Aug. 28, 2003
I'm writing this journal entry on our way to play the Czech Republic. As our bus weaves through Korean traffic, criss-crossing the streets of Daegu, one thing remains certain - we are all terrified by the seeming continual disobedience to any and all traffic laws. Red light? Not a problem ... No U- Turns? Oh well! In Korea, it's a free-for-all. If you've got a car you need tested out, bring it over to Korea where stop signs are optional and speed limits merely a suggestion.
Before you get the wrong idea about South Korea, I must counter with this statement: They have hosted these games with amazing kindness and enthusiasm. Everywhere we go, we are welcomed with a smile and cheers. Their hospitality has been remarkable. For example, when we go to downtown Daegu, we inevitably stop someone and ask, "Where is the closest Pizza Hut?" If they aren't sure we simply say, "Well how about Burger King? Maybe McDonalds?" As you can tell, no matter how far we travel from the U.S., with the help of the Korean people, we still manage to eat American.
That's not to say we haven't opened our eyes to new things. It was certainly an eye-opener when we saw all the side stands selling freshly made octopus jerky (kind of similar to our beef jerky). Granted, none of us have gathered enough courage to actually try it, but it is still quite a sight to behold.
There are all kinds of experiences to be had here in the athlete's village. Just last night as I sat and waited for the bus home from the fitness center, an older man also waiting turned to me and said, "Russia ... you?" Implying he wanted to know where I was from. I said, "USA, what sport do you coach?" After thinking about this for what seemed like longer than necessary he looked at me and said, "very little English." I smiled at him and nodded. I certainly don't know Russian. A few minutes later he walked over and handed me a Russian pin. As he placed it in my palm, he winked and said, "present." I thanked him repeatedly as I attached his pin to my ID card. Sure, the Cold War ended 20 years ago, but I imagine it is gestures such as his that define what the international athletic experience has always stood for.
The experience all of us have gained from playing at the international level can't be measured in wins and losses. In all honesty, the amazing players we have matched up against, the varied styles and different brands of basketball have served to teach us how big the game really is. It stretches far outside the comforts of the Big 12 Conference and all of us will go home with a new perspective we could not have imagined when we left Colorado Springs two weeks ago. So thank you to everyone who made this opportunity possible.