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Basketball big hit in France

Pro basketball a big hit in France
Pro basketball a big hit in France

I returned home recently from a three week tour of France with the Harlem Globetrotters, as the team's P.A. announcer. The tour included 19 games, in 19 different cities, in 20 days. In many of the cities we played in arenas used by teams in the Ligue Nationale de Basket; the pro league in France. Some of the cities host A-level teams, and some are home to lower level teams.

While in France, I had an interpreter that joined me at each game, although I did do some of the announcing in French. Some of these interpreters were scheduled to work only one game, and some worked more than one game. There were three interpreters, however, that you might be interested in meeting.

The first one has ties to the University of Tulsa; in fact he played basketball at TU in the 1970s. Zackery Jones spent most of his teen years living at the Tulsa Boys Home, and attended Central High School. He was befriended by Joe and Nancy McDonald, who tutored him, and later invited Jones to live in their home. Following high school, Jones played basketball at Crowder Junior College in Missouri, and then was recruited by Coach Ken Hayes to play for the Golden Hurricane.

Jones didn’t graduate from TU; he was just a few credit hours short of a degree. After trying his hand at the insurance business, he parlayed his basketball talents into a long pro career in France, where he has lived for over 30 years, and now speaks fluent French. More than 20 years ago Jones earned a French coaching degree, and he has directed several basketball programs for many municipalities, and has coached hundreds of young basketball players over the years.

I met Jones in Cohors, and it was a so enjoyable to be working the game with him that night. It quickly became obvious that Jones is well loved in this French city. Throughout the evening, dozens of teen boys and girls stopped by courtside to say hello to Jones or give him a hug. What a legacy for someone who started life in a broken family, but now is finishing strong.

Another one of my interpreters was a Florida native with duel citizenship, George Eddy. He has been a sports broadcaster in France for over 35 years. Eddy’s specialty has been covering the NBA on a regular basis including 14 NBA Finals, but he has also covered 18 Super Bowls and five Olympics.

It was a huge honor for me to be working the game in Paris with Eddy, as I had heard so much about him leading up to this day. There were over 12,000 in attendance and it seemed half the crowd wanted an autograph and photograph with Eddy after the game. In order to control his fans and keep them at bay, he had to join the players inside the rope during the post-game autograph session. He spent the entire 30 minutes with a large crowd waiting for their moment with the famous television sports commentator.

The final person I’d like you to meet is the lead singer of a British Punk Rock band, Wayne Barrett. He started “Slaughter and the Dogs” in the 1970s and the group is still together. In fact, the band is set to do a 30 city U.S. tour in the fall.

Barrett joined me for four games in the Lyon area and we hit it off real well. One thing though that was a bit comical was he would forget to interpret what I said, and instead he’d repeat it in English. Also, some people thought he spoke French with a British accent. This I do know, he’s a Manchester United “futbol” fan and resembles the team’s star Wayne Rooney.

I’m hoping to reunite with Barrett if “Slaughter and the Dogs” has a concert somewhere nearby. Maybe he’ll return the honor and let me join him on stage for a song or two.

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