Playing basketball has proved a good time so far. The guys are a little rough, and things get heated rather quickly, but we have fun and the game keeps us moving. Eli ain’t too bad, himself. The best, though, are the couple guys who actually have a little basketball know-how, and play within the spirit of the game. First is Suleyman, who appears to be about 45 years old, and is probably the shortest player I’ve ever seen. He’s tiny, but rotund. He’s a great passer and a good ball handler. Unfortunately, he’s always on the other team. One of the most entertaining plays is when someone hurls the ball from one end of the court to the other and Suleyman has to chase it down, as he rumbles his rotund self to the ball. He’s a really nice guy, and I enjoy playing with him. The other guy is Rovşən, who is really quick and athletic, also around 45, I’d guess. He’s a light-spirited guy, and I like playing with him because he’s so quick. The last guy I’ll mention is Kamal, probably around 18 years old, and he’s a really nice guy. He’s sort of taken with me, always impressed by anything I do, since, you know, I’m American. He seems to be a rather gentle soul.
Aside from a few people we play with, I’ve noticed something that’s sort of interesting. It’s like basketball in Azerbaijan has acculturated to the local custom. I’ve written here about how in public, when someone’s feet touch yours the offender will grab your hand and apologize. Well, knocking feet happens all the time in a game of basketball, right? Right. Which means at any given time during the game, you’ve got to be ready for someone to grab your hand for apology’s sake. This is sort of bizarre, like when you are running towards the hoop, and all of a sudden someone just grabs your wrist or hand for this purpose. It’s just sort of surprising, is all. I can’t wait til the days when I return to the US, play a game of basketball, and can’t stop grabbing other players’ hands for this purpose. That will go over real well.