Mexico was the most fun place I traveled to as a player, not necessarily because it offered the most options — it offered the least — but because it was unpredictable and random. As an early-20s recent college grad with fond memories of my college party years, I welcomed that randomness with open arms.
At one point, my agent Ricardo brought me and a group of 6-7 other American players to a tournament somewhere in Mexico. Ricardo often didn’t tell us where we were going, and most of the time we didn’t ask. Remember, this was before social media and smartphones, so it’s not like we could coordinate our locations with friends or girls or anything. Wherever we were was where we were, and we made the most every location and whatever it had to offer.
For this tournament, Ricardo has us all split up and individually added to the rosters of all-Mexican teams; the games would be our auditions for the respective teams we’d play with.
What happened in those games is another story. The lodging situation for this tournament is the one I’m focusing on here.
The tournament’s court — not a gym, but court (courts in México would have a roof with columns holding the roof up, but no walls, so rain, wind and cold weather could impact games) — where the tournament was held was in the middle of fucking nowhere.
While I don’t know geographically where we were, I knew it was the middle of nowhere, because we had to drive thirty minutes from the venue to the hotel we stayed at.
Two minutes away from the hotel was a park. The park had a building that was similar to the indoor building of any public park you’ve seen, with bathrooms and such. This park also had a fully-functioning kitchen and, by some arrangement Ricardo had made, would serve as our restaurant every evening for the duration of our 5-day stay.
The food was both what I’d come to expect by that point in Mexico, and what you would expect given my description of its location and the fact that it was the indoor recreation center of a public park.
Beans. Rice. Thin pieces of grilled chicken. Dinner rolls. Things of that sort.
And hey, if you were there — in the middle of nowhere in a foreign third world country and with no idea how to get to somewhere — you’d quickly grow to accept the reality. There were literally no other options.
On the third or fourth night, games had run late, so Ricardo drove us straight to the park building for dinner rather the usual stop at the hotel to shower. Ricardo asked the women who served the food if it would OK for us players to go back into the kitchen to wash our hands before we ate. The women obliged.
I walked to the back to the sink area, and suddenly wasn’t so OK with reality anymore.
There were roaches.
On the sink.
On the 3-compartment sink that all commercial kitchens have for washing dishes, cleaning and prepping food or whatever else.
The only sink area in the place we had been eating all week had roaches.
Not one or two roaches.
Not a few roaches.
Hundreds. Of roaches. In abundance.
You ever see an army of ants crawling somewhere in a single-file line? Yeah, me too. Well, this was the roach version of that. And to me, roaches communicate a higher level of nasty than do ants.
This is where they’d be preparing our food every night. And there was no where else to go. The women working at the place were obviously OK with this being what it was; these roaches had not just appeared that day.
I didn’t even complain. I just made an extra inspection my food before eating from that point forward at the park.
A day or so later, I got a visceral lesson in the mind-body connection when I got sick.
Not coughing-stomach-ache-runny-nose sick. I would have wished to have been so lucky.
I was shitting blood. For the next five days.
And not just on a regular-bowel-movement schedule.
I’m talking the wake-up-three-times-in-the-middle-of-the-night-and-sit-on-the-toilet-for-ten-minutes-shitting-blood variety.
If you’re not familiar with this brand of digestion, keep it that way.
To this day I don’t know exactly what it was that caused my issue. I didn’t even bother mentioning it to Ricardo or any of my teammates. I still played in all the games and gutted it out (no pun intended). Maybe it was food poisoning or e.coli or just my mind purging whatever I’d been eating, roach eggs and such, from my system as quickly and as fully as possible.
To get perfect body balance, my later time in Mexico also included eye and foot infections, both of which hampered my playing ability and scared the shit out of me much worse than the stomach thing.
Maybe I’ll tell those stories.
Going through this stuff, you have no choice but to develop — or strengthen — your Mental Toughness. I’ll tell you more about Mental Toughness in my new book Work On Your Game: Using The Pro Athlete Mindset To Dominate In Sports, Business and Life coming February 22. Order it now and get these bonuses.