By: Nick Gibson / @euro_adventures
This Sunday feels like a Sunday. No headache, though. That’s a nice touch. I wonder if Spanish alarm clocks have the snooze function. Best not to risk it.
The shower’s going, which means Sam’s up. That’s good; we’ve got a bit of a trek ahead of us. One hastily-sipped mug of coffee, a little tortilla Española and chorizo and I’m out the door.
We duck underground at the Barceloneta metro station, beneath the bustling streets and congested architecture of Spain’s second largest city. Forty minutes later we come up for air, and somebody has stolen all the buildings. Welcome to Badalona, folks.
Nothing against church, but it’s kind of nice to see these Catalan families spending their Sunday mornings outside of a basketball arena, dribbling soccer balls with their hands instead of their feet. That’s what spheres were intended for, after all.
Since our late night credential request fell flat (way to think ahead, guys) we have to count on the kindness of strangers to land free entry into Palau Municipal d’Esports de Badalona.
“Well, we’ll either be members of the media or super overdressed fans,” says Sam.
“With book bags,” I add.
Sam nods. “With book bags.”
Thanks to Miqui Fornies and the Badalona media team, nobody will have to wonder what those dudes in the button-downs with the book bags are doing in the nosebleeds. Even after stumbling through sentence after sentence of incomprehensible Spanglish, Miqui and his squad grant us two media passes, which we happily stick on our shirts before finding our spots in press row.
Now, my favorite part.
There’s a girl in a Henk Norel jersey. Oh look, Pooh Jeter’s out there and is that—? Yeah. That’s Latavious Williams. Damn, his legs look long. Sam, don’t his legs look really freakin’ long to you? Maybe he picked up Pooh’s shorts on accident. Man, forgot Saer Sene played for Fuenlabrada. Kind of forgot about him altogether, actually. Is that a Rubio jersey up there? It’s number nine, but I don’t see a name on the back. I bet it is, though. There’s Kirk Penney. I wonder if he’s pissed about missing the rugby World Cup.
If I ever get tired of this little routine, of this initial exposure, I’ll pawn my Mac and sell carpet in Dalton, Georgia.
This Sunday game feels like a Sunday game. Fuenlabrada comes out as stiff as the the rims. The only things moving quickly are Pooh Jeter and the shot clock, which runs out on three separate occasions before any of the five guys on offense even glance at the rim.
Owners of the ACB’s 16th worst record coming into the day (out of 18 teams), Fuenlabrada falls behind quickly and trails 25-16 after the first period. Then, Gustavo Ayon decides he’d like to outplay Latavious Williams today, so he does. Fuenlabrada rides his and Leo Mainoldi’s highly instinctive and decisive post play to a five-point deficit by halftime, and at the end of the third they’re up by 10.
With a couple minutes left in the game, Jeter spins in a baseline reverse and splashes a three in Kirk Penney’s face to bring Badalona back within eight, but by then it’s too late. With a little over a minute left, the 6’10” Ayon bends down and rips the ball—and a Badalona comeback—away from the 5’11” Jeter.
The fans head for the exits.
Ayon finishes with 18 points and 7 boards, Mainoldi with 13 and 5, and Fuenlabrada wins 73-62 to go 2-2, commencing what they hope will be an ascent out of the cellar.
Badalona slides down to occupy Fuenlabrada’s 16th spot in the ACB with a win and three losses, and I’m left sitting in a dark arena, banging my keyboard next to a man who’s rattling off a game report into an orange microphone.
I listen closely as he rolls his R’s and turns sharply between syllables. I don’t understand what he’s saying, but I’d like to learn.
I think I’ll stay awhile.