We are in for what could be an exceptional week
This joint is huge.
I’m hearing everywhere from 20 to 25 million people in Istanbul – it’s virtually impossible to get an accurate count is what I’m told – and the place just goes on and on and on and on.
It’s kind of flat where we’re staying – and I have no idea where it is except it’s certainly not in the heart of the city – and the coolest thing I can see are dozens and dozens of minarets from the various huge mosques in the distance.
Yeah, there’s basketball and this should be a huge week and if I’m only going to be in town for two days of games, I’m glad I got these two.
Croatia-Serbia and Spain-Greece tonight should be outstanding and seeing Turkey in Turkey against France tomorrow should be electric.
Let’s see who might win this thing, shall we?
Here’s how the four groups of the round-of-16 break down:
It’s Serbia-Croatia and Spain-Greece and I really think Spain comes out of that one; they seem to have figured things out and, yes, Greece is great but I’m sticking with the world champs.
Then it’s Turkey-France and Slovenia-Australia and I’d be stunned of our friend Hedo didn’t get his home-country team out of that gang of four.
I talked to a couple who saw Turkey in person in the first round and they tell me Turk’s not putting up any kind of numbers but he’s playing pretty well as the de facto point guard. Soon as I get the Turkish word for “ball” I’ll pass it on.
On the other side of the draw, it’s USA-Angola and Russia-New Zealand on one side and there is no way I see the Yanks losing to any of those teams. There are certainly teams here that can, and will, give the United States a huge scare and may beat them, Angola, Russia and New Zealand are not among them. That’s like a free passage to the semis.
The other side of that draw’s tough, though.
Lithuania-China (and that’s a freebie for my good friends of Lithuania) and Argentina-Brazil is almost too tough to call. I’d give the edge to Brazil right now, mostly because their coach used to coach Argentina and that might be the only difference.
A Lithuania-Brazil game? Too tough to call right now.
So, what we’re looking at is Spain-Turkey in one semifinal and the USA against either Lithuania or Brazil in the other one and if that’s not a great day of basketball, I don’t know what is.
I know there are thousands upon thousands upon thousands who’d love nothing more than a Turkey-USA world championship final in Istanbul because the intensity would be insane.
I’d love to see it, too, and I could envision it happening quite easily.
But I can also see a Spain-Lithuania gold medal game, too; and a Turkey-USA game for bronze. That’d be neat.
So the very first guy I ran into in the lobby when I was checking in was an acquaintance from Croatia.
He reports that Roko Ukic, who still has plenty of supporters back in Toronto judging from the e-mails I get, is banged up pretty bad with a sore ankle and my buddy doesn’t give Croatia much chance against Serbia tonight.
“Maybe five per cent” is the word I got.
I can’t begin to explain what the traffic’s like in a city this size; it’s like a free-for-all on streets crowded with parked cars, pedestrians, bicycles, scooters and the odd scared-to-death foreigner.
But what I cannot get over is fact that for all the cars honking and driving wherever they want and the utter disregard they seem to have for anything like lanes, there aren’t any accidents.
I’ve seen maybe one in the week I’ve been walking around here and in Izmir and it stuns me. There should be carnage every 20 metres or so.
But there’s not. Nothing.
T-shirts? They're nice, I guess, but pretty routine.
Jewelry? I’m not sure I’ve got the taste to pick out anything really nice and I can remember coming back from Barcelona in 1992 with what I thought were really nice earrings that ended up being used, I believe, as paperweights on a desk so that’s out.
I’m sure there’ll be tea or some spices back from this trip (don’t tell Customs, they might get irked) but other than that, I usually draw a blank.
And I’m wondering if I can get that home somehow because it’ll be the coolest thing Super Son owns.
And Dad might like it, too.
Now, I’ve seen Asia and I’ve seen Europe but it wasn’t until last night that I saw them both just by turning my head.
Yep. As we floated along the Bosphoros on a dinner cruise with a handful of buddies last night, on the left was Europe and on the right was Asia and it may not seem like a big deal but for some reason it was.
And the Bosphoros Bridge sure ain’t the Garden City Skyway.
For a dude who likes bridges a bit, it was pretty damn cool.
I’ve got a Travel Day From Hell coming up so I’m thinking doing the mail during an interminable layover in Geneva on Monday might be a good way to pass some time.
So I’ll give you two more kicks at the can.
Write, entertain me, click here and send.
Okay, it’s getting to be almost noon here, think it might be time to strike out among the people and see what I can find. Tomorrow’s the Blue Mosque and everything, today’s just an adventure in the local area so I can get my bearings straight.