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读报:CBA美国外援的中国生活

(2007-05-13 20:35:01)
分类: 资讯:报刊
WSJ 2007年05月12日11:24 读报:CBA美国外援的中国生活                                          
居住在中国的外国人有很多不同的圈子,从学生到来中国寻找职业第二春的退休老人不一而足。其中最有趣、最不寻常的一个群体就是活跃在中国男子篮球职业联赛(CBA)赛场上的30名外国球员,当然他们这个圈子也是人数最少的。他们的地位十分奇怪,他们深入触及到中国文化,但同时又游离于这种文化的边缘。他们是极致的外国人,往往居住在中国内陆的中小城市,与美国“同乡”相隔很远,但他们内部之间惺惺相惜。

在CBA 16只球队中,除一只队伍以外都有两名外国球员。(代表中国人民解放军参赛的八一双鹿没有外援,他们多次夺得联赛冠军。)几乎所有的外国球员都是非裔美国人,他们中大多数不会讲中文,在中国也没有什么亲戚朋友。他们住在当地的酒店中,而他们的中国队友则住在集体宿舍。各个队伍为他们开出的薪酬也各不相同,8,000-25,000美元不等,并提供食宿津贴。与美国职业联盟不同,CBA似乎在很多方面都没有统一标准,因此对效力于不同球队的外国球员来说,他们的住宿条件及日常生活质量差别非常大。

在这些外国球员中,不乏曾效力于NBA球队的球员,还有几个是在大学篮球赛中脱颍而出的。看着手中的外国球员名单,我的目光停留在高德(God Shammgod)这个名字上,很有趣的是我记得他是一个动作敏捷、得分欲望很强的后卫,他曾经在1997年带领Providence Friars队连胜三场,闯入美国大学篮球联赛(NCAA)的精英八强(Elite Eight)。他上个赛季在山西省太原打球,那是全球污染最严重的城市之一。

高德在太原的麦当劳我前往这个漫天尘土、灰蒙蒙的城市拜访高德,发现当时他住在一个条件不太好的酒店。一般球队在比赛当天就住在这个酒店,街对面就是比赛场。他平常住的酒店位于城市的另一边,整体情况要比这儿好一些。但不管在哪,高德总是和他最好的朋友--他的苹果(Apple)笔记本一起消磨时间。如果高德在中国,但没有比赛的话,他大多数时间都会上网,下载NBA比赛录像或精彩场面,通过skype聊天,发发电子邮件,或者和妻子、孩子以及NBA明星昌西"比卢普斯(Chauncey Billups)及凯文"加内特(Kevin Garnett)等众多朋友通过IM聊天。

与那些老朋友一样,高德以打篮球为生,但不同的是,他们无需忍受数小时重复的耐力测试训练,无需穿过烟雾缭绕的走廊才能到达更衣室,也无需住在浴室没有浴帘、却有烟头的酒店里。很显然,这些都是高德在大学二年级后成为职业球员时根本没有想到的。

他在1997年NBA选秀赛第二轮中被华盛顿奇才队(Washington Wizards)选中,打了20场比赛后第二年被解聘。当时他认为不久以后就会重返NBA,但事与愿违,他开始了10年的全球之旅,先后在中国、波兰、沙特阿拉伯等国家打球,现在又回到了中国,效力于这个普通联赛的最差球队。不过,我发现这位30岁的纽约人仍十分乐观,关注自己从这段经历中获得的回报,现在努力赚钱,然后回国,为自己重返NBA赛场作最后的努力。

“如果我再年轻些,现在的状况可能会令我发疯,但是现在我明白,人不可能掌控所有事情,发疯抓狂都是无济于事的,”高德这样说道。

球队中两名外国球员往往是好朋友,相互支持帮助。不过,高德基本是独自一人度过这个赛季的,因为同队另一名外国球员拉希德(Rashid Byrd)因与管理层发生矛盾离开球队回美国去了,要在一个月之后才归队。

身高约2.1米的拉希德在第一次回国前曾说,他处理不了这种情况,这是他第一次在美国以外的地方打球,或许也是最后一次了。

当说到拉希德面临的困境时,效力于广东宏远的积臣(Jason Dixon)摇了摇头。这位风趣幽默、又很安静的中锋已经在广东宏远呆了八年了。“这是他们的国家,他们的联盟也是他们的比赛,你不可能改变它,”身高2.06米的积臣说。“你对这个道理理解得越快,你才能越好地适应。我看到过很多球员来到中国后和这里的体制较劲,而不是去顺应它。”

确实有很多东西令人不解。高德所在球队的东家总是不停地“指导”主教练,从主场作战的面授机宜到客场的电话遥控。此外,每次比赛两位外国球员一共只能参加五节比赛,从而产生了非常怪异的换人模式。在上个赛季进行到一半的时候,为了给国家队亚运会集训让路,CBA休赛50天。在此期间,球员们每天都得训练。高德所在球队准了他10天假,他能够回纽约探望妻子和三个孩子。而其他球队的外援就没有这么幸运了,他们只能留在中国。

饮食是另一个问题。高德尽量在太原仅有的两家西式餐厅必胜客(Pizza Hut)及麦当劳(McDonald's)解决一日三餐。我在那里停留一天的时间里,我们吃了三次麦当劳,这也是我第一次到中国的麦当劳餐厅。如果无法到这两个地方用餐,高德一般就只吃米饭和新鲜的水果。就连会讲一些中文、与当地生活融合得比较好的积臣也尽量避开当地的饮食。“他们吃很多非常奇怪的东西,”积臣说道。在球队共同就餐的时候,他一般和一位穆斯林队友的选择一样,因为他不吃狗肉。

高德和本文作者“北京和上海很好,”高德说。“在那里生活容易些。那里有星期五餐厅(Friday's),澳拜客牛排店(Outback Steakhouse)以及各种各样的美式餐厅。”

在我从太原回来几周之后,高德的球队来北京参加比赛,我们再次见面。他们的球队下榻在离比赛场地不远一家破旧的酒店。比赛场位于北京城的最西边,距离中央商务区(CBD)近一个小时的车程。高德在那里呆了两天了,无法上网,没有他愿意吃的东西,每天就吃白米饭和喝可乐。

球队这一年的成绩一直不佳,这次又输掉了比赛。球队的教练已经换了四个,拉希德第二次离开了球队,球队本赛季的成绩已经下滑至4胜26负。在这场比赛中,高德是全队的主力,拿下46分,并有20次助攻,但是在比赛最后时刻裁判屡次判罚他们犯规之后,球队最终以一分之差输掉了比赛。在中国,一般由主队来出钱请裁判。

比赛之后,我们挤进一位中国朋友的小轿车前往市中心,希望能够找到一家在周日晚上10:30仍然营业的餐厅。我打了几个电话,希望有所斩获,还好星期五餐厅说他们到凌晨才打烊。

隔着一盘鸡翅和炸虾,我问高德他是否想过明年他会在哪里打球。

“希望是NBA,”他边把鸡翅蘸到辣味酱中边回答。“如果不行的话……我会看看到时候还有什么机会。不过我一直在攒钱,并作了不错的投资。我真的很想呆在美国。”

Alan Paul

(编者按:本文作者Alan Paul是《吉他世界》(Guitar World)的高级编辑,同时也为美国篮球杂志《灌篮》(Slam)撰写文章。因妻子工作需要,他举家从美国新泽西迁住中国,现居北京。)
阿伦
Life of an NBA Exile in China
There are many different expat communities in China, ranging from students to retirees setting out on second careers. One of the most interesting and unusual is also one of the smallest -- the Chinese Basketball Association's 30 foreign players. Their position in society is rather strange, at once profoundly engulfed in Chinese culture and living on its fringes. They are extreme expats, often living in smaller cities in the Chinese interior, isolated from communities of fellow Americans and highly dependent on one another.

All but one of the CBA's 16 teams has two foreigners. (The champion Bayi Rockets represent the People's Liberation Army and have no outsiders.) They are almost all African-Americans, most of whom speak no Chinese and have little outside support systems in the country. They live in hotels, while their Chinese teammates bunk in dorm-type accommodations, and make from $8,000-25,000 a month, plus lodging and a modest food per diem. Unlike American professional sports leagues, the CBA doesn't seem to have a lot of leaguewide standards, so the foreign players' living conditions and day-to-day quality of life vary widely from team to team.

The foreign players include several who have played in the NBA and quite a few college standouts. Looking over the list, I focused on God Shammgod, whom I fondly remembered as a quick, gutsy point guard who led the 1997 Providence Friars team to the NCAA tournament's Elite Eight. He was playing in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, one of the most polluted cities in the world.

I traveled to the dusty, dingy burg and found God in the second-rate hotel across the street from the arena where the team stayed on game nights. His regular residence was in a nicer hotel across town, but in either place he spent most of his time with his best friend -- his Apple laptop. If Shamm, as he prefers to be called, is in China and he's not playing ball, he's likely online, downloading NBA games or highlights, talking on Skype, emailing or IMing with his wife, kids and countless friends, including NBA stars Chauncey Billups and Kevin Garnett.

Like those old pals, Mr. Shammgod makes a living playing basketball, but they don't have to endure hours of repetitive, endurance-test practices, or wade through cigarette-smoke-clogged hallways to enter their locker room. Or stay in hotels without shower curtains and with old cigarette butts on the bathroom floor. Obviously, this wasn't what Mr. Shammgod had in mind when he went pro after his sophomore year of college.

He was drafted in the second round of the 1997 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards, played 20 games and was cut the following year. He thought he would be back in the league before long but instead has been on a decadelong international journey that has taken him to China, Poland, Saudi Arabia and now back to China, where he played for the worst team in a mediocre league. Yet I found the 30-year-old New Yorker in good spirits, keeping his eyes on the prize -- making some money, then returning home to continue his quest for one last shot at the NBA.

'This would have made me crazy when I was younger but now I know you can't control everything and you don't get anywhere pounding your head against the wall,' said Mr. Shammgod.

The two foreign teammates are often each other's best friends and support systems. Mr. Shammgod, however, spent much of the season as the lone American on Shanxi because 7-foot-tall Rashid Byrd clashed with management and left for the U.S., only to return a month later.

'I can't handle this situation,' said Mr. Byrd, shortly before heading home the first time. 'This is my first time outside the U.S. and it might be my last after this.'

Jason Dixon shakes his head when talking about Mr. Byrd's struggles. A funny, quiet 6-9 center, Mr. Dixon is an eight-year member of the Guangdong Tigers. 'It's their country, their league and their game and you can't change it,' he says. 'The sooner you understand that the better off you'll be. I've seen so many guys come over here and fight the system instead of making peace with it.'

It can be a lot to grapple with. The owner of Mr. Shammgod's team instructs the coach from the bench at home games and over the phone for away matches. The two foreign players can only play a combined five quarters per game, leading to bizarre substitution patterns. In the middle of the past season, the CBA took a 50-day break so the National Team could practice for the Asian Games. The rest of the players practiced daily for the entire period. Mr. Shammgod's team allowed him to return to New York for a 10-day visit with his wife and three kids. Other teams made their foreign players stick around.

Food is another constant concern. Mr. Shammgod tries to eat all of his meals at Pizza Hut or McDonald's, Taiyuan's only two Western establishments. We ate at McDonald's three times during my 24-hour visit, my first visits to a Chinese Mickey D's. When he can't make it to one of those places, he sticks with rice and fresh fruit. Even Mr. Dixon, who speaks some Chinese and is fairly well assimilated, tries to avoid local cuisine. 'They eat too much weird stuff,' he says, noting that he follows the lead of a Muslim teammate at team meals because he won't eat dog.

'Beijing and Shanghai are nice,' said Mr. Shammgod. 'Living there would be easy. They have [T.G.I.] Friday's, Outback Steakhouse and all kinds of American restaurants.'

I caught up with Mr. Shammgod a few weeks later when the team played Beijing, and all of those Western outfits seemed far, far away. The team was staying in a ramshackle, sprawling hotel near the arena, on the city's far Western fringe, close to an hour from the central business district. He had been there for two days with no Internet access and no acceptable food, living on white rice and Coke.

It was just the latest insult in a year gone bad. The team was on its fourth coach. Mr. Byrd was gone for the second time, and the season was winding down to a 4-26 record. Mr. Shammgod dominated the action in the run-down arena, scoring 46 points and handing out about 20 assists, but his team still lost by a point after a series of last-minute calls against them. This is standard practice in China, where the home team hires the referees.

After the game, we piled into a Chinese friend's subcompact and headed downtown in search of a restaurant that was still serving food at 10:30 Sunday night. I made a few phone calls and Friday's said they were open until midnight.

Over a plate of chicken wings and fried shrimp, I asked Mr. Shammgod if he had any thoughts about where he might be playing next year.

'Hopefully the NBA.' He dunked a wing into a dish of hot sauce. 'And if not ... we'll see what works out, but I've been saving money and making good investments. I'd really like to stay in the U.S.'

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