Awhile back I wrote about how I’ve seen more live non-football professional sporting events while living in India than I had seen in my entire 29 years in the US. It was a big surprise to me when I realized this as it was something I never expected to happen prior to moving to India.
So now I have been surprised again. I’ve realized that I’ve become closer to more US professional athletes while living in India than I had in my 29 years in the US. It’s not that I’ve met more US professional athletes while over here, it’s that I’ve been able to build a better relationship with the ones I have met.
I never could have predicted this, but now looking back I’ve realized that it’s quite simple. There are not a lot of people who have worked in the US professional sports industry and then chosen to live in India. Given that and the fact that the sports industry is surprisingly small, I get the opportunity to connect with a number of US professional athletes who come over to this country.
The best thing about meeting these athletes in India is that it’s so easy to have an honest, genuine conversation. When I interacted with athletes in the US, it was difficult to get to know them as they were typically surrounded by people or I’d meet them in stadium suites or player appearances where they were being rushed from one place to another. In those times, it was difficult to have a conversation that went beyond the most superficial of topics.
It’s so different in India. These same high profile athletes are completely out of their comfort zone over here and typically enjoy hearing an American accent especially one coming from someone who has worked in the US professional sports industry for most of his career. After just a few formalities, we get to talking about family, dreams, fears, crazy travel stories, etc... It’s not that I’m a star crazy person, however I do enjoy learning about the lives of individuals who have been in the public eye for most of their lives. I also like to know about the impressions people have about India after they have had some time to experience the country.
The other night I was invited by my friend Akash Jain (Head of NBA India) to a small dinner party in Delhi where 7 time NBA Champion Robert Horry was going to be the special guest. I remember speaking to my Brother and Father on the way to dinner and, as die-hard LA Lakers fans, they were more excited than me that I was going to meet a player who helped their team win multiple championships. They started urging me to ask him about the 2000 NBA Championships, about who his least favorite player is and to call him “Big Shot Bob.” I arrogantly told them that I’m not a “superfan” like them and that I’m not interested in speaking with Robert about those things
The funny thing was that after about an hour of talking about India and life over multiple gin and tonics, I found myself calling Robert Horry “Big Shot Bob” multiple times and asking him question after question about his time playing in the NBA. I had turned into the superfan that I was trying so hard to avoid being, but no matter how mature and composed I try to be, deep down inside I'm just a giddy, excitable sports fan just like everyone else. I just feel lucky that in India I usually get the opportunity to get to know the athlete before I show off my true colors...
|Me with Akash Jain (Head of NBA India) and former NBA Player Robert Horry|