Illinois Keane and the Temple of Hoops

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HuaiHai Institute of Technology

Today I had the pleasure of teaching some second-year students the intricacies of the sentence. I expounded on the endless joys and functions of this fundamental mode of communication. My students now have far more knowledge about the sentence than they could ever hope to put into good use. Sometimes this job is just too much fun…

In my free time I’ve been lending two paddle-sized hands to the woeful Foreign Language Teachers’ basketball squad. Throw in a couple of size thirteen galoshes and nearly two meters of raw American power, and you’ve got one totally revamped basketball squad. I was counting on my natural advantages (impressive frame, athleticism, youth, toughness, etc.) to at least intimidate the other teams in this interdepartmental hoops league. But I think my nationality only served to stoke the competitive fire of the other teams. Remember Beijing? The U.S. handed China an embarrassing loss in the gold medal game. I know the Chinese certainly remember that one.

And I was pretty much running out there alone. I mentioned that youth was one natural advantage that I had working for me. Of course, I’m not that young anymore—the shin splints alone had me walking like John Wayne the day after our first game. In comparison with the other guys out there, I was by far the youngest. It wouldn’t be presumptuous for me to say that I was the most concerned with fitness either. Some of my teammates liked to warm up their lungs before the games with a couple top-grade Chinese cigarettes. Lord only knows what kind of horrors they allow in their smokes over here. That issue aside, I was usually the only one playing defense, grabbing rebounds, passing the ball, hustling, caring at all about keeping the score close, desperately wanting to save face for my country…maybe this last point is saying enough.

I never really felt the competitive drive pump so furiously through my veins as I did when playing ball against these jokers. This is a huge cultural difference between the U.S. and China. Whenever my team missed an open shot or failed to crash the boards I found myself tasting bitter disappointment rising in the back of my throat. Or maybe that was acid reflux? I may have discovered the inherent competition that comes from an American upbringing; and along with that I found an insatiable thirst for victory. It’s safe to say that I haven’t discovered a peaceful center in the tradition of Buddhism or Taoism. But at least I’ve grown more tolerant of chili peppers since being here.

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