Bobcat Abroad: Tommy Freeman (December 12)

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As we near Christmas, the team’s struggles have continued. We are currently 1-9 in our league and sitting at the bottom of the standings. Our lone win came against BBC Nyon at home by 13 points. Our defeats have been by close to 20 points each contest. We are generally able to compete with teams for 3 quarters before running out of steam in the final stanza. We have tried changing our defensive philosophy, team meetings, and reviewing our mistakes on tape all to no avail. However, we have had more success in the Swiss Cup tournament. We have defeated two B league teams and now face a C league team in the Quarterfinals. It would be a major achievement to advance to the final game of the Cup and hopefully come away with some silverware for this season as it has been 28 years since the last time Massagno advanced to the finals.

As for me personally, this last month and a half has also been a struggle in multiple areas of my life. The holidays are always tough away from home. Thanksgiving just isn’t the same overseas. No large meals, football doesn’t begin until 6 in the evening, and most of all, you can’t be around your family and friends. Only a few days before this holiday was my birthday. When I was at OU, I could go out for a nice dinner with friends or go out and have a drink and maybe mom would send cupcakes for the team to eat after practice. Over here it’s just another day in the books. Sticking to our routine of practice followed by meals at ABC Ristorante. It is nice to hear from people wishing you Happy Birthday that you might have not spoken to in a while. Even if it is just a comment on Facebook or Twitter, taking the time to thank or at least like each person’s post gives me something new to do on that day that breaks the routine.

Apart from the holidays, I also have been battling some injuries. It started at a practice on a Thursday evening when I was diving to save a ball from going out of bounds and to avoid sliding into the wall, bent backwards which resulted in straining a muscle in my back. I visited the ER with my teammates and received an X-ray just to make sure that I had not fractured one of the ribs. The results came back negative but I was hampered by the pain as our next contest approached that Sunday. Coach played me sparingly against Monthey so I did not injure my back any further. However, at the beginning of the 4th quarter I stepped on one of my team mate’s shoes rolling my ankle forward over my 4th and 5th toes and sideways at the same time. I immediately clutched my ankle as I had never felt that much pain from a sprained ankle before. I again visited the hospital in the morning where they took an X-ray of my ankle to determine if any bones had broken. Luckily the results of this were also negative and a few hours after leaving the hospital I began physical therapy. I worked hard each day. Beginning with weights to keep my calf, hamstring, and quad strong, I progressed each day and was soon doing balancing exercises and pool workouts along with biking for 20 minutes to warm myself up each day. During these 20 minutes of biking I utilized the time to practice Italian words that we had learned in class. I made flash cards during practices in the evening and quizzed myself as I sat spinning away the next day at the gym. For my birthday, I also received Italian lessons on CD, which I put into my ITunes and then on my IPod so I could bike and listen to them at the same time. I think most of the other people in using the gym though I was crazy sitting there repeating Italian words that were elementary to them. Guess I just stopped caring what a lot of people think a long time ago and have learned to laugh at myself in these situations.

I remained in therapy every day for 3 weeks and did not play or practice for 2 weeks. It was a relief to finally get on back on the court and attempt to help the team. I worked hard and pushed myself to get in better shape during my injury by pushing myself to lift higher weights than my therapist asked and increasing the resistance on the bike each day while attempting to go further in the same 20 minutes. I also began walking to town to keep the circulation running through my ankle and then come home in the afternoons and evenings and ice it before going to bed. I liked walking to town to see the new festive holiday decorations that were being put on display throughout the downtown area. I also began to check off names on my Christmas gift list as I found souvenirs or objects that I thought people on that list would like. Christmas shopping while being so far away makes things difficult. Figuring out how to get things to the proper person and place was a challenge of itself. My dad has helped me out with a lot of the stuff for people in the States. However, I’ve still had to send some stuff that I purchased over here through the mail which has not been the most reliable considering UPS lost my Xbox when I sent it off to be repaired.

From my birthday and Thanksgiving I’ve also received some care packages from my girlfriend Helen, Aunt Renee and Uncle Bill, and my Grandma Ruth. Finally Double Cheeseburger Hamburger Helper!!!!!!!! It is my little slice of heaven when I can take an hour in the kitchen and make this heavenly meal. I think I take almost twice as long as normal eating it just so I can enjoy every morsel. In my boxes I also received some candy, Grandma’s special seasoned Chex Mix, some more packets of ranch dressing, Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch, Nutter Butter’s, and the new Taylor Swift CD. I think Pete is getting pretty tired of the same songs on repeat for the last 3 weeks but has refused to say anything to this point. It’s either that CD or the alternative; listen to the radio in Italian and songs that we can’t understand.

Life in Lugano is nice. It is a quiet town in the colder months. As Christmas nears, a tree has been set up by the lake with an ice rink nearby. Neon snowflakes and lights hang from lamp posts and across streets. We received our first dusting of snow over the weekend and as we travelled to Geneva for our match on Sunday, I noticed that everywhere else in Switzerland had received a few inches. They had told us that Lugano was more mild than most of the country and until I had seen the rest of the countryside for myself I had not realized how nice we had it. I continue to marvel at the scenery as we take part in cross country road trips to compete in our matches. Being from Indiana, it is a big change to see snow topped mountains sprawled along the highway with vast lakes in the valleys between the peaks. It is hard to capture the beauty of it through pictures and even harder to explain through words. It’s one of those things in life that you just have to see in person to truly appreciate.

We have three games left before the holiday break in which we will attempt to defeat Fribourg, Lugano, and Nyon. 2 of the 3 are at home and we are hoping to have strong showings in all 3 contests. After these matches it will be a nice 10 days in England for Christmas, New Years, and Helen’s sister’s wedding. I predict lots of shopping and maybe a few beverages at the wedding and New Years to celebrate the occasions. Other than that my priorities are to eat as much Chinese, fish & chips, Taco Bell, and Nando’s Chicken as I can in a 10 day period. This will first time that I’ve ever attended Christmas with my significant other and will be meeting most of her family for the first time between the wedding and Christmas. Needless to say I am a little nervous about the overwhelming number of new people I will be meeting in such a short period of time and hoping that I don’t embarrass her too muchJ. Once again thank you for taking the time to read my latest instalment of my blog and to all I wish a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I hope they are filled with joy as they are spent around the people you love and cherish the most. Until next time take care of yourself.