My high school coach was crazy. It was a good crazy, but it was still out-of-his-mind crazy. At least, that’s what I thought at 16 years old. But if you compare him, and virtually any other coach or team across the U.S., to some of the things that go on in Turkey with their pro teams, you’ll see there is a huge difference.
A few former college players – Rhode Island’s Jimmy Baron, UCLA’s Josh Shipp, Syracuse’s Eric Devendorf – all told ESPN they’ve been a part of some insane (and dangerous) stuff surrounding basketball in Turkey. Sometimes it feels like life or death just trying to get out of an arena. Sometimes they get hit with batteries or burning coins. Oftentimes, money is an issue.
Rick Reilly at ESPN.com writes:
“The coach didn’t speak any English,” says Baron, a 3-point specialist from the University of Rhode Island. “But he motioned me to come out in front of the arena with the whole team. He put us in a circle and there’s this goat standing there. All of a sudden one of the assistant coaches gets out this huge machete. And then — whack! — he cuts the goat’s head off!”
The Turkish players immediately stuck their fingers in the blood of the neck and wiped it on their foreheads.
“Then they started motioning for me to do it,” Baron remembers. “I’m like, ‘You gotta be crazy!’ And I got the heck out of there.”
Some people love to win, and there are other people who love to win. If your team is chopping off goat heads for good luck, then you should know that 1) you better win your next game and 2) you’re in a whole new world.
Reilly went on to write about the deep anti-Americanism and anti-Jewish sentiments in the country and how those feelings often spill out all over basketball courts, and even how the basketball and soccer players have to rely on each other. They both could play under the same club owned by the same man, so if he’s not in a good mood because one of his teams isn’t winning, then he may not pay everyone.
I try to take these stories with a grain of salt because I’ve talked to a handful of guys this summer who’ve played overseas. The gist of their issues were on the court. But it’s a different experience for everyone.
I’ve never been to a basketball game in Turkey, but I know this: if Eric Devendorf says there’s no way he’s ever going back, then you know it’ll be a unique experience.
What do you think?
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