Thursday, May 8, 2008

Are You a Sports Fanatic?

I think I started playing basketball before I could even walk. See I was my Dad’s last hope. I have two older sisters, neither of which were necessarily blessed with the athletic gene my dad was praying for. My oldest sister Elizabeth is the artsy type, not to mention that she has a 140 IQ! Meghan, the middle, was as athletic as she could have been considering she never rose above 5’2”. I’ll give it to her though; she was aggressive as hell, and way better than I was at soccer.

Anyway, as I was saying, I was my dad’s last hope for a basketball star, since having a son was kind of out of the question. Even though my sisters weren’t necessarily great at basketball, my dad sent them to Doug Collins a basketball summer camp every year. Don’t feel too bad for them though, on their camp evaluations they always scored very high on coachability and sportsmanship (haha, sorry Meg and Liz). My dad talked the camp director into letting me come, even though I was three years younger than the youngest age group, because my two older sisters were there. I may have been little, but I definitely held my ground, and lucky for my father I fell in love with basketball.

I spent my summers at basketball camp, my weekends playing pick-up games with the neighborhood boys, every day after school I watched Pistol Pete, an instructional video on dribbling skills, and the every winter at Chicago Bulls games with my dad. I played year-round on three different teams, and probably played more basketball games in a year than most people play in a lifetime. I think I spent more time in my driveway (see photo) and in gyms than anywhere else in the world.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved every minute of it. However, by my junior year of high school, I had undergone two major reconstructive knee surgeries and dislocated my kneecaps on countless occasions. My love for the game was becoming overshadowed the realization that if I kept playing, I most likely wouldn’t be able to walk by the time I was thirty. And the next step, knee replacement surgery wasn’t something I was ready for at seventeen. Bottom line…I quit. Yes, my father was devastated, my whole family was, even more so—I was devastated.

I shut basketball out of my life for a while, all my dreams of playing in the WNBA or even college for that matter were destroyed. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I didn’t have to be playing to still enjoy the sport. Basketball was such a huge part of my life for so long and it was hard to forget. I couldn’t play anymore, at least not competitively (and if you know me, you know that’s the only way I do things), so I started coaching grammar school girls. I now coach two teams, a seventh grade varsity team in the winter and a fifth grade club team in the spring. It’s fun, it’s hard, and it’s frustrating as hell, which sure gives me a lot of respect for every coach I ever had. It doesn’t completely fill the void of all the amazing years I spent on the court; however, it’s a pretty good replacement.

Last weekend, I found myself at Jillian’s, a huge sports bar in the Metreon down on 4th Street in San Francisco. In the heat of the NBA Playoffs, the jumbo screens made Kobe and Shaq feel like they were in the same room. Above the bar is a floor to ceiling, wall-to-wall television, with over ten different screens. Each one featuring a different sport, the playoffs were smack in the middle on an enormous screen. Outside of ten and twelve year old girls, I hadn’t watched many basketball games in the past year. I was just watching the Lakers take on the Jazz, entranced by the jumbo-screen, and suddenly all the memories of state championship games and national tournaments come rushing back.

The food at Jillian’s is basic bar food, but a bit more upscale. The menu includes items like buffalo wings (which were delicious, and not too spicy), calamari, burgers, and even a philly-style cheese-steak. Jillian’s is a bit pricy, considering they are serving bar food, not upscale cuisine. The bar is enormous, I am certain they could make you any drink you requested. The enormous dining room has hardwood floors and velvet booths, a large mirror covers the entire wall of one side of the room. (Great for undercover people watching!) There is also a billiards room, which is great if you have no interest in watching sports. And Jillian’s transforms into a full-on club at night.

All in all, I guess I am trying to say that if you have any interest in sports that Jillian’s is a great place to watch any number of games, tournaments, and other competitions. The NBA playoffs are always exciting, regardless of if you are supporting one of the teams or not, and Jillian’s is a great place to hang. If you’re looking for a place to chill and indulge yourself in the playoffs over the next few weeks, this place is great. After the playoffs don’t write off Jillian’s because there are always a great games to watch, between baseball season, football season, and basketball season there is never a dull moment in sports. Bottom line: I love food, I love basketball, and I love watching sports. Jillian’s…job well done.