Thursday, July 06, 2006

Responding.. 4th of July, Big Ben leaves, Laura Romanoff arrives...

Someone –sounds like Art – wrote the following about the lack of 4thof July festivities:

Even for the EXPAT? What about the other Americans?? Didn't anyone talk about the White Sox, burn a hot dog or place a huge piece of of apple pie down their gullet; whilst dreaming of their Chevrolets..


It’s really kind of strange. I mean, they have big events for Guy Fowlkes Day and all soets of other Intl holidays but I barely heard a peep about the 4th. It may be because this place is emptying out by the day as folks head home for the summer. It may be because our compound is not very American (though rumor is 25 US fams are moving in this summer).. I’m not sure.

The kids are going to camp Adventure, run by Northern Iowa University in conjunction with the embassy and it is tres American (except for the many Chinese campers; Europeans don’t seemto go in any numbers). They have a different them every week and this weeks is Stars and Striped forever. They are having a big 4th of July carnival and have been preparing for it all week so my boys are in the swing of things.

But otherwise… nada. I’m sure there were some celebrations somewhere, but I didn’t hear much about it. It is a little odd, but I can’t say I missed it.

Laura Romanoff has been here and we actually slipped away Monday night into t he 4th and celebrated with a half-day holiday to Red Capital Ranch. Check the place out: Very cool. Becky came back with the kids in the morning after we did an early am hike to two towers, including one which was pretty bombed out and was the site of a big WW2 battle with Japanese troops. The kids did great.

Laura and I stayed and hiked the brokendown section of the wall. I will post pictures later. Very hot but very cool. I came back and she stayed another night and then headed off with a tour guide friend of ours for a couple-day adventure. She’ll be back tonight.



Judy Burns wrote:
cute pics happy b-day to Anna…loving World Cup games, don't ya know give Laura a big squeeze from me thought Yzerman, Wallace news was disasterous, last one out of Michigan turn off the lights, until hearing about N. Korea


Yeah, I’m sure it feels like the end of the world in Michigan, alongwith the Big Three tanking and the whole state seeming to be teetering towards oblivion. But, hey, it’s just sports. Right? Right?

Slam asked me to write my thoughts on the Big Ben departure for the website, as the resident Pistons fan. They are having some technical difficulties as they upgrade so I’m not sure if or when it will appear but here it is:


I returned yesterday from 24 hours at a luxury ranch alongside a beautiful and crumbling section of the Great Wall. I hiked most of the day and came home feeling exhausted but refreshed, jumped on my computer and saw this headline: “Big Ben To run with the Bulls.”

I was shocked but not surprised. It all seemed somewhat inevitable ever since the Pistons’ magic season started falling apart midway through the Cavs series. Obviously, something was way amiss and I had a strong sense, from 8000 miles away that Ben was a big part of that something. He just wasn’t all the way there. And if he’s not all the way there, he’s just average.

I expect him to resurge in Chicago, which is going to be mighty painful for all of us Pistons fans to witness. At the same time, you can’t really blame Joe D. Locking into a long-term deal with Ben seemed borderline insane anyhow, as he is getting older and his offensive limitations seem to be growing larger not smaller.

Joe promised to make him the highest paid Piston and the offer did that. He offered him roughly $50 mill over four years, on top of the $30 mill they’ve paid him over the last six, a deal offered and signed when no one else in the League would have given Ben a whole lot more than the minimum. Only a fool would say they were cheap or lowballed him. It’s always about the money, but I sense here that’s not the full picture. He seemed to feel disrespected in some fundamental way by flip, as he did with Carlisle.

Long term, it’s hard to argue with letting Ben walk because that deal would have really been a killer in a couple of years. Remember how the Nets were mocked for letting the always overrated Kmart go a few yeas ago? Now the Nugs are desperately trying to peddle his bloated contract. The thing is, I’m not sure it makes much sense to think long term in the East now, with Dwade and learn on the rise and looking set to battle for the next decade. The Darko fiasco really kicks in now. None of this would even be an issue if Chris Bosh was ready to step in, not to mention Dwade or Carmelo.

But beyond all of that professional analysis, It’s a sad day for me because Ben has been one of my favorite players of recent years and I give him primary credit for bringing the Pistons up from the depths. I watched him in Orlando and thought he was an Oakley style bruiser and plodder. I did a Hype on him that focused on the fact that he played with a broken foot for half a season, wearing a cast in between practices and games. Then he came to Detroit and I started really watching him and realized that he had incredible athleticism to go with his grit, hustle and old school toughness.

I did a feature on him in his second year in Detroit, the first year they got good, and I went to two or three Playoffs game and just sat and focused on Ben and was blown away observing his instincts, strength, leaping ability, hard work. Now it’s all headed for, gulp, Da Bulls. I’m sad but it feels inevitable. The worst part was trying to explain this whole thing to my 8-year-old son Jacob, who loves Ben.

“Why is he leaving? For money? Just for money? That’s stupid! Doesn’t he make money for the Pistons? He should care about winning and the team, not getting the most money.”

We all have our welcome-=to-the-world moments and this was Jacob’s.