Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Amsterdam Revenges

The Dutch Basketball Championship.

I work in comedy theater. When big groups come its pretty easy to pick them out. Usually it will be a hen party of some British ladies wearing matching crazy hats. A few drinks a few laughs. One of the hen's will suggest dildo and they'll giggle. Its fun.

Last week we had a different sort of group. A very tall group of guys in matching red jackets. This was a team. That we knew. But who? At some point during the show Robbie asked them what team they played for and somebody said: "Eiffel Towers!"

What? Excuse me? That is a historical monument in France sir.

And it is.
But I learned something that show.
It's also a basketball team.
And not just any basketball team.

The Den Bosch Eiffel Towers. Defending 2-time champs of the Dutch Eridevise. The NBA of Holland.

I wanted to talk with them after the show. They were sitting in the front row, tough to miss. And they seemed to enjoy our unique blend of sketch and improv just fine. Especially the older guy with the Lakers hat sitting who kept banging on the table with laughter. I caught up with them in front of the theater and ran up to flex my Blazer tattoo and talk some trash. The guy with the Laker hat turned out to be their coach, who asked me if I had ever seen an John Holmes movies.
Yes. I told him I was familiar with his work.
Yeah, he said, you remind me of him.
Thank you. I said. And I meant it.

Turns out, The Eiffel Towers were in town for the finals against the Amsterdam MyGuide Amsterdam's (real name).
One of the players, Travis Young, gave me his card. "Come check out a game."

On his card it said:

Travis Young.
Professional Basketball.


Well. I am all about seeing some hoop live. Basketball is my favorite sport. Played it since I was wee. The last game I saw live was a Blazers game, last January. When they lost to the lowly (at that time) Celtics. Unbelievable but true.

Game 7. What you're gonna do?

And this was a game 7.

So I was chomping at the bit. Over the next few days I emailed and texted Travis. But didn't' get a response so I figured: oh well.

Then on Sunday morning around noonish (c'mon. get off my back) I was awoken by a call from a number I didn't know.
I took a moment to rip myself from dreamland. "Hello?" I answered perkily.

It was Travis. All I needed to do was just roll to the stadium at 2.00 and then I could get in. Nice one. Back to sleep.

I rolled my bike down towards the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium. The Amsterdam Sportshal Zuid was the gym near by.
I got there a little early and chatted it up with the Eiffel Tower faithful. Already blowing their colorful horns. Loud.
The team rolled up and I met up with Travis who told me to park my bike and roll in with him.

Allright. Okay! My first time rolling to a game 7 national championship with the team. I mean these guys are professional athletes. They play basketball for money. It's mind-blowing.
It didn't matter that the gym was community college sized, the Den Bosh fanatics were going apeshit crazy.
This was also my first Dutch basketball game. And they have some interesting traditions. Like this guy who sung karaoke Dutch classic accordion-heavy-pop-ballads. 45 minutes before the tip. This guy was belting out song after song. And they were pretty well received, too.
Until he sung the one about Amsterdam.
Big mistake.
It didn't matter that the gym was community college sized this place was getting loud.
The Den Bosh fans went absolutely nuts.
I mean. It got loud.
They sung their own song:

"Hey-a En Bosch. Hey-a Den Bosch. HeyHEYheyHEY hay-a Den Bosch!!"

This guy sang for a LONG time. Songs like this.

Over and over again. Noise maker horns filling up the 1/2 kroket shaped gym.
and this was 30 minutes before tip. As it turns out Den Bosch had a song for just about every situation.

The Amsterdam fans, although far bigger in numbers were dressed and acted far more causal. They were a little too cool for school for my tastes.

Maybe they were not wearing any of their team colors because they were the same as Den Bosch's. It was the red and white VS. the white and red. Tonight! As Sportshal Zuid!

During the shoot around before the singing. I talked with Travis and Sharone. A veteran big man making the transition from playing to coaching. He'll be a full time assistant with the towers next year. Sharone remembered me from the Boom show. He said he played in Toronto with Damon Stoudimire. I knew then, if he's friends with Damon, he must be a chill cat.

My friend Ash was able to join me and the game got underway. Early on Travis was killing. Playing lock down d and getting the ball down the court for some easy transition buckets.

I n the first quarter, swarming defense and timely shooting had the Eiffel Towers up by 17.

Then this guy Robert Earl Owens (REO they call him. But not like REO Speedwagon. Actually pronounced RIO in Dutch. They had a song for him.) had 16 in the first half and was looking real tough.

But in the 2nd half, the Towers came out flat. And Sergerio (Teddy) Gibson was en fuego. ("Op brand' in Nederlands) The man turned into Mr. Clutch for MyGuide Amsterdam. He stuck a buzzer beating 3 at the end of the 3rd and didn't miss a shot in the fourth quarter including a couple of big three's down the stretch.

Amsterdam picked up the D the last few minutes and didn't let sharp-shooting Kees Akerbloom Jr. (son of Dutch Hall of Famer Kees Akerbloom sr. the Den Bosch-iacs had a song for him too.) Get a shot off. It was a tough loss. My instinct would be to leave instantly and in silence the way I have whenever the Blazers have lost a big game I attended. Just walk out and keep on walking. Yet the Den Bosch manics didn't move. NOT ONE. They stood and they sang.

"Hey-a Den Bosch, Hey-a Den Bosch, HeyHeyheyheyhey-a Den Bosch."

It was a touching moment. The team just lost in game 7 of the championship, and here were fans: Small, determined, proud. They loved their team and they let their team know it. It may have been because I was in the middle of Den Bosch fever but I swear the cheering and singing was louder then for Myguide Amsterdam. Who just won the championship on their home court. Amazing.

Afterwards I gave my condolences to Sharone and Travis and to the coach. I was amazed at how calm Coach Randy Wiel was in person. He was disappointed but philosophic and more like a politician as he rushed around shaking hands and saying "dankewell" to the supporters. It occurred to me that you see enough winning and losing over your career in sport, then it really stops to bother you the way it does when your a kid. Its just another game. Some one wins and someone loses. That's it.

After the game the Eiffel tower die-hards gave Kees Akerbloom Jr. some love.

Turns out, its not the winning and losing but the way you deal with it that makes you a professional.

I gave my number to some of the guys on the team and if I am around next year for their season. Please believe that I will be supporting the Den Bosch Eiffel towers from the beginning. Win or lose.

Read more about the team and the game here.

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