I can’t quite put my finger on it. Not completely anyway. It’s as if I know better but just cannot seem to stop myself from engaging in what most consider absolutely inane. And I simply don’t know why. One asks oneself, “Is it ego?” No. Anger? No. Ummm… OK, how about delight? Bitterness? Self-conscienceness? Sympathy? No. No. No and no. So what is it? It is complete empathy. That is the only word to describe it.
Everything seemingly new to me is only the reincarnation of the primal. Although an inspiring manifestation in comprehension, still just a repeat. So it is hard to be blown away by the act. Rather, I prefer marveling at the interpretation by comparison to its predecessor. What the “phoque” is this dude talking about? My way of simplifying what infatuates most is nothing else but my own form of appreciation and should not be attributed to anything outwardly offensive. Better? So when offense is taken, I will apologize once.
After that, if there is persistence in the desire to define me in the way that makes one comfortable, I say, “C’est phoque.” Yes… It’s a seal.
With that said… I write this last blog. I recently was invited to a Spurs game by my former teammate in Spain, Tiago Splitter. Luckily it was a comfortable win for the Spurs, so I got to see him play long minutes without much pressure. After the game, I ran across Jeff Van Gundy. I was extremely caught off guard when he said, “Gaaaaaabe!” I suppose I half thought I’d have to reintroduce myself. Either he’s a great actor or was actually happy to see me.
When I saw the reactions of so many people I met in NBA dealings, I actually got really embarrassed that I came to the game looking like an orphan. I had just come back from a month stint working from east to west Africa so I hadn’t shaved in a while. I didn’t really think I’d see anyone but Tiago. To my surprise I saw more than I bargained for. The question I kept getting was, “Where are you playing now?” As I repetitively answered that I was retired, it was as if I was hiding something. Every reaction was the same.
The smiles disappeared and each person sympathetically backed up and looked at my legs expecting a tragic tale and said, “Are you hurt?” I do suppose it is a bit embarrassing to have people think your still young and capable and not playing. However, it is only because of outside perception. On the inside, everything went according to plan.
Phoque le. I am not being totally honest. I did expect to get a bit more out of basketball. Well, I got what I got out of it and it was invaluable. It definitely couldn’t be measured in money. Strangely enough, it was measured in coaches and what each taught me. I can tell you all my coaches, from elementary to every one overseas. Each one of them gave me something that I use today in my profession to be successful. My first coach taught me the game as an art form.
Coach Villamagna from NY. My high school coach, Jim Draudt from Syracuse, taught me fundamentals can always beat talent. Not only that but the talent to learn talent is in itself the greatest talent. Coach P taught all his players to enjoy the game and always remain loyal. Coach Barnes taught me the best lesson that quite honestly saved me a lot of heartache. I think I told the story before but it was so influential, I will always tell it.
It was simple. He used to talk to me quite often and when he would challenge me in something stupid I did, I always had an excuse. I always had someone to blame. He would talk. I would retort. He’d talk. I’d snap back. He’d teach. I’d give a smart remark. Until one day, he just yelled at the top of his lungs in his office, “Have you ever thought that maybe you are the phoque-in’ problem? Have you ever looked in the mirror and said ‘I’m the phoque-in’ problem! I phoqued up! Me!’?”
It has stuck in my head since and I tell my wife the story constantly. It is hard to know oneself and accept the good and bad about one’s personality. But sincerely trying has granted me freedom in areas that would have previously entrapped me and led me astray. No matter what, all my coaches have done a lot for me and Coach Barnes may have done the most. If God told me that I’d have to trade that lesson, to “know thyself”, for the basketball career I wanted… I would keep that lesson 10 out of 10 times.
That is the main reason why one can easily say, “phoque tois” when insulted. They say you are this, that etc. I know. No… I mean I promise you… I know. But those consistently telling me that as if it will change how messed up the very people telling me are, is comedy at it’s best and insanity by definition. Matthew 7:3 “And why beholdeth thou the mote in thy brother’s eye but considereth not the beam that is in thine own eye?” I learned that the hard way… with a southern Hickory (not being funny) accent sprinkled with loving curse words. Hey, it worked.
Is it true Carmelo Anthony stopped eating meat? Good, man, if it’s true!
Anyway knowing that I have tried to put all of these experiences into perspective in order for them to benefit my endeavors today, I’ve come to a conclusion: If I’m retired, I have to retire from blogging too. Jorge, you’re my boy, but HoopsHype no me pagan mucho para mantener esto! Tell Mark Jones to holler at me… Me and JVG can do all Houston games so I can criticize our 6-foot-4 center without warrant.
While doing so, I could still go to work and moonlight for fun at the expense of basketball egos. It would all be in fun I’m sure. If not, I’m sorry… C’est phoque. Now, no more hiding behind the Internet. Y’all know who I’m is so before you make any genius comments like, “engineers retire too,” (Bravo…monkey) just email and identify yourself so I know not to invite you over for dinner.
N. Gabriel Muoneke