The Trip Around The Globe With
Editor's Note: Lynx center Taj McWilliams-Franklin keeps a journal during her time playing for Wisla Can-Pack Krakow in the Polish League this winter.
It was a dark and stormy night. Wait. It was a cold and snowy day. Wait. It was a bleak and rainy morning. Wait. It was a wild and crazy evening. Nah, seriously, it was just a normal day when I landed on a half snowy runway on a fourth of an empty plane. My next adventure came in the form of a 15 hour trip from San Antonio, Texas, to Krakow, Poland via Minneapolis and Paris. My first view of Poland is probably the same view everyone has of this area. It was snowy and when the flight attendant opened the door to the plane for our jaunt to the bus, cold. I mean cold. I just left 60 degree chilly weather in San Antonio, so I was prepared. I was in my jeans and my Uggs with four shirts a sweater and a jacket. Yet, I was still chilly. I stepped off the plane first and took a deep breath and a step and almost fell on my face. Apparently Uggs just look good for winter. They have absolutely no traction. I hitched my backpack up and grabbed the freezing metal of the railing and started walking towards the bus and my brand new destination--TS Wisla Can-pack basketball team.
My first look of the city confirmed my suspicions. Krakow would be a fun city for me to explore. My first trip was to the doctor's office because in order to have my contract validated, I would have to pass a physical, a stress test with EKG and a medical examination. The normal for every athlete that comes overseas. I've only been to 2 places where they didn't require me to complete a physical. The doctor laughed and said clearly if I've been playing all this time there is no injury that would stop me from playing now. He tested my knees, my back and my shoulders. He pronounced me physically fit to weather through the remaining 7 possible games of the Polish league regular season and 15 possible playoff games. I was given a passing grade and told to return the next morning for a stress test, EKG, blood work and other assorted tests. I then headed for my first view of my apartment.
My apartment is a mix between Austin Powers and the 90's, which is groovy for me cause I like both of those eras. But walking into one in Krakow, Poland, was a bit odd. Someone spent a lot of money on changing the look of the apartment and apparently hadn't spent any money on cleaning it. It was in fact filthy so I opted to spend my first night in Poland with my good friend Erin Phillips. She was gone on a road trip for the day, but our mutual friend decided to spend the day taking care of me. We packed a few things and headed to Erin's apartment. Along the way, I learned of a few great places to visit and I stayed awake by playing on the net, eating out and talking with Tracy and being harassed by this little pest of a dog named Howie.
On a side note, since I've been here we've eaten at a restaurant named "Anytime" and a restaurant named " SomePlace Else." My best guess is our next stop is to one named "Maybe Next Time" or "We'll Talk Later." Honestly it sounds like sitcoms from the 80's. The food was pretty good but I'm still trying to figure out who named them and why pick American names. Just something to ponder on as you write your list of reasons to visit Krakow, Poland.
My fitness test went well and apparently I passed my stress test. They pronounced me healthy and my heart strong enough to take the daily beatings on the court. By 5:30 pm, I was ready to practice for the first time since November 25, 2011. It was a disaster. I tried to remember the plays Jose, my coach, sent me but my jet lag was getting to my oxygen starved brain and I was in massive pain afterwards. I realize that I am old and sooner or later my little body will be done playing this game. But I enjoy the pain as my body re-acclimates to running up and down the hardwood. I'm in much better heart shape than I actually thought seeing as I might have done about 11 workouts in the past 2 1/2 months. The next day was game day and I thought I was ready for it. Thank goodness the team we were playing against was one of the squads in the lower part of the standings and no one stood above 6-foot-1.
Game day was uneventful. You get a good feel of the team, the town, and the fans on days you play a lower tiered team. Yet the gym on Reymonta 22 was almost half-filled and LOUD. Boy was it loud. I got a headache midway through the 3rd quarter and I got it because our fans make sure the other team knows they are playing Wisla Can-Pack. It was cool to be on court again and finally playing with Erin after all these years. I've watched her grow in her basketball I.Q. and getting the chance to play with her put a catch in my throat. I remember when she was just a pup coming to the USA to play with the Connecticut Sun. Young, eager to please, and jumping with energy, wide-eyed and a bit naive; but strong and tough. Now she is a confident leader. She's still tough and energetic, but seasoned and calm. She is a true captain and she has proven her worth in every team and every market she has played and it makes me proud to know her and once again play with her in my declining years.
The game went well enough. I scored some points and got some rebounds and played fairly okay for my time with the team and on the floor. My rhythm was a bit off—well a whole bit off. I just wanted to make sure I didn't look like a complete boob. I hope I accomplished that. The next few weeks I do not have any games to play, but our team is playing a big Euroleague series versus Prague and my teammate, friend and ex-Sun player, Lindsay Whalen. This is going to be epic for me.
Looking forward to our next adventure. Hope you join the ride...
Till then Taj
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