I had this entry done a week ago. It was then that my computer pretended to run out of batteries and turned itself off. In any case, it’s here now. I was released by the Nets a week ago. Before I get into the Nintendo reference and my future, I’ll recap my last days in Jersey.
2 weeks ago we had the open practice at Farleigh Dickinson University. I, not knowing anything about anything, expected to see a couple hundred people there. When the multiple thousands of people started packing the gym, I realized that people care more about the Nets than they do about the Austin Toros (D-League) who I was with this time last year.
After our scrimmage, I got to really see how crazy fans are for NBA teams. Thousands and thousands of people were calling out the names of thier favorite players. I was sitting down icing my knees while the madness took place. I can imagine that if I was Vince Carter or Jason Kidd, I would have a serious problem responding to anyone who says my name at any time. I heard people yell out “Jason” over and over and over and over. Seriously, like 300 people at a time, all saying his name. People wanted to get autographs so badly I couldn’t believe it.
It wasnt just J Kidd and Vince, people were calling out for autographs from guys like R Jeff, Boki Nachbar, Antoine Wright, Malik Allen, Jason Collins, Jamaal Magloire, Sean Williams, Josh Boone, Marcus Williams, Nenad Krstic, Mile Ilic, Jumaine Jones, Robert Hite, Eddie Gill and Mateen Cleaves. One name was not on that list — Rod Benson. I really thought a couple people would be hyped to see me, but they were more hyped to see everyone else which was cool. I just sat there with ice on my knee, waiting to go as autographs were signed and photo’s were snapped.
Then, out of nowhere, I think I hear my name…
“Rod! Hey Rod, come over here!”
Nice, I thought. Finally a fan. Maybe he’s a TMRB reader. I decide to play it cool, as if to show that I was not that hyped. I wanted to look like I do this all the time. Get out of my seat slowly and the whole nine yards. By the time I turned around, I saw Rod Thorn chatting it up with somebody behind me. I kept my eyes open, just in case there was another guy, but no, he was clearly requesting Rod Thorn. Damn.
A few minutes later my time finally came. Somebody yelled out my last name, so I knew it was official. This time I didn’t care at all about impressing anybody with nonchalance. I snapped my head around to look at and make eye contact with the group of young women who had called me out. I walked over enthusiatically and asked them what was up.
“Can you get Josh Boone for us? He can’t hear us or something.”
You’ve got to be kidding me. Ricodamdiculous. I walked over to Josh and told him what was up.
“Oh yeah, I think I’m Facebook friends with them,” he says on his way over towards the girls.
I then noticed that Jason was sitting a few seats away from me. I went and sat right next to him even though there was plenty of space to sit more comfotably. When he gave a look that seemed to question my decision to invade the personal bubble, I told him what was up.
“The way I see it, if I sit close to you, people will have photo’s of me whether they like it or not. I’m bound to end up on youtube or myspace or something,” I confessed.
On my way out of the gym, one guy asked for a picture with me. He said that he was a TMRB guy and that he just wanted a photo. Whoever you are, guy with the camera, thanks for legitimizing me. You’re a stand up guy.
Anyways, I guess I should get into the reasons why I titled this entry what I did. I was riding to the airport with Vinny the Nets intern and we were dicussing how I repaired my broken Xbox. Somehow I brought up the fact that I love Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball. I can still hear Ken say “Hi, Im Ken Griffey Jr. Let’s play major league baseball.”
The Griffey talk transitions to Super Smash Brothers and then to Mike Tyson’s Punchout. I tell Vinny that I had more trouble beating the Sandman than anybody else. He says that Soda Pop gave him the most trouble. All the reminiscing about the game got to thinking about it. Right then I had an epiphany — my career is just like that game. Let’s examine the facts..
Lets call me Little Mac. I’m a young man trying to come up. I have good people in my corner, and although I’m young and at times outmatched, I have heart, and I’m always smiling:
I can remember back to high school hoops. It was so easy to dominate back then, because I was facing inferior competition…much like Mac in the minor circuit. It aint hard knocking out guys like Joe Glass and Piston Honda.
Then there was college. Tougher competition made it tough to compete, especially early, but later once I got it figured out, the game slowed down and it again became easier. In the college game, you face guys who are good, but they have weaknesses. I can easily remember guys who I could exploit with ease. I was Little Mac and I faced guys like Don Flamenco, King Hippo, and Great Tiger. These are guys who will beat you if you don’t know their weaknesses, but are also easy opponents once they get exposed.
Now I’m a pro bball player. I have been making strides on my game slowly, but surely. It’s by far the toughest competition. Guys up here don’t have clear weaknesses like before. Up here, especially for a guy like me, experience is key. When we had our preseason game at Philly, coach Frank told us to go through our normal routine and to meet up with 30 minutes to go before game time. I watched as Darrell Armstong had his coffee. I watched as Mateen Cleaves stretched. I watched Boki Bachbar get up a ton of shots. I then realized that I was the only one without a routine at all. I had no idea what I was supposed to do. This is not a crazy example, but it was a sign that I lack a certain amount of experience. It’s like trying to beat the Sandman all over again. There are certain things I gotta do and learn before I ever get a real crack at Mike Tyson (the NBA).
Seriously though, coach Frank called me into his office the day after the preseason game and broke it down to me. He told me everything I already thought about why I was being released. He was very nice about it and professional. I know I need more strength, a given, but mainly I need more consistency, which stems from professionalism. Being a pro encompasses so many things. During camp I lacked confidence at times, aggressiveness, all the things that made me successful before. Veterans understand how to eliminate such thoughts. I think Malik Allen will have a good year this year and that the Nets will go far, because they have a lot of veterans who understand the meaning of what it takes to be a pro. I will be back in North Dakota learning how to work on a specific move, a routine, a signature thing about me that makes me a pro.
In the end, experience is everything. You can watch all the late night cinemax you want, but until you actually have sex, you have no idea what you’re doing, right? I learned what the big show is all about and now I am prepared to take that final step. Im ready to beat the Sandman. I talked with the coach of the Dakota Wizards and he was enthusiastic about helping me help myself. He was enthusiastic about the fact that I was enthusiastic. He was ready to get to work to take my experience and talent and turn it into a skill set that translates directly to what I will be as an NBA player. Barring some sort of miracle contract overseas, I’ll be doing just that — taking the final step towards the ultimate goal.
Well, currently my family is on the brink of evacuation down in San Diego. I’m in LA safe and sound, but a number of homes of people I know have already started to burn. We live right on the water, so hopefully I’ll get a call tomorrow telling me that everything is fine. If not, I know there are things more important than the material things that could go down in flames (well, my xbox and my wii are with me, so they are safe). My Vince Carter autographed shoe has less meaning now that I’ve shared a locker space with the guy. My Tiger Woods autograph became less important the day I dropped 24 on Stanford and he was there to see it. My family, my health, and my future are in the works now. I think it will all be ok, but who knows. Sorry to end on a somber note, but it is very odd blogging when my broither calls me to say that there is ash raining from the sky, which is orange and black, and that he has packed up eevrything he cares about. Like I said, we will see.