Wednesday, August 13, 2008


It was getting close to leaving time at the CUC and I hadn't received an e-mail from Supervisor Alan. He usually sends me and the others basic talking points for the day, which I then research further. Anna realized this too, so she called Alan. He told her that we didn't have to come in for the first practice session because Iran wasn't generating enough interest. That gave us an extra two hours to spare to get ready for the Russian men. Remember, I wasn't able to interview former Bucknell guard J.R. Holden or Boston-bred head coach David Blatt last time. I wanted to make sure they didn't slip through my fingers again. I left Mr. Kirilenko to Anna this time. (foreshadow to a quick funny story about that)

We showed up to Shougang with our Chinese volunteer friends eagerly awaiting our arrival. Aside from seeing the players, Anna and I are their biggest forms of entertainment during work. (By the way, one of them took a picture of me interviewing Kirilenko. I put it up with day 3.) After receiving beautiful Chinese knots as gifts from them, I was ready to give back some Emerson pins. Of course I had to use the restroom first, and upon my return Anna had already given the pins out. She stole my thunder.

It's all right. I had to shift my focus to the task at hand. Get Holden. He turned me down last time and I'd be damned if he rejected me again. I made sure I got into the gym when practice ended so Holden already wouldn't be on his way out like last practice. I came around the barrier and there he was, stretching and chatting it up. When he finished, I got my positioning and put a smile on. As Holden came through, I said hey and reintroduced myself, this time including that I was originally from Worcester and was a fan of the Patriot League. (Holden went to Bucknell, whose conference rival is Holy Cross in Worcester.) That got his attention. I politely asked him to answer a couple of quick questions and he obliged. I told you I'd get him this time.

Now that I had Holden's mind on his college days, I had to ask him about the shift from playing conference rivals to Olympic rivals. He said there was no comparison but went into great detail about the locally legendary names and games he was around. I really had him excited to talk at this point. Now I could ask about his thoughts on the upcoming game and his performance the previous game. He gave some great quotes on both subjects. I could capture the emotion in his words, and that was key.

Meanwhile, Anna found another player who spoke English pretty well. When I asked who she spoke with, she said, "Andre Kriviyenko." I thought about it for a few seconds and then realized she interviewed Kirilenko without even realizing it. She blamed me for not pointing him out to her, but I just laughed. No worries, Anna. You're still awesome.

Soon after, coach Blatt walked through the hall and came right to me. I told one of the staff members I wanted to interview Blatt earlier, and he followed through on the request. The interesting part came when he asked to come sit with me at my table. By this point, Blatt knew I was from Massachusetts, so the local connection worked both times today. When he sat down he saw my book, Call of the Game by Gary Bender. He picked it up and asked,"Is that a good book?" Shocked he was showing interest in my reading material, I simply answered with a yes. 

Then we started chatting about the next game against Lithuania while Anna and I wrote down what he said. Blatt seemed genuinely interested to talk. I let him fill the short pauses because he wanted to and what he had to say was much more important. Then he told us what he told his team after the previous loss. I felt like I was right there in the locker room. Finally I asked him for an injury update, which has become routine after Oveja told me about Carlos Delfino's ankle. Blatt said Nikita Morgunov was sick and didn't practice. When I asked if Morgunov would play, Blatt let out the meat and potatoes answer, the one with all the heart and emotion that comes with being a part of the Olympics. Check back next time for the actual quote.. Saijian.

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