vs. San Diego State University
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Day One: The arrival...

When we got off the plane at San Diego Airport after a 4-hour plane ride, we were greeted with sunshine, ocean breezes and remarkably clear skies--definitely not your average Chicago day in November. Spirits were high and hopes soared as we all began to think about the game on Friday evening against the San Diego State Aztecs.

The KC BBQ. Evan and I sat at the end of the long blue table, right behind "Goose" and "Maverick"'s heads.
After taking a short hop via travel bus to the Hyatt Regency San Diego, we broke into small groups in search of some sustanance. Evan Eschmeyer and I found a little place called the Kansas City Barbecue where, incidentally, the sleazy bar scene at the end of the movie Top Gun was filmed. A georgeous buxom blonde Californian waitress took our orders as she took our breath away. I hadn't seen such beauty since I left my home in Ft. Lauderdale! Needless to say, I slept very well that night, the images of that sun-bathed beauty dancing in my head.

Day Two: Practice...

An hour and a half after breakfast the next morning, we were off to practice at SDSU's on-campus gymnasium. Practice went very well...very few mistakes were made and the team as a whole looked very sharp. Towards end of practice, point guard Jevon Johnson took a spill after Evan decided he would try to steal the ball from him on an inbounds pass. Jevon landed on his face and wound up having to go to the local hospital for 10-12 stiches above his right eye. He's fine now, just has a Rodman-esque streak of red in his hair from the blood trail, but it's hardly noticeable.

After practice coach let us go on our own, asking only that we return at a predetermined time later that evening to review some of the details of our game strategy. We had about three hours on our own and there was only one thing on our minds--MEXICO. The team hopped on the trolley and headed for San Ysidro.

Day Two (continued): International incidents...

After corralling the troops on the other side of the border, we were mobbed by taxi drivers eager to take our fares to haul us all down to the main drag in Tijuana--Avenida Revolucion. For only five dollars a car, the drivers promised safe transport to the strip. Leery of their seemingly generous offer (considering cab fares in Chicago) we reluctantly piled 5 people each into three seperate cabs and were whisked away, weaving in and out of traffic like a sidewinder in the desert sand. I don't know how, but somehow those Mexican cab drivers got us to our destination some three miles south without an incident--God is good.

One word for what we saw: "interesting". Shop upon shop upon shop, all selling basically the same stuff all seeking our business. The strong smell of leather was in the air and the merchants beckoned us inside "Oye, amigo! Come in here--look around!" Fearing a total rip-off, I refused to purchase anything, favoring the age-old addage "you get what you pay for" over the low prices we found, but that didn't stop me from haggling with some of the merchants just for grins and giggles. Boasting of his stock of Rolex, Movado, and TAG watches, one old vendor proclaimed in a thick Mexican accent "These watches are not fakes ... they are replicas." Snickering, I walked away. I had never before seen a Rolex for $43 and to think that it wasn't fake--only a replica! Wow.

In the last stop of the evening, Evan and I stopped into one shop where I decided to have some fun with the locals. A lady behind the counter recognized me from my earlier visit and asked me if I still needed that Movado watch I was eyeing in mock interest. I confirmed her suspicions and imploring me not to leave, she went to her "warehouse" (probably and old Chevy Impala parked out back) to grab just the watch I was looking for. When she returned, she produced a Movado (though not the one I was seeking) and a Guess "replica." I turned down the Guess and inquired as to the price of the Movado.

Big Dan haggles with the natives...

"For you? 58 dollars". Other vendors on the strip had offered prices as "low" as $25 for the exact same watch!

"Fifty eight dollars, eh?" I gingerly and rather deliberately replaced the watch on the counter top. "Noooo thank you. That is waaaay too much."

"Well, what's the most you are willing to pay?"

"What I'm willing to pay is not important right now. What is the absolute best price you can give me on this watch?" What she didn't realize is that I too was a salesman for about 2 years before returning to school and I knew exactly what game she was playing.

"Fifty eight dollars is my best price."

"I'll give you ten dollars." I offered her with stern voice and steely gaze.

Looking insulted, she replied "Oh no, amigo. I cannot do that. I pay more than $10 for this watch!!!"

"Well, maybe you did, but I'm sure not!" I began to walk out.

I got within 10' of the door and her "best price" fell to $40. I thanked her and headed back out the door. She stopped me yet again and offered $30. I stopped, contemplated her offer and countered with $15. She declined with some disgust again so I continued walking. I was in the middle of the sidewalk outside the store when she screamed "TWENTY DOLLARS!!!". I almost bit, but thought I'd toy with her a little more. I told her "no" and walked on a little further.
"Okay fine.....17 dollars--my best price!"
This was starting to get fun and I began to wonder just how bad she wanted to sell me that piece of junk. "Hrmm....seventeen dollars, eh?" I looked at Evan, I looked at the watch, I looked at the woman.
"I'll give you sixteen dollars".

"NO. Seventeen dollars. That is my best price. You buy it now, please."

By this time I had totally lost interest in the watch and wanted only to leave that grubbbiest of grubbies. I refused her offer, turned and walked away, telling her that $15 is the absolute most that I would dish out on her wares. She became rather indignant and walked ahead of us around the corner, presumably back to her "warehouse" to put the watch back. I had often heard of stories of the haggling in Mexican markets, but I had never before experienced it for myself. Very interesting indeed.

The gathering

At 8:00 the entire team gathered at the corner we were origninally deposited upon and we all began to trade stories. Evan related his story of how he bought a marble chess set for only $23 and still others told grand tales of how they bought "real" TAG and Guess watches for mere pesos. All in all, it was a great deal of fun for all involved with the possible exception of one of our freshman who fell victim to a camera thief. Win some, lose some.

Day Three: The game...

From the very start, nothing seemed to go right. I missed the tip-off and everyone on the starting line came out rather "flat." SDSU immediately took an early lead and held us down for quite a while, amassing dunk after dunk, shot after shot. They had us down by about 18 or so in the middle of the first half, but then their adrenaline rush wore off and we eventually tied and took a 1 pt lead--the biggest and only Wildcat lead of the game. The tenacious play of Freshmen Joe Harmsen and Matt Moran were probably the most instrumental factors in getting us back into the game. I am very proud to be on the same team with these two super-frosh--they never give up and their work ethic is second to none. Matt wound up leading our team in rebounding, finishing the game with a whopping eleven boards and also in scoring with 14 points. I expect Matt Moran to take the starting position any day now as his play far exceeds what anyone could ever have expected of him.

The second half was much like the first, with the exception of our scoring. We wound up losing this game 63-83.

After the game, Coach Byrdsong immediately attributed the guards' play as a major contributing factor to our loss, but we all knew deep down inside that with the exception of Matt, all of us were at fault. Matt was the only real bright spot in an otherwise lackluster performance.

Day Four: The journey home...

Morning cames way too soon in the land of perpetual sunshine and before we knew it we were on our way back to the frozen tundra of Evanston, Illinois. It was a long, silent ride home and without a doubt the worst road trip I've ever been on.

Final analysis...

Although quite disappointing, I do not expect a recurrance of this game in the future. We've got 10x more talent, drive and desire than our team last year--it's just a matter of getting us all clicking at the same rate at the same time. Once that happens, watch out for the Wildcats because we're going to shock some people.
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