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News » FOOD FOR THOUGHT


FOOD FOR THOUGHT


FOOD FOR THOUGHT Sharing aches on a plane

Recent flight with former Spur brings realities of NBA life into sharp focus.

I came armed with earphones and a paperback, the usual defenses against airline conversation. But as I plopped down in a seat next to a traveler who required even more legroom than I did, I realized resistance was pointless.

Fabricio Oberto needed to talk.

I didn't know him well. We'd met at his first public Texas appearance, the day he was introduced as a member of the Spurs four years ago, but it's not like he was a popular locker-room interview subject. More often than not after games, he'd slip out past the crowds of cameras and microphones surrounding Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili without saying a word.

But this day was different, and you didn't need to be a psychoanalyst to figure out why. We were bound for San Antonio - the city he and his family had called home since 2005, the city where he was recently told he was no longer needed, and the city where the house he'd always figured he'd retire in now stood half-empty with a "For Sale" sign in front of it.

Understandably, Oberto had a few things on his mind.

Most of us never dream we'll end up feeling sympathy for millionaires, particularly professional athletes. They live a recession-proof, jet-setting life of luxury, with ego-stroking admirers and work days that look like recess. Sure, they have their problems, but we'd trade ours for theirs in a heartbeat.

So it's jarring, then, when you find yourself in the curious position of trying to cheer up a guy who spent your approximate net worth on his guest room. The conversation didn't start out that way - in fact, the tipping point might have been a discussion about the upcoming Austin City Limits music festival. Last year, Oberto attended all three days. This year, he'll miss it because of the Washington Wizards' training camp.

"I wish I didn't have to leave," he said.

Oberto, you might remember, was part of the trade that brought Richard Jefferson to the Spurs from Milwaukee this summer. The Bucks quickly moved him to Detroit, which let him go for salary-cap reasons. Oberto said he was hoping the Spurs would bring him back, but they signed Theo Ratliff instead.

It wasn't until the Ratliff signing that Oberto, 34, knew his time in San Antonio was over, and the realization wasn't easy. In his first American experience, the native Argentine developed a bond not only with a group of teammates but also a community, and he'd fallen hard for South Texas. His wife and daughter loved it here, and he was proud of having "learned all the tricks" about where to shop, where to eat, and what to see. After last season, he rented an R.V. and camped out at Canyon Lake. Then came the trade, a contract with the Wizards, and the sudden knowledge that everything was about to change.

"It's a whole new life," he said.

He was quick to point out how good the Wizards can be and how he's looking forward to proving himself with a new team, but his disappointment about leaving the Spurs was evident. At one point, I actually caught myself mentioning the advantages of playing in the Eastern Conference and the convenience of all the direct flights out of Washington airports, but he saw through such platitudes.

This was not unlike some of the conversations Lyle Lovett must've had with friends after breaking up with Julia Roberts. No matter what people said, he was not going to do better, and he knew it.

Oberto talked about the heart procedure he underwent in June - how his chest aches and how sometimes he feels like he can't breathe - and I was thinking about the significance of that when he pointed to a San Antonio landmark coming into focus outside his window.

"I wish I didn't have to leave," he said again.

And once we were on the ground, as he was greeted by a car waiting to chauffer him to the Dominion and I headed back to the economy lot and the security of the newspaper industry, one thought kept running through my mind:

I hope the kid makes it.

HOT LIST

A glance at the top 10 trends of the week, along with the people making them popular:

1. Outracing T.O.: Roy Williams

2. Outracing everyone else: Adrian Peterson

3. Bringing 'em back: Tom Brady

4. Getting a good bounce: Brandon Stokley

5. Throwing it away: Jay Cutler

6. Getting creative: Serena Williams

7. Ending a reign: Juan Martin del Potro

8. Keeping quiet : Bob Stoops

9. Knocking off The Man: Case Keenum

10. Eyeing redemption: Blake Gideon

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

To Phil Jackson (64) and Rasheed Wallace (35). Celebrate by remembering that while the Zen-master might speak the truth, "the ball don't lie." Oh, and both teams played hard.


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: September 18, 2009

 

 
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