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
where, incidentally, the sleazy bar scene
at the end
of the movie Top
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
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
and headed for San
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
"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
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,
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
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
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
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.
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.