I decided to take a trip to Israel. I was sick and tired of sitting at my house, wondering if the teams’ reluctance to pay for my plane ticket was the only thing holding me back from a job. I figured if I flew out here a myriad of possibilities would materialize. That turned out to be wishful thinking.
Let’s start with a positive. I have been crashing with the family of one of my teammates in Beer Yaakov, and they are exceedingly kind. They have housed me, fed me, taken me to their family functions, and even done my laundry. I couldn’t ask for more.
I have tried to be better at keeping my normally messy lifestyle in check out of respect for this family, but it has been a challenge.
If I gain any sort of foothold on a room it will become a sprawling mess of clothes and trash within a few days. The thing is, I don’t even really notice. I have no qualms about living amongst my dirty laundry and empty water bottles. The family doesn’t appear to be bothered, but my friend finds it rather appalling. Not in a way that makes him upset with me, but kind of like the way my brother would feel. My friend is the kind of guy who makes his bed every morning and changes his sheets every 3 days, so he can’t wrap his head around the idea that someone can comfortably live with his personal things in such a state of disarray. I don’t know what to tell him. It’s just the way it is. I am sure my limited olfactory capabilities play a role.
I was planning on being out of this family’s hair last Sunday. I had a deal all but signed with a second division team in the north named Meggido. I was excited to move up there and begin practicing. I had met with the management and verbally worked out the rough details of the agreement. They seemed determined to get me on the roster, and I was looking forward to finally putting an end to the uncertainty of wondering where I would be this season.
A peculiar aspect of the negotiations was that the owner told me in no uncertain terms that he would not deal with my agent. He said that it was late in the signing period, they knew what they could offer, and I could either take it or leave it. They made it clear that if my agent got involved they would no longer be interested in signing me. I told them that was fine and that I would have a final answer for them within a couple days.
The following day I had a meeting with my agent. We were to discuss all my potential options, except Meggio, which I knew to keep a secret.
The meeting was sobering. My options, according to him, were to just kind of wait around and hope. There was a first division team that needed a guard, but they had serious reservations about signing me. That was pretty much all he could tell me.
He was confident that I would have many more opportunities if I were to wait and see what happened over the next couple months. Teams that lose a few games to start the season inevitably want to add some new players. This sounded eerily similar to the advice I was getting from this guy the whole summer: “Wait, something will come up.” That strategy has not been working out for me so far.
While I was absorbing the news that there was basically zero interest in my services, I was comforted by the fact that I at least had the other offer in my back pocket. That’s when my agent got a phone call. He proceeded to have a 10 minute conversation. I whipped out my Kindle and absorbed myself in Dune. That is a badass science fiction novel, if anyone is looking for a new book.
He hung up the phone, and said, “That was the owner of Meggido.” I was flummoxed. Why did they tell me that mentioning any details about my pending deal was tantamount to ruining the whole agreement, and then call my agent the next day? Bizarre. My agent said he would work on getting me better terms than what they were offering. I was wary, as Meggido had told me that the reason they didn’t like working with my agent was because he had pissed them off in past negotiations by being too demanding.
I called the Meggido owner after my meeting and asked him what the deal was. I needed to know why had called my agent. He was totally casual in his reply, as if he wasn’t recently doing everything he could to stop me from making the slightest peep about this to my agent. He simply said that he “figured we would have to involve him at some point.” I could do nothing but shrug my shoulders. 24 hours ago they were adamant that they would have nothing to do with this guy, and then they do a complete 180 without telling me.
Somehow I was not surprised when I got a call from my agent the night before the signing deadline. “The deal is off.” I don’t know if it was due to his incompetence, but I have my suspicions. According to my agent, the team decided that I was injury prone and not worth the risk. I’ll probably never know what really happened.
The crumbling of that deal left me with some peculiar, hard to resolve feelings. On one hand it was devastating. I put in a lot of work this summer, and after what felt like an eternity I was on the brink of finally being able to go somewhere and showcase my skills.
But I also felt a kind of relief. I knew it was antithetical to what I should be feeling, but it was there nonetheless. There has been a growing part of me that has become completely fed up with being jerked around by factors outside my control. I want to play basketball, but if my only option is to be at a remote location and on one of the worst teams in Israel, that is not so appealing. There was a sense of freedom that came along with the contract being nixed.
Since the time that deal fell apart I have just been working out and relaxing at my friend’s place. Some other opportunities have presented themselves, but nothing that is concrete, and they would all involve me waiting around for several more weeks with nothing guaranteed.
I have been going to watch my old teammates play their practice games, and I recently ran into the coach and owner of the team that we defeated in the semi finals last year. They didn’t even know I was on the market, and immediately said they would see what they could do about signing me. They said my agent never spoke with them. I specifically inquired about the possibility of signing with this team when talking with my agent, and he always immediately dismissed the idea.
The team said if they had known about me in August they would have taken me in a heartbeat. Things are a little more complicated now that the season is so close to starting.
I can’t really be upset about this, because I knew I could sign with certain second division Israeli teams in August. I was playing the waiting game with Italy, and that forced me to forgo some other opportunities. I don’t regret that. I knew there were inherent risks with putting off Israel. That being said, it is still lame of my agent to not inform me of every option at my disposal.
So at this point it appears I am headed back home, barring a great deal materializing within the next few days. I am considering going to a D-League tryout for the Reno Bighorns. That could be a really cool opportunity, and it would afford me the peace of mind that I have yet to completely give up on the dream. A decent season there could open up some intriguing avenues in Italy for the following season.
But maybe basketball has run its course. Maybe the limited interest from even the most lackluster of teams is the wake up call I need to change direction with my life.
I have been coming to terms with that possibility. I was able to make it pretty far in basketball. I didn’t come close to accomplishing my ultimate goals, but it’s been a good run nonetheless. I am still young, and if I think if I channel all the energy I put into basketball into a different endeavor I can be just as successful. I am not quite ready to stop playing, but if I did call it quits it would be much less painful at this point than at any other time since I left school.
All this big picture decision-making has made me think deeply about how important it is to keep everything in perspective. I recently got the sobering news that a 16 year old from my hometown, Kevin Cordasco, was taking his “Make-A-Wish” trip. This brave little dude has battled cancer since he was 9 years old, and at times has made tremendous progress, but his most recent test results were not encouraging.
I have known Kevin since he was in kindergarten. He used to attend my basketball camps. I have spent a fair amount of time with him because he is a good friend of my sister.
He has been in and out of the hospital, gone through countless rounds of chemo, and experienced excruciating radiation treatments. Somehow, through it all, he has kept a positive attitude. I have actually never seen him in a bad mood. He has even been able to maintain a sense of humor throughout this ordeal, which is amazing.
He also possesses a strong interest in politics, social issues and calling people out on their bullshit. He consistently posts more thought-provoking things on facebook than most of my Ivy League educated friends. He is the definition of someone being wise beyond their years.
I understand that each person has to battle the demons in his own life, regardless of how insignificant their problems are in the grand scheme of things. The whole idea of getting happier by telling yourself “there are starving kids in Africa, so enjoy your life you wuss” is kind of played out. But just because a way of thinking is cliché does not mean that there is no benefit in reminding yourself that it is based in truth. I believe that most people, me especially, need to do a better job of appreciating how fortunate they are.
It is a disservice to people like Kevin to wallow in self pity, or think that the world owes you a favor because your professional basketball career isn’t going quite as you envisioned.
Along those lines, Kevin posted this on facebook about a month ago:
“The 1 question that can define whether you have a good life or not is: Do you get worked up about little things such as forgetting a homework assignment or does she like me? If so, then yes you have a pretty good life.”
That about sums it up. So while I sort out my future I will also be praying for the health of my little bud. Miracles happen.
This is a site where you can donate to his cause. http://talbertfamilyfoundation.org/pages/Kevin%20Cordasco.html