Firsts are always a little rocky and certainly a bit embarrassing—first steps, first driving lessons, first public speech, first guitar lesson, first kiss. Considering the mixture of inexperience and anxiety, imperfection is an understandable product. Our first game last week was, unfortunately, a fantastic illustration of why firsts can sometimes suck. While the game ultimately proved to be a useful teaching tool, highlighting our weaknesses and strengths, it was more than a little embarrassing. I am sincere when I say that game suggested we had only weaknesses. Defensively we missed rotations and struggled to pressure the ball, while offensively we shot with less accuracy than Shaq at the charity stripe—simply unconscionable. Still, it was our first game together, and firsts can be a little rocky. We played two days later and this time we demonstrated our strengths a bit better, individually and collectively. We won 115-81, so while it was pleasing to finally make some baskets, allowing 81 points a game won’t lead to many wins this season. Our team has a nice balance, though. Every position has multiple scoring threats and we have two really crafty, intelligent point guards. Morty has transitioned really well so far, executing the fast break and driving and dishing with ease. We played again tonight against the team we beat Friday and did a lot better. We held them to 40 this time and scored 80. Boom.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been to a spa. Maybe you’ve never been to one, but it’s reasonable to presume everyone is familiar with what they are. Just in case, a spa is defined by Webster’s online dictionary as, “a commercial establishment providing facilities devoted to encouraging health, fitness, weight loss, beauty, and relaxation.” This sounds like an accurate explanation, and it was certainly in agreement with my own perception. Well, it seems the Germans adhere to a looser interpretation of spa—that, or something somewhere was lost in translation. Friday, after our game, our coach treated us to a couple hours at a spa. If only it had been as simple as that, though. But no, like every other experience I have had out here, my episode at the spa proved to be hardly ordinary. Perhaps you know where this is going and maybe your imagination is enthusiastically engaged, producing a variety of uncomfortably weird scenarios based on your own twisted sense of humor. I promise you, whatever you are conjuring up in your head, it can’t touch my reality.
This place had all your basic essentials, all the misleading trappings of a typical spa: pools, Jacuzzis, saunas, and cold tubs—things encouraging health and relaxation. This place even had slides and a salt-water pool, cleverly manufactured distractions to lure in the innocent, naïve minded folks like myself; I won’t lie, it totally worked—Morty, Bri and I (the Americans) were pumped. And juuuuuust when they had us locked in did they mention, ever so casually, the one caveat: “oh, by the way, you have to be naked at the spa.” I beg your pardon? Naked? The naked where you don’t wear any clothes? Obviously there has been some sort of misunderstanding. First of all, let’s backtrack to your erroneous use of “by the way”, shall we? By the ways are generally followed by simple after thoughts, or reminders: by the way, the new Ryan Gosling movie is fantastic; by the way, we’re out of milk; by the way, there’s a stain on your carpet; by the way, your colonoscopy is tomorrow. Those are all acceptably casual, harmless statements following a “by the way”. I think any mention of the word naked automatically makes whatever you have to say unsuitable for any sort of coupling with a “by the way”. Just saying. But seriously, who forgets to mention the dress code when the code is your birthday suit!
I was in a pickle I found myself
at a cross roads, and yet I felt like the decision was so obvious, so
straightforward that there really wasn’t even a choice: of course I wasn’t
going to parade around naked in front of complete strangers for two hours—don’t
be ridiculous. Thirty minutes later I found myself hugging a towel, staring at
my feet as I nervously entered the spa. This was happening.
Involuntarily, I looked up as we walked in only to have all my fears confirmed: just naked people everywhere—and this was the bad kind of naked. I’ll spare you the details, just know I’m irrevocably scarred. Bri, Mort and I, under the heading “when in Rome”, made a pact that we would be open minded and give their nude colony version of a spa a try. Still, if we could avoid any awkwardness we were going to; and so we made our way to the one place we thought we would be alone—the cold tub. Sure enough, it was empty. All three of us let out the deepest sighs of relief. Like toddlers learning to swim, we slipped into the tub and clung to the railing, each of us in our own corner, discussing the pure insanity of the moment. Talk about a culture shock, we couldn’t believe the difference in social norms. And then it happened. An older man entered the room, comfortably open, and walked toward the tub. None of us moved—maybe if we are really still, he won’t see us and we can sneak out. Nope, he definitely saw us. As he entered the tub, butt first, I could no longer take it—I chuckled, and then without warning, a bellowing cackle erupted nearly splitting my sides. I had lost it; the sight of that man’s bare buttocks was the last straw. After the shock wore off, we ditched the tub and sprinted from the room, sincerely mortified. Eventually we reconvened with the girls for the finale: team sauna time. Our captain led us to the excessively hot room…filled with about 40 random, naked bodies. You’ve GOT to be kidding me. “When in Rome,” I thought, and I sat down determined to embrace the experience. But as the room reached extreme temperatures, it became increasingly unbearable. It had been about four minutes I’d guess when the steam got so thick I shrieked, “I’m blind!” I tried to remind myself—when in Rome, when in Rome—ah screw it, if this is what they do in Rome, I don’t want to be like the Romans! I grabbed my towel and bailed; sure, I stumbled out of that sauna with zero dignity or grace, but at least I wasn’t naked anymore. I know this was my first time and all, and I know what they say about firsts, but gimme a break. Some things can only be endured once.
One week from today we head to Prague for a tournament. We play Friday, Saturday and Sunday and then begin camp Sunday night. Camp is 5 days somewhere in Prague as well. That will be a long, exhausting week but it will also be incredibly instrumental in our development as a team, so I am really looking forward to it. The returning players from last year have already warned us of the hellish nature of camp. We had a team camp last season in Chemnitz that was rather horrible too, if you recall. Something tells me I’ll survive again; just wish they wouldn’t call it camp.