them to find means of replacing the void you left them with. 

Life away from home can be tough, FOREIGN to say the least. You can only hope that the people that you mean the most to, remember they mean the most to you.

Hoops Week in Review: We are on a current two game wining streak sitting in 6th place in our league standings. Top 8 teams make the playoffs, and we are just fighting to stay alive.  I played well last week and started for the second week in a row after many line-up changes by our coach. Coach actually had me start against a 7 footer who I went right at to show my team we would not back down to anyone. We have played inspired basketball these last two weeks so we will see what our future holds. 


GAMES REMAINING - 5 (league info and standings) (Team website)


Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Epsiode 1- "Is This Thing On?"

After an array of url options and plenty of indecisiveness, I finalAdd Imagely am writing my first blog! I have to say It is a breathe of fresh air to get a platform that allows me to both inform the important 
people in my life back home, and express a side of me that has been in a dormant state over the last few years. Everyone has heard of blogs, what they are about. I probably know more people than I think that actually run a blog. Overseas I read them on sports websites all the time to get a feel for the thoughts of my favorite analysts and writers. Whenever I want to know about a new artist or a particular album recently released back home I tu
rn to blogs for the simple reason that they give information from a perspective that is always honest.

 Also because the comments posted can definitely be entertaining, and that is a huge bonus when you are overseas playing ball as I am right now. Let me get a bit more into that. First of all this is my life, and it has been since I can remember. Some people think that sports are a waste of time except for the act of keeping kids active and from getting a bit overweight. We all know that exercise and activity is the supposed key to a healthy life and I am not here to disagree. But, sports has always been more than that to me. From jump-street I saw a challenge; kids bigger than myself that provided a barrier to crumble; moves that had been mastered and I could not come close to performing. I saw opportunity. 

My first memories of basketball are slightly scattered. The first being When I could not have been more than  3 years old. At the time we were stationed in Stuttgart, Germany. A perk, and for some a negative of being 
an ARMY BRAT as I am, are the places throughout the world you can end up. The gym was dimly lit in the corners as I remember but the light shined brightly through glass pained windows directly onto the court. As my father and his friends let loose the frustrations of a surely long week, I remember looking out and being in complete awe at everything around me. Sounds of the shoes squeaking frantically against the dingy floor. 

The smell of old bleachers and the mass stored underneath them. Yelling and communicative phrases foreign to me at the time but that would later become apart of my basketball DNA. Everything around me was so new...but I do believe even then
 I had a sense that there was much more to this world than my frantic brown eyes could survey. I have seen pictures actually from this particular day. Each time I come upon them it feels like a bit more comes back to me not as images but almost as a feeling of  purpose, and the origin was that moment.  Almost eerie to think about.

 As for my first actual encounter in which I was old enough to experiment under my own supervision, and minus potty training for that much, was in Tampa, Florida. Visiting my grandparents en route to our next duty station which was to be a different city in Germany where we would spend three years before making the short transit to yet another base in Germany for the next four years. Yes, moving has been apart of my life.... More on that later. The day was flaming hot as most are in Tampa during the summers. I remember standing in the driveway of my Grandparents house and being able to look the entire way down the street to where the park was located containing playgrounds, sports fields and a court.
Glaring down the street that had to be all of about three-hundred yards I began to wonder to myself. On television I saw guys go between their legs with a basketball. It was a long way for my 7 year old legs to walk with my mini-Marcus strides. I have not always been 6'8" as some people are shocked to hear! But I made a challenge to myself and decided to try, the entire way...between the legs with the ball. Needless to say it took me forever, the ball must have rolled and bounced off my feet and legs a hundred times. But finally, I made it to the gates of the park. Looking up at burning son I felt a brisk breeze of accomplishment flow over me. It was the first of many challenges that I would test myself with. Even today that habit has yet to subside. 

The memories are endless and throughout my chronicals I will surely let loose a more than a few of them. Would you expect anything less? From a man that has been playing since age 7; has always been the tallest in his class, (except for that freakishly huge JACKIE in my 5th grade class) who's father is 6'6" & mother is 5'10", was happily grounded at least once a month for going straight to the courts and not coming home for hours after school Only to repeat the same offense within days of release. You're talking about a guy that at age 9 was riding bikes to other towns in Germany just to pay against kids from other countries because he heard that were good.  Again leading to  "house arrest" and an abundance of chores imposed by his parents. 

From being coached by my father as a kid, and growing up watching every sports highlight alongside him. To high school championships in the frozen tundra of the LAST FRONTIER Anchorage, Alaska. Moving onto Division I & II Basketball that would eventually land me in places like; Denmark, New Zealand, South America, and now Portugal to play a game that started so long ago for me. This is who I am....this is what I do....i'm a Ball Player.

Welcome to my life.