How are Team Frost Heaves and Team Wolff (including Frank, 5, and Clara, 3) going to co-exist on the Team Bus? We began to riddle out an answer to that question yesterday, when we left South Burlington for a two-game preseason trip to Quebec City.
Our driver, Mike, welcomed us on board. Felicitously enough, a Robert Frost allusion graced a sign hanging over his seat: I CHOSE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED, AND NOW I DON'T KNOW WHERE THE HELL I AM.
We weren't even at the Canadian border when a copy of Glory Road made it into the DVD player.
All props to Coach Voigt, who had asked me in advance whether the kids would be in tow, so as to make sure the players' video fare wasn't inappropriate. Glory Road seemed well within the pale. I mean, how scary could a David (Big Daddy D) Lattin dunk be? And it's a Disney production to boot.
Instead I found myself desperately trying to keep Frank from watching while Nevil Shed gets roughed up in the men's room.
"Hey, Frankie, look -- that sign is in FRENCH!" only bought me a few seconds.
But it wasn't all vigilant parenting on the ride up. Great moment when Josh Haskins, I mean Don Lucas, I mean -- you know who I mean -- reaches an understanding with Bobby Joe Hill. There wasn't a player or coach on our bus who didn't understand the Bear's comment: "O.K., you play your game. And you play my game."
That's freedom and unity, the Vermont state motto, which I've been laying on the guys for weeks now as every bit as applicable to hoops. And it echoes Coach V's philosophy of granting players lots of autonomy within a motion offense with strict principles.
In a matter of hours we'll see how it works against a real live ABA opponent, the Quebec City Kebekwa, a.k.a. Les Kebs. Will advise tomorrow.
THURSDAY, NOV. 2 -- Two of our guys trick-or-treated a South Burlington neighborhood on Halloween. At 6-foot-11" and 6-foot-7, wearing black sweats and Jason masks, Johann Collins and John Bryant went as Big, Scary People. "We got mixed reviews," says John. "People were startled at first and kind of jumped back. Said things like, 'You guys are REALLY scary.' They wanted to make sure we weren't circling 'round back to get in the house.'"
They got one comment of "You guys are a little too old to go trick-or-treating." But enough people forked over goodies to fill two pillowcases -- most of the contents of which Johann and John declined to share with their teammates. Says John: "Hey, we spent 90 minutes out there, and it was raining. We were TROUPERS.
"As we left, we'd say, 'Go check out the Frost Heaves. I'm John, he's Johann.' Figured we should be doing a little p.r."
Can only hope that that exit line took the edge off the frightful first impression.
TUESDAY, OCT. 31: Big day today. Our investors are "lined up." I'll swing by my lawyers' office this morning to "execute" the operating agreement for the team, as we "pull the trigger" on the multiple-member version of Bump in the Road Enterprises LLC.
The rhetoric of the business world may lack for imagination, but backers of the Frost Heaves sure don't, for they've joined me in seeing a way to a pro hoops team in Vermont.
I've alluded to a few of our investors in other posts, including former Vermont coach and current ESPN broadcaster Tom Brennan. Another is a fellow named Jerry Greenfield, who was initially reluctant to back us because, as he dryly put it, everything he invests in winds up failing, "with one notable exception."
That exception has put Jerry's name cheek-by-jowl with an ampersand on countless ice cream cartons. Indeed, after meeting him for the first time at a Burlington café, he dragged me back to his office and all but forced on me a thermal tote full of pint cartons to take home. It was as big a thrill as any during the past year, and had nothing to do with basketball.
Jerry has offered to supply and scoop ice cream at team functions. The company he founded is helping to underwrite the cost of our bio-diesel team bus. But the most meaningful way we could emulate Ben & Jerry's would be if, like the company that began in an abandoned gas station in Burlington's downtown, we were to go public someday with small shares available to our fans. Like the Green Bay Packers.
Community ownership: Must be a cold weather thing.
MONDAY, OCT. 30: Uh oh. The weekend brought sobering news from two ABA teams. First, Jacksonville owner Felix Krupscinski called, desperate for a stand-in for the Tampa Bay Strong Dogs, who were to have been the Jam's opponent on Nov. 19. Seems that Tampa Bay has, mere days before the season is to begin, folded. (No can do, I told Felix, given our full and balanced schedule, and gig at home the night before.)
Then I heard that the Rochester Razorsharks no longer have an opponent for this Sunday, when they were to have opened their title defense, because the Baltimore Pearls have shut down. No confirmation yet -- as I write this, the Pearls are still on the ABA Web site -- but disconcerting just the same.
This sort of eleventh-hour, other-Nike-dropping, havoc-wreaking turbulence is precisely what I've dreaded since launching the Frost Heaves. Like the umbrella you leave behind that ensures it'll rain, I have this nauseating feeling that great cavities will open up in our schedule, voodoo-like, the moment we send it to the printer.
The only slightly mitigating factor in all this: Last week an upstart outfit called the Universal Basketball League began urging members of the CBA, ABA and IBL to abandon their current arrangements for . . . well, for them.
Wrote president Ray Yannucci in an e-mail: "I am waiting to here [sic] back from you." Not a league likely to tend to the details, I'm going to guess.
The UBL charges a $2,000 fee to join -- one-tenth of what it costs to get into the ABA.