EDITORS NOTE: The following is from the former Deputy Commish of Dream League NYC, “SMC”, and originally appeared on the DLNY NL division site. This is why we do what we do…
I have a confession to make. I don’t love you. This may come as a surprise to you seeing how devoted I was to you the past few years and how my life revolved around you. I’ve been away from NYC for 3 months now and I can’t say I really miss you.
I mean, I still like you, but I don’t love you like I once did. I don’t know when it happened, but the love has slowly been eroding for me the last couple of years. I don’t know when it happened? I just know that when you took the Seattle Supersonics away from me, I felt like my very soul was ripped out. That was when I knew we had major problems. It was one thing that you took my hometown Grizzlies away, but you took away the team I grew up watching and my first introduction to you? And what’s with the superstar attitude? I thought it was a team game? You even have the referees trained to call a game that way. Let’s face it. You’re just not as sexy without Jordan, Magic and Bird as you once were when we met. You’ve even hurt me in the collegiate level. Nobody wants to stick around or even go to college to play anymore.
It’s not you. It’s me. I know I just haven’t been able to perform for you like I once could. My body just hurts. The bone spurs in my feet were agonizing me the past few years and my mind still thinks I can do some of the things I used to be able to do athletically, but my body does it 2 steps slower. I’m sorry, I just don’t have it anymore and I refuse to take medication for it prescribed by my doctor that says if it lasts for more than 4 hours I should stop using it.
My confession sounds very contradictory when I say I miss the Dream League. The Dream League has defined a big part of my 5 years in New York and will resonate with me with everything I do. But when I say I miss the Dream League, I don’t think of the 30 point games, the all-stars, or the championships or beating up on the Tri-State Invasian and SKWD teams. Basketball is a backdrop or the setting of what Dream League NY is about, much like Spike Lee’s movie He Got Game is more about a young kid finding his way and re-connecting with his father through basketball than the game itself. To me our Dream League is more about bringing the community together and witnessing the human spirit through basketball.
Don’t get me wrong. The basketball played and the services provided are above any other league in the city. No other rec league puts in as much effort in services such as stats, pictures and stories than anyone else. The community aspect is an outgrowth of this excellence. I’ve witnessed and have been a part of some awesome basketball. I’ll never get bored of watching Shawn De Los Reyes or Nic Echevestre effortlessly take over a game or Tony Hu, George Chan and the rest of the RL Cruisers run their system like clockwork to another championship. I stopped watching cable and never really missed it because of the great basketball I’ve been privy to. Despite all that I’ve seen through the league, what sticks out to me more than anything were the things that tugged at my heart.
A stark reminder of our impact in the community was when I first moved to LA and I went to a concert called Kollaboration, a showcase of Asian American performers, at the Hollywood Bowl. During a break they had representatives of the Project Michelle/Cammy Lee Leukemia Foundation speak. At first, it was comforting to see a recognizable cause that Dream League supported. It then turned to heartbreak when they announced that Michelle recently passed away. I encouraged my friends to swab that night, but became even more heartbroken when I saw others and even my own friends not want to participate. We never had this problem during our drive. Dream Leaguers were more than willing to help the cause.
We also had 2 very successful shoe drives. I had complete strangers email me wanting to donate their shoes. Some shoes I collected were pretty much brand new. We were able to send over 70 pairs of shoes to Africa to our friend and former DL’er Marshall Cho, who was teaching in Mozambique at the time (he has since moved to Baltimore to be the first assistant coach at the famed basketball factory DeMatha High). I talk about this effort to my friends all the time.
Those were just some of things that we did that were larger in scope that made a difference, but it really was the small things that made a difference to me personally. I once had a terrible toothache last season. Arif Ansari recommended that I call Josh Prensky, a dentist who also played for the Tri-State Sands of Time. Dr. Prensky picked me up from home the next morning and drove me to the hospital and checked on me free of charge.
Other than my bone spurs, I also have chronic problems with my colon, which also makes me anemic. I didn’t have medical insurance, but fortunately for me, we have several doctors in the league to diagnose me and also give me some solid advice. Our resident doctor, Mo Ghumman, offered his services to get some blood work done and also recommended over the counter medication that helped me tremendously.
The emotional support was even more poignant, as I will never forget the time when I was in the library catching up on DL game summaries when I received a phone call that my uncle passed away. I was pretty tight with my uncle when I lived in Seoul. He was the youngest of my mother’s siblings and he was most definitely the fun uncle. He owned a gym I worked out at, so I saw him almost everyday, so needless to say I was devastated. For some reason, I posted something about it on my Facebook. Many friends offered kind encouragement through my Facebook wall and emails, but it was the people from the DL who called or chatted with me to make sure I was ok. I’ll never forget my chat with former teammate Len Kamdang, who chatted with me for over an hour and offered words of encouragement. I think I was laughing by the end of our chat.
I once spoke to the commissioner about expanding the DL into Queens and proposed that we’d have an easier time setting it up if we didn’t have to do articles. He wisely kaboshed the idea explaining that it’s the articles that set the DL apart. It’s also one of the driving forces that bring our community together. Writing the articles was a hate/love thing for me. I write very slowly, so it did take up a lot of time. It’s also not easy when you’re amongst such great writers. Here are some past articles that have stood out for me:
Will Balton (aka the commish) has written some brilliant articles. This early one is one of my favorites of all time: Early One.
This article, another Balton masterpiece, made me want to become a DL writer and it could also mark the first time I peed myself laughing: Peed Myself.
As a result of the above Balton masterpiece, I wrote this as my very first DL piece: First Piece.
This was undoubtedly last season’s Pulitzer Prize winning article by Arif Ansari: Pulitzer Prize.
Out of all the articles I’ve written, this one is my personal favorite: My Fave. Writing the article about Andre’s greatness is one of the reasons I loved writing the articles. As painful as it was for me to write them, it was a great way to learn about most of you and show my appreciation for you.
My last stint as the deputy commissioner was taxing at times. It is a full-time job, especially when you write as slow as I do. I did miss a lot of events that would’ve been a lot of fun and it probably didn’t help me in my dating life either, but there isn’t a lot I would trade for the experience I had. To me, it was a chance to see my closest friends every week, so it was fellowship. It was a chance to watch some great basketball, so it was entertainment. I didn’t have or need cable for 4 out of the 5 years I lived in NY, so it saved me some money. It helped me develop managerial and people skills, so it was professional growth. Writing those articles was the chance to provide me with a creative outlet, so it was creative growth. From being the only person to work the score clock, shot clock, game stats, hustle stats and take pictures at the same time during some games and then tabulating stats, while uploading stats and thinking of story lines for articles when at home, it was the ultimate multi-tasking frontier.
When I was working at the table in between or after games, often someone would ask me, “hey, how much do you pay these guys to do stats and stuff?” My answer to the Brian’s, Jae Ha’s, Andre’s, Arif’s, Seth’s, Tony’s, Joe Yen’s, Varun’s, Kash’s and everybody else who has volunteered and makes this league happen is that they’ve paid me and I am forever in debt to all the friendships I’ve made through this league. Even in my new surroundings, my closest friends here, Brandon Chock and Dave Scott, are guys that played in our league. There have also been some late night Kevin Park sightings from time to time.
As you can tell, I’m having a tough time trying to have this long distance relationship with all of you. I know I haven’t been great at returning the emails and texts sent to me. I guess in a sub-conscious way, it’s a defense mechanism of mine to not respond right away to well-wishers and supporters because it already hurts to read and it would probably hurt more trying to respond to it. We can’t go on like this, so I guess I’ll have to find/form a new Dream League where I am. She won’t be like you at first, but I hope with all that I learned from you it can be special like what we had in New York. Just know that all of you have a friend in LA when visiting. Please email me when you do or just to say hello. We can still be friends.
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