Not a long, long time ago
I can easily remember how that music used to make me laugh
And I knew the PA would have his chance
To sure as hell make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while
But Boris Diaw made me shiver
With step-back Joffrey delivered
Bad news on the doorstep
Pau couldn’t take one more step
I can’t remember if Huecco cried
When I read about his wounded bride
But something touched me deep inside
The day the Sube died
Bye, bye, the storyline of this tournament. None of my drunken rambling pieces in Spain have gone quite to plan, which given the material makes sense. None however have deviated off script quite as much as tonight.
This was meant to be a piece about a pub crawl and it sure began that way. The wonderful La Bona Pinta, a quiet spot near Monumental metro, was a classic start of the evening joint. Quiet place, where one could sit and write, but with quality porter like Texas Ranger on tap.
Next stop was BierCab, the real surprise of this tournament (unlike Ayon or Faried who everyone should have expected to deliver) where once again the local craft beer delivered with aplomb. The final pre-game spot was a special one. Teresa Galvan and Espiga have fought the good fight for craft beer in Catalunya and Spain better than anyone. Their Garage IPA was launched tonight in La Resistencia and I enjoyed the company of two English men from Rushden in welcoming this good brew to the world. It is a great beer, one anyone here or anywhere should try. Teresa gave me the tips I needed to enjoy this city in a way I hadn’t before, and I’ve never had a bad time in Barcelona, and it felt almost like a homecoming to share a brew with her.
Then Joffrey Lauvergne hit the dagger man.
This tournament wasn’t meant to be like EuroBasket, where upsets are exciting and welcome twists to the narrative. Serbia’s run to the Final Four was basically meant to be the shock. France, without Noah or Parker, were meant to lose to Spain. That was it. Serbia would put up a fight on Friday but on Sunday we’d have the final we all expected from the moment it was announced that it was impossible for Spain and the USA to meet before the title game.
Instead France showed that they, without Tony or Joakim, could get it done and emphatically so. Will France will it all? Hell no but they reminded their two superstars enjoying a well-earned vacation what they are missing out on by beating a Spain team that could not have been any stronger. This was it, the last ride of the golden generation, and they blew it in the face of a French team that had far more quality than I or any most other regular Euro writers expected.
No instead I had to watch Chris Mitchell of the BBC sweat. Chris Johnson, a Canadian freelancer, alerted me to his presence and heaven help poor Yuki. The only Japanese journalist permanently on the Euro hoop beat sat with this drunken Irishman as we watched Mitchell’s stuff. He and Ahmed, GB Basketball’s photographer, tried in vain to send a report from the fanzone back to the BBC.
The journey continued to McDonald’s and then the Jerusalem restaurant where Mitchell kept on trying to send an video piece across to his bosses in the UK. In Ireland, I am a giant amongst dwarves. No-one covers the basketball beat hard back home, it’s relatively easy to be the main man in my market (no-one does beer better but I fell I’ve more of a fight on that front) and I would long for someone at home to push me. Instead it’s Chris, it’s Rob Scott, it’s George Rowland, it’s John Hobbs, it’s Simon Jatsch, it’s Dave Hein, and you bet your life Bill Cosby by no means least Sam Meyerkopf who force me to realise the responsibility of being an English language writer on our game in Europe. In Serbia, Turkey, or Lithuania, there is always someone to step up to the plate. If any of us stop, the coverage takes a hit.
Chris Mitchell bears that load more than most. He’s not just an English language hoops journalist, he does it for the most important media organisation in Europe, the BBC. He fights the corner of basketball at a time when no-one will blame him if he steps away. Auntie, as they call it in Britain, cares little for our game but Chris makes her pay attention. He is in Spain because he believes it matters that the BBC is here. As I drunkenly sat explaining to Yuki and Ben, a Kiwi in our posse, how my best writing in Spain has been while drunk I couldn’t help but feel for Chris. It’s easy to call someone a pro when they are essentially doing their job. This lone outpost in the BBC is making it his job and making it the BBC’s job to care about what is going on over these 16 days of basketball.
That is something we, both as fans and media, should respect and take pride in. To know that we can inspire a man like Chris Mitchell, and indeed one like Ahmed, to keep believing when GB Basketball is on the brink of disappearing should give us pride. It also imposes on us responsibility, to know that like Catch & Shoot it would be a tragic loss if Chris had less reason to do this gig.
In this game we are many things but it fundamentally comes down to three. We know what we are and are okay with that (hands up here), to know it but lie about it, and to know it but know it’s a Sispyhean task. I ask all of you to make life better for the likes of Chris Mitchell. He is a beacon in a place where darkness reigns for our sport. I think of our Canadian brethren like Holly MacKenzie, Steve Brotherston, Tas Melas and, on a personal note, espescially JE Skeets who trudged through a dark time in Canadian basketball. Skeets said a line at Blogs With Balls in 2013 that basically got me back into journalism full-time: “If you are good enough at something, someone will pay you to do it.”
Chris Mitchell is more than good enough at what he does and his dedication, if anything, overshadows his talent. He is a beacon not just for British basketball but for the English language media in Europe. No matter what happens between here and Sunday, he is going to work his ass off for an employer who doesn’t appreciate what he does because that’s the deal and he is willing to fight.
When I look at it in that context, to hell with the script. This site would have got a ton more clicks with a storybook final but this is basketball. Huecco, if you want a bro-hug at the final that’s fine but this is our game, the story is meant to change. Mitchell, Meyerkopf, Hobbs, Hein, and Ryan will tell the story differently and that’s what it needs.