Monday, October 6, 2014

NY $ugar Daddie$ are Going Back to Indiana!!

When I hear the name Indiana, a few things immediately
come to mind.  Corn Fields...The Big 500 Auto Race...
The Jackson Five...And of course...Larry Bird...The
Movie"Hoosiers" and that clown in red, Bobby Knight,
throwing a folding chair across the court or grabbing up
some 6'8" freshman's jersey in his fist.  I had never been
there...I did not know what to expect.  What we got in
Indiana was a hell of a lot more than corn fields and
Gene Hackman.  Let me start at the beginning.  The
New York $ugar Daddie$ participated in the 2014
Showdown in Naptown, that was held in Indianapolis,
Indiana.  This is Masters Basketball.  This is the Final
Chapter...the Last Dance...This is where middle-aged
and elderly Ballers work-out, compete and get their
"Last Hurrah"...their "Last Applause"...their 'Last
Victory Lap!!
They do it BIG out here...Great Competition...
Great Facilities...Great People. In the immortal words
of Michael Jackson... "We're Going Back To Indiana!!"

                                       The Jackson 5- Five Famous Native Sons of Indiana

Thursday Night [NYC], almost 10 PM...
The uptown #1 Train/Broadway Local roars out of the
tunnel headed towards Dyckman.  There are two men
across from us, soundly sleep on the subway.  No doubt
hard working men...Sound asleep...on the subway. Not
the move...Sleeping on the subway...On pay day.  



I'm not quite sure where we are going but we've got a small
window of time to go to a Press Conference for the
Dominican Sports USA age 45 & Over Tournament
[October 10 & 11th] that will be held in NYC
with teams representing The Dominican Republic,
Team DR-USA, The Puerto Rican Pro Legends and
one of our basketball clubs TEAM ALKEBULAN
Harlem, USA. 

I receive at text from Gene Ali Jennings [A $ugar Daddy]
...He's arrived at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on 42
Street from Syracuse, NY...I buzz him and ask him to
sit tight and then meet us at 125 Street near the Apollo
Theater in a hour.  He's not sure if he should take the
D Train, the A Train or the C Train...I told him to
"Take the A train...It's the quickest way to get to

That is where we could link up with him and head
over to the east side, on the edge of "El Barrio" [The
land of Corky Ortiz] to catch our 13 hour ride with the
$ugar Daddie$ to a far away land called Indianapolis,
Indiana.  My brother Eddie and I walk a number of
blocks...[Should have caught a cab] through the edge
of Washington Heights [Little DR].  We got off at the
wrong train stop, so now we hoof it back towards
where I believe the restaurant is.  We pass the dimly
lit housing projects on our left, and cross the busy
street and see the bright flashing lights of the 809
Lounge on Dykman Ave. 

We walk into a quiet, sophisticated restaurant, dim
lights...elegant setting.  More than a few heads turned
towards us as we enter the large quiet room.  I sense
that we have missed the event, or we are in the wrong
place.  In my best Spanglish I say, "Come Estas Hermano
...Donde es la Press Conference?"  Silence. And then the
gentleman smiles and points us towards two large gold
doors.  We step confidently through the room and push
through the door, and there is a room full of people...
Press, lovely hostesses, ballplayers, basketball fans,
etc...They begin to applaud us...

   Team managers, coaches & players hold the Legends Tournament Trophy.

We step further into the room, the bright lights swing our
way and hit my eyes and I hear the announcer [en Espanol], "Ladies and Gentlemen this is Lahh Woods!...! Team Alkebulan! Lahh Woods! 
Come on up here with one of your players and have a word
with us!"

I turn to my brother with that "Can You Believe This?"
look on my face...He's laughing that,"Yes we can do this"
laugh, and I just shake my head and walk up towards the
press table.  Welcome to my world my Brother...Welcome
to my world.  The Tournament of Legends is in it's second
year and with it's international teams, blaring hot Latin
music, a comedic and caustic play by play announcer with
standing room only attendance...It is becoming one of the
hottest basketball tickets in Harlem, NYC.

 Larry Legend Bird-Always let his game speak for himself

Friday Morning 1:15 AM 125 St & Lexington Ave
The Mercedes Van pulls up slowly at the curb.  The curious
stop and stare while others step lively on this busy Harlem 
street corner.  Watch your bags...Watch your back.

"How hot is this block tonight?" I wonder. Right about now
it's luke warm.  The age 55 and Over warriors board the
team van after loading their luggage in the back door. Some
folks have so many bags it looks like they're running away
from home. Running away to Indiana, a long way from the
dark corners and crowded sidewalks of East Harlem.  This
is not a common happening. "Are you some kind of pro
team?" "Are you musicians?"  "Where y'all going?...Yo I
still play ball!  How can I get down with this?"
The attention and inquiries were quite flattering, even
for middle aged men, who have seen it all before in
another lifetime...But we still had to venture west and
effectively compete after many hours of sitting in the
vehicle.  We said our prayers, thanked God, and begun
our journey.

The  journey west has finally begun and for next 13
hours I have a captive audience.  I get to VJ....I put into
the DVD player videos of Alkebulan and Sugar Daddy
games from throughout the summer of 2014...
Something to pass the time away before we compete
against the basketball legends from Chicago, and Indiana.

We were in the able driving hands of one of our
big men, Warren "Snakes on the Plane" Storey aka
Captain Turnpike or Old Iron Kidneys himself...He
breezed through New Jersey...He flows through
Pennsylvania.  He's a driving machine.  He and his
Chief Navigator Tony "$ugar Daddy" Greene were
relentless time keepers

and they were determined to get us to INDY on
schedule.  We begged them to stop so we could use
the bathroom...They ignored us...and laughed...
Thank God we eventually needed to get some gas. 
           The Indianapolis 500: The Greatest Race on Earth

When we got to INDY we were joined by my personal team
MVP, Carl 'The Mailman" Colbert who also happen to be
"The Hardest Working Man in Masters." He had flown in
from Florida for the weekend's athletic festivities.  He met
us at the Marriott and we packed for the game and headed
to the gym.  We rush to the gym.  Great facility. We watch
some of the Indy All-Stars vs The Naptown Players...These
are two competing teams that are crosstown rivals and have
a competitive history that goes back for many, many years.

Naptown Players; Strong Club & Great Tournament

Also we must mention that the INDY All-Stars host their
own Master's Tournament that takes place in July in the
city of Indianapolis. It was a close game when we left to
warm-up on the other side of the gym.  When we saw the
final score we were surprised...It wasn't close.  The Indy
All-Stars, a very, very good team put away Naptown by
about twenty points.  Must have been some second half.

                      2014 NEW YORK $UGAR DADDIE$ AGE 55+ TEAM IN INDIANA

We are very excited that it is now our time to compete. 
Our time to play.  We've been planning for this moment for
a few months.  As we stretch and lay the ball up I notice
that there is no team on the other court.  Are we in the right location? Do we have the correct game time?  We were soon
to find out that the Chicago team, Double Nickel, last year's Champs in the Age 55 & Over Division was still in Chicago.

Chicago's Double Nickels 2013 Showdown In Naptown Champs

We have played them before...They had a come from
behind win over us last year at the Detroit Masters.
[Madd Madd Shout to Mr. Cal Dilworth and the Detroit
Masters Committee 2014/2015 and Zenobia's Stepping
and Dance School, Inc.] They've got a couple of mobile
BIGS, and they have great perimeter shooting from
their back-court. They like to bump and grind...They
prefer a physical contest.  We would like to see them
again...It would not happen on this today. 

We got the forfeit win and I started to get a headache. 
After a thirteen hour ride...The last thing in the world
I wanted was a win by forfeit.  We scrimmage
amongst ourselves....We try to stay loose and hope
not to injure anyone playing at half speed.  Several of
our players find their way onto other rosters and get
games in on courts 3 and 4.  Crazy.  We just rode
13 plus hours. Right?  And we climbed out the Benz
and played a scrimmage game with ourselves. Right?
We barely escape hurting one another playing at 3/4
speed. Right? So after Coach Pugh ends the scrimmage
we then go across the floor and find other teams to
play with. Right...What's the problem? That's
CRAZY.  That's the problem.

I shake my head at the basketball madness...Stretch
a little on the side and then I make the mistake of
challenging my teammate Jake "The Snake"
McConnell #11 to a game of H.O.R.S.E., jump-
shots only. I know he's a pretty good shooter. 
Maybe we should shoot for $5 a game to make it
interesting.  "OK Jake we'll just shoot for fun...I'll
go easy on you."  Needless to say...I get
DESTROYED.  Yeah, I got bit by the Snake, who
happens to be one of the best Masters perimeter
shooters in the free world...So by the end of day
one in INDY I was .500, I had one win and one 
loss...INDY .500.

Saturday Morning 10:00 AM
Day Two ... 
We sleep in a little late...Indianapolis, at least on this side
of town, is a very quiet community.  No fire trucks blaring.
No police cars racing back and forth.  No booming systems
from passing cars setting off car alarms.  No elevated 
trains shaking the sidewalks every seventeen minutes. No
noisy neighbors.  So here at the Marriott, we sleep very well.

My Producer. My Director, My Engineer All-Star. My 
Brother Eddie does a few video interviews with my wide 
eyed teammates.  Most interviews are modest, candid,  
statements about being glad to be here on the 
good it is to travel and still be a ballplayer after the 
BIG 50+. Some of my teammates are real characters
and funny as hell.  You might hear almost anything
coming out of their mouths...Classic R & B songs, 
Richard Pryor jokes, West Indian accents, impersonations, 
wisdom of the elders, and adult profanity in Spanish 
and English.
                                    Cameraman/Producer/Chief of Security: Eddie Woods

We head to the gym, some of us without breakfast,
and suit up for our contest with the INDY All-Stars. 
This INDY team is favored to win the tournament. 
They are a veteran ball-club where everyone knows
their roll. They play within their system, and rarely
are they out of character or off of their game plan. 
They are basically led by "three gears" of basketball
operation.  Nut, CJ, and [You Fill in the Blank]  
[Gear 1]-James "Nut" Adams is a rebounding,
defender who can score.  He's a vocal player/coach
who is a solid foundation to their three point attack.
He brings the intensity...He's in your face when you
don't do your job...He's leading the attack on defense
and on offense.  [Gear 2] Carl Jordan is scoring
ball-handler with a famous last name.  CJ can get
behind your defense with relative ease, and does a
few of those intangibles that puts a club consistently
in the victory column. If you need a steal...He gets
you a steal.  If you need a three to end the half...He
gives you a three...He can hit the open 3-ball and
he can facilitate and feed open players.  However,
he is most dangerous in the open court during
transition. Keep your eye on him [Gear 3] The
INDY All-Stars' third gear is any one of an
assortment of support players who can rebound,
play 'D" or hit the open shot...From the low post
to the 3 point line, their players have to be
accounted for at all times.  Fundamentally sound,
athletic and knowledgeable of the game...They've
got a low post presence and they've got more
than a few snipers who can hit that 3-ball with
confidence and consistency.  I believe that they
are a consistent Top 3 National Team in the
Age 55 and Over Division.  A great Club and
they are great Individuals.  Their sportsmanship
and professionalism is second to none. 
It wasn't always that way with us.  Let's just say
we had to get to know one another over a period
of time.

        INDY ALL-STARS; The Cream of the 55 & Over Crop
We look to the near future where we can compete
against one another again. I'm still trying to crack
the code and find a competitive way to get that
INDY All-Stars "W" 

The Indy All-Stars defeat the Sugar
Daddies in the mornings time slot.  Indy was a little
hesitant out the gate and eventually got their
momentum and game lead by way of a balanced
floor attack, strong defense and perimeter shooting.
Both teams have become quite familiar with one
another and there was no surprises. Once the Indy
All-Stars commanded a double digit lead there was
no looking back.  The All-Stars have several weapons
and they were cooking on all cylinders. 

Our next and most critical game is against the
Naptown Players, the house team.  They have
a strong and dedicated team of players who can
shoot, play "D" and they know the game. We
have only competed against them in the
Buffalo Masters in the 50 & Over Division, about
two years ago.  I'm not sure, but I believe they beat
us by a few points.  They are the host team, however
I did not get a sense that they were at full strength.
They didn't appear to have more than eight players
or so.  

The game was a good one, with both teams
jockeying back and forth with the lead.  The Sugar
Daddies played scrappy "D" and had some offensive
challenges playing the majority of the game without
Corky Ortiz.  The Naptown Players countered with
a physical presence on offense and defense that sent
several players on both teams to the hardwood floor.
Several front line Naptown Players worked the
boards and secured the Naptown victory by 2 points.
This loss basically ended the athletic aspect of the
Sugar Daddy weekend.  Being 1-2 meant that it was
Miller Time...No not Reggie Miller...Just plain old
Miller Time.  Not a good feeling, but hey these teams
out here came to play.

After the game we watched the Showdown in
Naptown 3-Point Contest.Many of the players here
have great 3-Point range, however several of the
players appear to have some difficulty with the
shooting format of the contest.  There were
rebounders and feeders on the court...a sound
system and announcer that keep the gym
bouncing and the energy high...That was cool. 
I still believe that ball racks are the best format
for a contest.  But hey, as long as everyone has
to deal with the same contest format...The best
shooters will always shine. 


Indianapolis, Indiana
                It is commonly known as the Showdown In
Naptown, a Masters Basketball competition where the
average age of the competitive players is some where
around retirement age.  It is held every September by
an organized Naptown tournament committee that gets
many of the small details right when it comes to
basketball and great times.  The tournament Director
is Neal "The Ram" Thomas...I personally gave Neil
that nickname after running into one of his creative
moving picks on the hardwood.  His tournament
committee includes Derrick Johnson, Indy Red 
Bluitt, Jerry Dingle, Chris "Rev" Hull and Jeff
Green...All great workers and great men of Indiana.


The sports bulletin of the weekend was the generosity, 
and thoughtfulness of the Indianapolis All-Stars, one 
of the dominant 55 and Over teams in the nation,
when they opted out of the championship game and
gifted that opportunity to the New York $ugar Daddie$. 
The Indy All-Stars took into account that the NY team
had traveled an excess of 13 hours, by luxury van, to
compete in Indy and had the misfortune of not qualifying
for the "Chip" by losing to the Indy All-Stars and losing
to the Naptown Players finishing the qualifying round
with a record of 1-2...The solo victory for the road weary
NY Team was a forfeit win over the Chicago Double
Nickels [the 2013 Champs] who for some unknown
reason were a no show.

                    2014 NAPTOWN PLAYERS IN THE HOUSE!

I've been around this game and have played this
game for over forty years and I have never, ever,
heard of such sportsmanship, and generosity coming
form a competitive team.  Some say the move makes
great business sense when it is commonly known that
there are several Masters Invitational tournaments in
the Indianapolis area competing for teams and
participants, including a July tournament hosted by
the Indianapolis All-Stars.

                        2014 NEW YORK SUGAR DADDIES

However you want to color this rare gesture, we 
accepted the offer and  were allowed to compete on 
day three of the Showdown In Naptown vs the 
Naptown Players who had defeated the $ugar Daddie$
the afternoon before by the score of 61-63.

Sunday Morning
Day 3

After breakfast and check-out we pinch ourselves to make
sure we're not dreaming.  We are going back to Warren
High School to play in the 2014 Showdown in Naptown 
Championship Game in the 55 & Over Division.  Feels
like some kind of consolation game, similar to the one
we had at the Buffalo National Masters earlier this 
year, however you want to color it...We'll take it.
The mood in the van was festive, the usual comedians
and Rah-Rah pep-talks.  We believe we can beat
Naptown.  We know it won't be a cake walk, they got
weapons and they know how to play so we have got
to be patient and execute a complete game.  My brother
Johnny Pugh is doing a remarkable job of coaching us.
55 & over reminds me of our Pee-Wee Ball days. 
We have various talent abilities.  No one can do what
they used to do.  We can't run, jump or execute the
way we used to.  Our mind says one thing on the court
and our bodies say and do another.  Sometimes, we
old-timers, run around like chickens with our heads
cut off.  If we don't have a coach without a unified
vision, one voice, one concept we will have chaos. 
Coach Pugh lays it out for us, plain and simple...We 
don't want to go basket for basket with them. We 
don't want to be in a rush, but we do run when we can.
We want to be patient on offense, ball control and 
feed the shooters where they want it.  "We want to 
rebound, secure the ball, and run on them. We 
will play sound defense to create slow and steady 
separation from them."  Great plan. Great coaching.
Coach Pugh, is truly a man of patience and wisdom.  
I don't think I could have dealt with so many live 
personalities.  Too many voices...too many egos...
too many different ideas.  Glad my brother could 
be there to restore and establish an order of 

Game time...The Naptown Players establish an 
early lead as both teams have problems hitting any 
consistent baskets early in the game.  Naptown's 
guards bury a couple of 3's before the Sugar Daddies 
can get it into first gear.  The first set of substitutions
for the Sugar Daddies fixed that problem by hitting 
several 3-Balls with what seemed like relative ease,
and confidence.  Where was all of this fire power 
on days one and two of the tournament? 
Towards the end of the first half Naptown's front
line gets a number of put-backs and close the Sugar
Daddy lead and makes this contest into a new ballgame.
Halftime score...Naptown Players 18 Sugar Daddies 22

The second half of all basketball games is where 
training, and conditioning comes into play.  In 
Masters basketball the conditioning factor is now
most critical.  What do you do when you've ran out 
of gas?  You either call AAA, or some other kind 
of road service or you search your trunk for that 
little gas can.  In 55 and Over, you dig in deep
until the well runs dry or better rotate
your bench and substitute at a great pace where
you get the max out of every teammates.  Hats
off again to Coach Pugh.  We were all tired and
we were all spotted...We were happy to be playing
in Indy and the Sugar Daddies secured the 55 and 
Over Title.  As far as I'm concerned, this trophy is 
not only ours it also belongs to the Indy All-Stars.
I believe that the quote we got from one of the 
Naptown stars, Benny "3-Ball" Minor, put the
event in the best perspective, "It was a beautiful
weekend.  The facilities were great...It was
competitive and New York played good...they 
deserved to win it."

Final Score 
Naptown Players 38 Sugar Daddies 53

   A Madd Madd Sugar Daddy Shout-Out to the Indy All-Stars!!

Let's just say that the long ride home was just
made a little shorter.  So for that celebratory ride 
home, we had to blast that Mix CD with James 
Brown, Otis Redding, Sugar Hill Gang, Santana,
Gang Star, Marvin Gaye, KRS1, Bob Marley, 
Teddy Pendergrass, Nina Simone and The 
Stylistics...Can't forget Michael Jackson 
and the Jackson 5... Great Music. Great Weekend.  
Great Town.  Great Party. Great Competition.  
Great gesture by the Indiana All-Stars to allow 
the Sugar Daddies to play in that championship 
game.  So next year I am sure that the Sugar 
Peace and Blessing.  LW 

Love. Respect and Condolences to the family
of Naptown Player Paul Allen who left this
earth a week or so after the Showdown In
Naptown.  Paul was a great athlete and 
individual who displayed courage and 
sportsmanship in his lifetime.  He passed
away during a basketball game in Indianapolis,
Indiana.  God Bless Paul Allen.

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