So I know that this is already old news since the USA men’s basketball team just beat Greece last night, but it was an amazing experience so here it is. I was at the USA vs CHINA men’s basketball game on Saturday, August 10, 2008, when USA dominated the second half to beat China a whopping 101 – 70.
The morning of August 10, my supervisor took me aside from my team of Chinese workers and asked if I’d be interested in going to the basketball game that night. I shook my head like a kid waiting to open a Christmas present – hell ya, I wanted to go, it’s only the biggest basketball game of the Olympics! She said that she had to get the approval from a supervisor but it was a possibility that I could go. But only one could go and I was asked not to share this with my teammates. A couple hours later she confirmed that I would be going to the basketball game. Inside I was jumping up and down.
As my teammates headed home, they worried about me staying back without an umbrella and wasn’t quite sure why I didn’t want to go home. There were another group of volunteers from the baseball venues I hadn’t met and that were lucky enough to go too. We all waited for the shuttle/golf cart to pick us up. There was a torrential downpour that night so the shuttle was greatly appreciated. All of my Emerson classmates were on the other side of town at All Star, a new bar with a ridiculous amount of flat screens tvs, as I made my way to the lit up square basketball arena through the pouring rain.
I perched myself on a railing in the media area securing a great view of the game. 15 minutes into it, my supervisor grabbed my arm and pulled me through the crowd of photographers and journalists that congregated in the walkway. Yanked away from my spot I had no idea what was going on. She wanted me to help guard an entranceway into the press tribune since I was the only native English-speaking volunteer. That was okay by me since that put me directly behind the goal post a couple stories up and close enough when the players yelled, I could hear them. And since I was in the press tribune area, I was surrounded by monitors showing close-ups of the game if I missed a beat with my own eyes. I wondered how I could be so lucky.
It was amazing to watch the China-USA game standing beside a Chinese woman commenting on the fans, atmosphere and plays. She said the Chinese fans were crazy because they still would cheer for the beloved Kobe and all of the USA team as much as the Chinese team. And when they cheered, the entire stadium erupted like thunder in cheers like I’ve never seen before.
A couple of sections to my left, President Bush sat almost aligned with my row. Despite the range, I could see him shaking his head, sitting back and then clapping his hands above his head when the USA team dominated the floor. A couple of journalists peering over my shoulder had me point him out and later I would hear them sharing the President’s location with fellow colleagues.
When there was 10 minutes left of the game, Carolyn, my superviser, and I headed down to the mixed zone to help out. My Chinese Momma was waiting there and gave me a massive bear-hug welcome. She then gave me a quick tour of the mixed zone. Itching to watch the end of the game, I heard music to my ears: they had enough volunteers to man the mixed zone so I could just watch the athletes as they went by!
Carolyn whispered that I could sneak pictures but to keep it unnoticeable. Pictures were not allowed at all in the mixed zone but one NBC guy was solely there to take pics with his personal camera and my stealthiness quickly faded when it was evident I wasn’t going to be really reprimanded for snapping pics here and there.
When Yao Ming rounded his way to the print journalists, a horde of people rushed so hard to interview him that the metal barrier barged toward the athlete! He then shook his head and wasn’t going to put up with such ruthless journalists and made his way back to the locker rooms. All the while, I pitch in in an effort to reclaim the barriers original layout.
When the USA team first walked by, Kobe and LeBron jumped the barriers, skipped half of the mixed zone, and flew straight back into the locker rooms. As Jason Kidd leisurely walked by, he looked back to a staff member and asked, “Aren’t we supposed to be talking to these people?” The staff member shook his head and then all the players were gone and left the media wondering if they were going to come back.
After what seemed like forever, the USA basketball team re-emerged for their interviews. I listened in on Howard until I was distracted by Kidd. Then I’d hop over to another lump of journalists surrounding a player. I made myself right at home and more than a couple of times, the players glanced my way probably wondering what the hell I was doing. I didn’t care, I was savoring the moment. I was by the rail as Kobe walked by. Right in front of me, he turned around to speak to someone in Italian and I so wanted to blatantly take a picture, but I contained myself. Besides, I already have one picture of me with him.
While in the mixed zone, I met Marc Spears with the Boston Globe, and he wrote a fantastic article on that night (Check it out here ). He’s been reporting on basketball for 10 years and the players know him by name which was really cool to see then converse. From that, I found out the team was heading to The Great Wall the next day and that they were having a hard time getting tickets to other events!
I’m going to use one Mr. Spears’ closing lines, “it was easy to see this was the most memorable night of basketball this country has seen,” and I was there to witness history been made.
-During the game, I definitely saw one journalist on Facebook
-One Chinese volunteer informed me after-the-fact, that a Chinese pop-star, Li Ke Qin, was standing right beside me!
-After the game, I met up with my fellow Emersonians in full uniform at Bling, a lush club, to partake in the last of that night’s celebrations over USA’s fierce win.
-I’ve got to run to work now…