A little looking back as the trip draws closer to an end
Not a lot of basketball here but what the heck.
Now, that’s what I was talking about.
I’m sure there were some good games in the preliminary round here but I haven’t seen one better than Spain-Greece.
The fans were crazy.
And that was just in the media seating area.
You know that old “no cheering in the press box” stuff? It goes out the window at things like these.
I saw guys from both Spain and Greece leaping out of their seats with each big basket, moaning with each missed shot and generally behaving like, well, like fans.
It’s rather typical of events like the worlds and the Olympics but it takes a game like Saturday’s to really bring it to the fore again.
And, at this one, I saw something I hadn’t seen before. That would be the woman in the mixed zone where we do our interviews crying uncontrollably. I’m wondering if her credential got ruined by the tears.
Know what they don’t have over here?
Laws against texting while driving or using hand-held phones while behind the wheel.
And I know this because you’ve not gone quite white like you do when a cabbie is trying to merge on to a highway that apparently has no on-ramp or speed limit and he’s steering and changing gears and typing on his phone all at the same time.
We made it, though. Not sure how, but we made it.
It always makes me smile when I see Garbo play for Spain because – three or four times here, four or five times in Beijing a couple of years ago – because his burning desire to suit up for his national team was in no small part of his divorce, amicable though it may have been, from the Raptors.
He was going to play in Beijing come hell or high water and the Raptors didn’t want him to. He got his buyout, he played, he won a silver medal and, I tell you, you cannot see a iota of difference in his game from the time he was in Toronto until today.
So I had to ask Marc Gasol when I was talking to him – Garbo didn’t venture back out to chat after the win over Greece – what the guy means to the team.
“He is kind of the soul of this team he’s been here so long; he’s one of the captains and he’s always shown so much courage and dedication to this team and what we want to do.”
A list, if you don’t mind, as I take my leave
Best thing I saw
The Blue Mosque, hands down.
Best thing I ate
Iskender kabob at a street-side café in Izmir. Oh, and there was this good fish carpaccio.
Seeing the Bridge to Asia, that splits this city in about half, with some of it in Europe and some in Asia. Not a big deal but one of a kind.
Worst thing I ate
A sandwich bought from a window in an Istanbul of some undetermined meat byproduct with some kind of sauce that was a two-bites-throw-it-away lunch.
It wasn’t very evident in Izmir but here in Istanbul, you cannot get away from the politics of a national referendum being held next Sunday. Now, I have no great interest in Turkish politics and certainly don’t want to suggest I know anything but I’m told the vote is to curb that power of the judiciary and military here. I’m not going to go into all the nuances or specifics but the Yes side is everywhere here. There is a park about a kilometer down the road from the hotel that’s hosting a gigantic rally in support of the “Evet” side (which is yes).
A thing I won’t miss
Traffic. I’m talking traffic with a capital ‘T’ and the only place I could compare Istanbul to is Rome and I’m not sure which is worse.
Most relaxing moment
Sitting on a bench on a beautiful morning with a coffee in hand staring out over the Aegean. It didn’t get much better than that.
Second most relaxing moment
Floating along the Bosphoros the first night in Istanbul with colleagues from Toronto, New York and L.A., three hours of
An international gathering
One night in Izmir, thanks to our close friend Safa The Volunteer, a gaggle of writers headed out to a dinner to sip an Efes or six and watch USA-Brazil.
There were guys from Canada, Spain, Serbia, Romania, the United States, New Zealand and Turkey.
Lots of stories, a couple of cocktails and some fun.
I owe the gold street vendors of Izmir an apology.
Apparently, those mussels I was talking about the other day, the ones that I thought were simply baking in the night heat, are in fact cooked, stuff with rice and quite tasty when you sprinkle a wee bit of lemon on them.
I’m still not trying street mollusks, though.
Hey, what are the Raptors up to?
Oh, wait. That’s my job.
Let me check.
Still deathly quiet.
Just thought you’d like to know.
I need to make this clear to the people who are still killing Canada for losing to Lebanon last week.
Yes, perhaps they could have won the game with a better fourth quarter but you do realize that just because you’ve never heard of Lebanese basketball doesn’t mean it’s bad.
You do know that Lebanon had more NBA experience on its roster than Canada did, right?
Two guys who’d been in the league to one, right?
Anyway, it just gets to this point: There are countries out there that you may not think of as “basketball” nations but that doesn’t mean they can’t play the game.
This was not me, honest.
There’s a guy I know pretty well who took what he called The Walk Of Shame out of our hotel yesterday, wandering down the highway to, yes, McDonald’s.
He reports the Mega-Mac is like nothing you’ve ever seen with four – FOUR – hamburger patties.
So the fella decides to Super Size it (I guess the movie and inherent marketing mess it created hasn’t played here yet) and he says he got about a litre of coke and more fries than he could eat.
And four – FOUR – patties.
Hey, I found out where we lived in Istanbul.
It’s in the Zeytinburnu region on the southwest side of this huge city, right on the Bosphoros.
Or as I call it, the Don Valley For Ships because as I look out my window, I can count 45 freighters or fishing vessels parked in the water.
Okay, I have no idea when I’m going to get back here because I have one of the oddest travel-work days of my career ahead.
Have the Turkey-France game that starts at 9 p.m. here, will probably be done writing about 1 a.m. my time. Then there’s a cab to airport at 2 a.m. for a 4:30 a.m. departure and a three-hour flight up to Zurich.
After seven hours in Zurich, which is an hour time zone change from Istanbul, it’s about nine hours back to Pearson and if I’m at all functional when that’s over, I should win some award.
So maybe I’m back Monday morning if the Zurich airport has good wireless, maybe I’m back Tuesday morning from the comfort of Casa Doug as Super Son gets ready to begin his high school career.
Wish me luck.