When I tell people that I’ve been to a bunch of countries with basketball, I’m often asked what place was my favorite.
I usually reply with a question of my own: do you mean on the court, or off the court? Because the answers are different.
On the court, I’ll write about in a different post.
Off the court, I’d have to say México.
This answer surprises people. Mexico is a third world country where the standard of living for the average person pales in comparison to that of the average American or European.
10-plus years ago, one American dollar was worth about 11 Mexican pesos. Today, one dollar is worth 19 pesos. The gap is widening.
Many parts of Mexico that I spent time in were dusty, dangerous and essentially lawless (not to say that the whole country is like this). Everywhere else I’ve been via basketball has been in Europe, in countries that, and with people who, are maybe more sophisticated than the USA and Americans.
So why México?
Because my time there was unpredictable and anything-goes.
Always. And in all ways.
I spent the majority of my time in Guadalajara. Don’t ask me what neighborhood or area of town. When I first got there, my Mexican agent put me and another American up in Hotel Minerva, a dark, dank, dusty, dingy place that would not have passed health-code inspections in the USA. I never took a shower in Hotel Minerva. All my teammate, who was from Chicago, and I did was eat Burger King (the only American place around us), tacos, and walk the streets of Guadalajara talking to females.
We quickly learned that a tall, Black American man is a celebrity in the streets of Mexico.
We weren’t exactly being mobbed while walking around, but all the women would look — hard — at us when passing by.
It didn’t matter if they were with another man when when they saw us either. It also didn’t matter if they were in a school uniform standing at a bus stop, and looked not a day over the age of 15. Their laws aren’t our laws.
It. Did. Not. Matter.
Me and my Chicago teammate (we called him Chi-Town) found a mall one day. We walked through that place and took turns talking to every single of-age-looking female who crossed our paths. I mean, every single one. The brief exchanges usually led to us putting said female’s number in our phones (we’d bought Mexican SIM cards to use our phones in the country).
One initial hurdle to all of this was that we couldn’t converse in Español.
While Chi-Town never bothered learning, thus limiting his interactions to women who could actually speak English, my three years of high school Spanish classes began to pay off for me.
I knew a lot of basic words, but it was my recollection of verbs and their conjugations that paid off the most.
To call. To come. To talk. To eat. To go. To play. To write. To do. To know. To say. To understand.
You can see how knowing theses words and how to use them made conversation very possible.
My basic Español came back to me quickly, and from that foundation I was able to learn a lot more while in Mexico. While Chi could only talk to girls who spoke English, I was seeing and meeting women who didn’t even speak a single word of English.
Later, I linked up with Tim after I’d moved to another part of Guadalajara (a big city that has 50% larger land mass than Miami and three times its population). Tim was from Mississippi, but had similar ambitions when it came to females. Tim had been in Mexico long before me, knew the town a lot better and knew a good amount of locals in Guadalajara even though he, like Chi-Town, spoke no Spanish whatsoever.
Tim put me on to a club in the downtown (?) of the city called Wall Street that was a ten-minute drive from where we stayed. There was a Mexican girl who spoke perfect English who Tim knew; she had dated a different American teammate of his. She had a Jeep and dropped us off at the club the first time we went.
Wall Street was most popping on Tuesday nights. We went there probably six Tuesdays in a row when we were in town. The women there were just as “ready” — a term my guy G always used — as anywhere else. One night at Wall Street I sat to Tim’s left at the bar as he talked with a chick who was on his right. To my left stood a Mexican woman and man who seemed like a couple, at least by the way they would make out with each other every few minutes. In between the kissing, though, the female — who was between me and her guy — ran her fingers up and down the side of my arm while giving me the most inviting of looks.
It was that level of wide-open at every night spot we went to in Mexico.
One particular Tuesday night, Tim and I were without girls, but had the same idea: go to Wall Street to meet some.
Problem was, if we went, we wouldn’t have a ride back home, and neither of us knew the way well enough to navigate a walk.
So we went anyway.
The plan was to meet some females who had a car who would be our rides back home that night (or the next morning).
We went and, active as we were, our “plan” failed.
So here we were, 2 AM, on the streets of Mexico with no ride home AND no idea how to get home by walking. I knew the name of the street we lived on, but nothing else. Tim, the México veteran, knew even less than that.
So we started walking.
With no idea where we were going, we agreed to walk until we found a gas station or all-night McDonald’s, at which we’d ask a worker for directions.
After about ten minutes of waking, some Mexican police came upon us.
If you’ve never been to Mexico, know that the police there aren’t like the American cops whose (stayed) job is to protect and serve. Mexican cops rode around in trucks with two people in the front seats and two cops standing up/holding on in the back. Their guns weren’t glock 9s; they were much larger types that had to be strapped across their chests. Every time I saw Mexican cops, they appeared to be on patrol for finding and snuffing out trouble with those big guns.
One night I had come out of my apartment and walked to the street at the same time as one of those police trucks passed by. They stopped and a cop hopped off the back to question me. Luckily I knew enough Spanish to satisfy him (“I live in this building”) and he let me be. I’d heard stories of police shakedowns of Americans who weren’t such good Español communicators.
Though I still had my Spanish-speaking skills, this Mexican police encounter carried with it some issues.
- We were two Americans walking along a quiet residential street at 2 in the morning on a Tuesday.
- We had no idea where we were or if we were going in the right direction.
- Tim couldn’t speak Spanish.
The four cops all got out of the truck and surrounded us. Before anything, they had us put our hands on the truck and patted us down (ain’t no civil rights in Mexico). They were probably looking for drugs; I knew players who’d been caught with weed and not arrested, but robbed of cash in exchange for being let free. Good thing that neither of us smoked.
Then the police started asking questions.
I did the talking, explaining that we were just walking home from Wall Street. Once they saw that I understood Spanish, the cops relaxed. I felt safe enough with them to ask for a ride. But not before Tim spoke up.
“My 40 pesos!”
The cop who had searched Tim had stolen money from Tim’s pocket, then pretended as if he did not understand English.
I told Tim to consider it taxi money.
How and when did I improvise in other ways on and off the court, and how did it get me to where I am today? I’ll show you in my new book Work On Your Game: Using The Pro Athlete Mindset To Dominate In Sports, Business and Life. Get all these preorder bonuses when you order it today.