Thursday, April 28, 2016

2016 FIMBA Pan-American Games in Costa Rica


Newark International Airport
Friday April 22, 2016
Day One
Newark, New Jersey
4:00 AM
Photos by Lahh Woods, Roger Larson & Google

                      
                      Do you know the way to San Jose?

Dionne Wawick is fly...video
                 Life is great. The renovated airport stretches 
and yawns with the early morning sun, as other people 
step with purpose, travel anxiety, and large baggage.  
I patiently stand at the counter of American Airlines, 
and hand over my flight info, and passport, all the 
while holding hands with Coltrane dancing in my ears.  
A Love Supreme  Others are in somewhat of a rush, fumbling 
with printed itineraries, and carry on luggage.  While I, 
the experienced world traveler, max and relax, stepping to 
a different, seamless rhythm. 
                I'm on my way the 2016 FIMBA Maxi-
Basketball Pan-American Games in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Did you get that? San Jose, Costa Rica. FIMBA website  
The week long, festive, extravaganza host over 150 male 
and female basketball teams from all over the world.  
After participating in numerous fifty & over Masters 
regional competitions for the past five years, with my
New York City Sugar Daddy team, I was fortunate to 
get the long distance call from Seattle to play on the 
USA Men's Basketball Team in the over age fifty-
five division.  An opportunity of a lifetime to experience
the remarkable, and breathtaking, Pura Vida.
Pura Vida Video 
What is the Pura Vida?

[Madd, Madd Shout to the NY Sugar Daddies; 
Tony Greene, Whimp Ransom, Corky Ortiz, 
Johnny Pugh, John Marques, Lorenzo Holloman, 
and Warren Storey to name a few of our regulars]

        2016 FIMBA Pan American Games Opening Ceremony


                                "Experience of a Lifetime...Incredible"


Like I said, "Life is Great."  Right about know I'm feeling
so good at the airline counter that I could almost fly to
Costa Rica without the need of an aircraft. I glance back
at the extremely long line that has formed with weary, 
predawn travelers, and I wonder how many of them
will be going to the FIMBA games in San Jose?  Nobody
behind me is taller than 6'1".  The pleasant, middle aged
reservation agent hands me back my passport and boarding
pass and she says,"OK Mr. Woods, you're all set to go...Just 
place you're luggage up here on the scale, and you'll be on 
your way to San Jose, California." That is the moment 
when I stopped holding hands with Coltrane...and the 
music stopped dancing in my ears.
















So somehow, someway, my prepaid, round trip, economy 
class, Travelosity ticket to San Jose, Costa Rica was 
booked, and paid for, and printed as a round trip, economy 
class passage to San Jose, California!  Dionne Warwick is 
fine, but I not trying to go to Cali right now. 

Who is Dionne Warwick?

The ticket agent didn't miss a 
beat, and starts typing several 
thousand words a second, 
exactly the same pace as my 
heart-beat.
An eternity passes, when she 
finally says she has a flight to 
Dallas, and a connecting flight 
to San Jose....Costa Rica for 
only $1,545.00...I calmly and respectfully say, "That's not 
gonna happen. Please keep 
typing."
She never looks up, and if she did look up I wouldn't 
have know it, because my head was buried in my hands. 
She types for another eternity and finds me a significantly 
better opportunity, we press the plastic and I'm out.

Unificacion en Las Americas Video 



                          


                           The FIMBA USA members present an
                         Award of Appreciation to "El Presidente"
                       Dr. Ruben Rodriguez Lamas the founder of
                           FIMBA MaxiBasketball FIMBA Maxi Website
                                   
The Scouting Report  
Day Two
Sunrise
Aportel La Sabana Hotel
San Jose, Costa Rica

...I am up early and head down to breakfast area...
at pool-side...next to the waterfall...right next to the 
palm trees...   "Ola, come estas?" I respond 
confidently, "Pas y Bendiciones."  "My man's and 
them" Marlon has got the fire red taxi warmed up 
and ready to take me back to the Juan Santamaria 
International Airport in Alajuela, to get the rest of 
my luggage. [I'll tell you about that dramatic episode 
later.] We wheel down Highway One and before 
you could say "arroz con polio" we were at the 
airport.  Bueno...I collect "my un-tagged black bag", 
and want to kiss all within arms reach. Never. Ever.
Never, Ever. Ever, Never travel by air without a
luggage tag on your luggage!!  Well I hope you
learned a valuable lesson.  When I casually opened
my bag to unpack the night before, all I saw were
panties, brassieres, and two piece bikinis!  That
wasn't going to work for me...They weren't red,
white or blue.









      






Back to the hotel in no time, I hit Marlon with some
of those "pretty colones" and he slowly nods his 
approval.  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, and I enter 
the colorful, sunlit, tiled courtyard, and shake hands 
with some of my USA 55+ FIMBA teammates for
the very first time.  


                         The currency in Costa Rica: Colones

They are a relatively tall team of aging athletes with
calm reserve, and welcoming smiles.  We are all
in various stages of unapologetic white hair.  With the
possible exception of Kevin Johnson aka "The Flash", 
who's got full-blown gray on the top of his head.
And now, drum-roll...Por favor...Damas y Caballeros, 
Hermanos y Hermanas...Ahora es un grande fiesta de 
baloncestos de la Pan-Americanas...FIMBA Maxi esta 
muy bueno por las Americas y el todo mundo...Bueno
...peta te...Permiso, allow me at this time to introduce 
the band de Los Estados Unidos.   

  TEAM USA 55+ at FIMBA Pan American Games, Costa Rica



#3-Julio Davila 
[Miami, FL] 6' 7" PF
aka "The Judge"
University of New Orleans [1977]
A consistent scoring presence 
from the baseline to the 3-ball.  
Period. Julio's Theme Song
                                                      
#6-Kevin Johnson                                          
     [Gilbert, AZ] 6'4" G/F
     aka "Marathon Man"                         
     Perpetual movement, great 
     defender, Olympic speed, 
     good scorer, with a gift
     for finding the open creases
        in a defense.
       Kevin's Theme Song

 #8-Neil Nelson 
      [Ballard, WA] 6'6" PF
      aka "Bam-Bam" 
      Shoreline Community College, WA
      Low post scorer, and solid 
      defender, a strong rebounding 
      machine with great hops, 
      who can shoot the mid-range,
      good passer.
         Neil's Theme Song


#9-Dan Vahalla                                     
    [San Diego, CA] 6'5" F
    aka "D-Nice"
    Upsala College, NY
    Great mid-range shooter,
    who put the "H" in Hustle, 
    can rebound, and defend.
    Dan's Theme Song 


#10-Roger Larson

[Seattle, WA] 6'8" F/C
aka "Chew Bacca" aka
"The King of Strat!"
Shoreline Community College, WA
A GM who's a solid defender, 
and rebounder, always in the 
right position, Teammate/Coach/
Friend/Juggler/Magician
Roger's Theme Song   

#12-Lahh Woods 
[Bronx/Harlem, NY] 5'9" G
aka "The Dreamer" 
City College of New York-1975
Good defender, high energy,
ball handler, who also happens
to be the best writer I know.
Lahh's Theme Song


#15-Jay Cheesman
[Orem, UT]  6'10" F/C
aka "Jay Buckets" 
BYU 1973
Let's just call him "The Shooter" 
with great range, and consistency.
Good defender, and rebounder.
Jay's Theme Song


#60-Ricci Greenwood 
     [Chicago, IL] *6'3" G
     aka "Slick Rick The Ruler"
     U.S. Army Team [Europe] 1972
     Superb floor general who can score,
     pass, and defend, a true leader who
     is efficient in his movement & words.

    *I list him as 6'3" because he always
                                 plays bigger than he is.
                                Ricci's Theme Song




This has been a quite amazing experience for me.  I 
have played in many games, and tournaments in my
lifetime.  I have also been blessed to have traveled,
a bit, and have organized countless cultural events, 
and tournaments for over 30 years. This past week
seems to be a culmination of all that I have witnessed,
all that I have received, and produced.  I am thankful
and humble.  Keep it Positive...Keep Your Head to the Sky...EWF

The shear magnitude of over 150 teams from all 
over the world.  Primarily, from the Americas, 
north, south and central, and don't forget the
participating countries from the Caribbean.  But 
there are also basketball teams here from Croatia, 
and Russia.  They are all age 35 and older...and 
THEY ARE BALLERS!  Regardless of their skill-
set or aptitude of the game, teams are balling from 
first whistle till the last horn.  Diving. Shooting. 
Pushing. Pulling. Digging in deep within themselves, 
and linking arms in a sincere effort to work with 
their teammates for just about every tick of the clock,
irregardless of the numbers on the score-board.





Teams are playing with confidence, pride and
dignity, not only for their countries, but also
for each other.  This has been a real eye-opener 
for me.  Here I am thousands of miles away 
from what I call home...almost a lifetime 
away from the cold, hard concrete, and PS 18
Night Center...Light years away from the
battles in front of the rent office in Patterson 
Square Garden in the South Bronx.  I am here
in San Jose, Costa Rica at the feet of ancient
volcanoes, eating fresh cut pineapples, guavas,
and mangos, by the pool...next to the waterfall
...waiting for the van that will take Team USA 
55+ to our first game. Nobody. I should say, 
"No one, wake me up."

Game One 
USA vs Uraguay


There is a buzz of the crowd as we walk into the arena.  All eyes are fixed in our direction, as our tall team steps 
confidently and drop our bags in the east end of the building. All seasoned vets. Collectively we've played thousands or millions of games.  However, for me, this one was different.  This one was almost dream like...because every comment, every bounce of the ball, every stare, every nervous or welcoming smile, from complete strangers confirmed for me a number of things. First and 
foremost it confirmed our humanity.  How we are all 
connected on this earth, in spirit and in truth.  If you come 
in peace, you will receive peace.  If you come as an invading 
force with no respect, you receive no respect in return.  
Bueno...Now with all that said, once the ball goes up in the
air, with all due respect, I'm trying to bust your *ss! And I'm 
sure, in the mind of my opponent, he has identical intentions
por a me.  In my ear, on my head-phones I have MOS DEF [Mathematics] on 9.  Mathematics...Check it Out 

We shook their hands and I made an effort to speak in 
espanol...Que Pasa Hemano?...Primo, como estas?....Tu 
familia es tambien? Bueno.  After a good stretch, I get 
the nod to start in the back-court with Ricci Greenwood 
[Chicago] I see he's got that "assassins" look in his eyes 
and I laugh to myself knowing that this is going to be fun
...I'm feeling great, confident, and calm.  I've been training
injury free for months, ready for this great moment to
arrive.  It didn't take long for me to realize that I was
surrounded by a team of BIGS, who don't mind banging,
and can shoot very well.  This USA 55/60 team is a
high performance, formula one vehicle...and I'm the
wheels.  All I have to do is run the floor, feed the 
shooters, take what's mines, and defend and disrupt. 
Good Times!

This Uraguay team is very strong, and right out the
gate they let us, and the referees, know that this was
going to be a physical experience.  They push, we push 
back.  We go up a few points.  We are running well, and
playing solid D.  We go up a few more points, and the
physical play is countered with experience, and offense
from Julio Davila [Miami] and Kevin Johnson [Arizona].
I feel good, a few deflections, a few assist, and my
man on D is having to work very hard to get what he
gets.  He was a short, stocky, baller, must have been
a hand-full to deal with thirty plus years ago.  Good
team.  It seemed like five minutes into one of the
biggest games of my life, I double down on the block
and get a steal off one of their big men.  The ball is 
headed out of bounds on the baseline and as I run
to grab it...I feel an incredible shot of pain in my 
left lower calf.  Don't quite remember if I was able 
to save the ball or what?  I hobble down court 
realizing, to my horror, that this was serious.  I 
signal to the bench for a sub...as I skip directly
over to the trainer for assistance.  Laying on
the training table, speaking in my best Spanglish
I direct the trainer and get taped up.  I center
myself and begin to pray to the Creator for two
things. [1] The recognition of a positive lesson
amidst all the pain of this situation [2] Allowing 
me the very best effort in this FIMBA experience
injured or not.  
I can run, and move at about 55%...I cannot 
elevate or push off, beginning a new and 
challenging experience here at the FIMBA Pan 
American Games.  I return to  the bench as 
Roger Larson [Seattle] and Neil Nelson [Ballard] 
inquire about my playing status.  I assure them 
that yes there is pain, and I'm going to give it my
best.  Sargeant Larson barks out my marching 
orders, "Just stay in front of your man! Play
from top of the key, to the top of the key alright?!  
None of that diving around the floor stuff alright?!
...None of that acrobatic stuff! Okay...Just keep 
it basic!"  I focus and his words as I see Team 
Uraguay with a bounce in their steps with the 
game relatively close.  Minutes later I'm back 
on the court...Our lead goes from seven to 
twelve points, and the crowd is hoping to see 
something dramatic.  Neil Nelson [WA]
and Dan Valhalla [San Diego] aka 'The Bruise
Brothers" turn up the volume on both sides
of the boards, as they lock down the low post.
Jay Cheesman [Utah] knocks down a few 
buckets as Slick Ricci Greenwod [Chicago] 
orchestrates defensive, and offensive, scenarios 
that put us in the right place at the right time. 
All I have to do is stay in my lane, complete
my part of the play, and make good decisions
in the moment...And trust that everyone 
around me will take care of the rest.  And 
they did.  USA55 by 13.  Details at FIMBA.net
Taste of Folk Music in Uraguay
                  Challenges are opportunities for growth &
                    blessings....at the FIMBA Games...LW
                               The Kinesio Tape University Website
     In a parallel universe, on the other side of San Jose,
the USA 50 Team is also competing for gold in the hills
of Costa Rica.  This talented ensemble was assembled
from various parts of the United States, Tampa, Trenton,
Chicago, and so on.  Rumor has it, that they were not
significantly challenged on this day, and ran away with
a twenty-five point lead.  USA 50 is also 1-0.

San Jose, Costa Rica
Universidad de Abogado
Day Three
Game Two 
USA vs Panama A
We arrive at the Universidad 
de Abogado as the youth 
division [70+] were wrapping 
up their contest on the hard,
tiled, floor.  The two teams were 
locked in spirited battle and if 
I'm not mistaken, Argentina had
a small lead on Chile.  Just like all the other division,
teams play with pride, and strength from the first
whistle to the last buzz of the score-clock.  

Before the game, I take pause, and slowly 
walk around the grounds of the Universidad 
de Abogado.  In the tropical setting, mountains
in the distance, I thought of the blessings of 
being here, bouncing the rock, at fifty-eight 
years old.  Such a long, long way from playing 
ball in front of the rent office with the Green, 
and Doward brothers...in "The Square" ...
in Patterson Houses...in the South Bronx, NYC. 

After I'm given a massage, and the proper taping in
the trainers area, I walk into the playing area.  I read
the US 55+ Team, as they casually lean back, and chat
politely on the cool concrete bleachers.  Any opponent
who does not know them, could easily underestimate
the collective ability of these battle seasoned vets.

This tournament is my first time playing with this 
US 55 Unit.  Over the past three or four years I 
have played against several of these players in 
various masters tournaments around the country.  
The only player I had previously played with 
was Slick Ricci Greenwood.  We played together 
in Jacksonville Masters 2016 for Team Burlington. 
[LCI] from Toronto, coached by Doug "Puffy" 
Combs.  In Jacksonville our team got "snowed 
out" in Charlotte, and had many roster no shows 
as a result of the winter elements.  We didn't fare 
particularly well. Frankly, we got our tail feathers 
kicked by my friend Warren Prehmus, and the 
good old Georgia Boys.

          The sportsmanship, and character displayed by
the team representing Panama was on an incredible
level.  They smiled, and welcomed my handshakes,
and informal "Spanglish" introductions of myself to 
them. "Que pasa hemano?" [What's happening bro?]
"Tu eres tambien? [You good?]  Tranquillo Primo. 
[Take it easy cousin] "Bueno. Me jente!" [Good. My
People]  Sometimes they would fire back responses
that I could not catch in spanish, where I would smile
and raise my hands and say "Yo no comprende bro!
Yo obla poqito espaniol."  It was great, at the moment,
to remove the traditional invading army vibe that many
ballplayers bring into the contest.  We are not enemy
combatants, out for the scalps of our balding opponents
on the hardwood.  So let's play the game of basketball!
       Even as a child, back in my Biddy and Midget ball 
days, there's always one.  By the time I was traveling a 
little bit around the city playing pick-up, or organized, 
ball there was always one.  The one I am referring to is 
the player who always wants to be "extra" physical, 
before the game...during the game....after the game.  
Why is this?  Please tell me. Why is there always 
one guy who just has to go there?  How did he make
the team?  I never did like all of that Detroit Bad Boys'
bravado, or the Boston Celtic tough guy, goons, coming 
off their bar-stools with five hard fouls to give to an 
obviously more talented player.
 
Sometimes you can spot his chubby behind on the 
layup line, with an egg sandwich gently balanced 
in the palm of his hand.   Or you might bust him 
eating some other sweet snack, as his teammates 
are stretching or warming up for the game...and 
he's always thirsty, "Agua, Agua!" and he's
always asking players do they have gum.   Now 
he doesn't have to be one of the heavier players
on the team.  Oh no...he can be as skinny as me,
but his mission is always the same.  Make the
other team feel the pain. Well like I said, just 
about every team has one, and so does Panama B.
Now that I'm thinking about it, who fits that
"physical first" style of play on USA FIMBA 55? 
Hmmm??
       Panama had a physical presence, like many of the
other masters teams. They have skilled players who 
complemented one another in a unique way.  They 
were specialist.   They had ball handlers who could
get the ball to the shooters, and they hung with us
right up until half-time.  Team USA 55+ regrouped
and began to separate ourselves from them by stepping
up the defensive effort, and hitting a series of mid to 
long range jump shots.  I believe that Panama may 
have erred in their rotation at one point, where they 
had no ball handlers, or scorers, on the floor at the
same time.  We exploited the situation on the floor
and secure a fourteen point win. Ruben Blades Son of Panama


                              Team Panama A at FIMBA Masters 2016

USA 55 defeats Panama B by 14 Points

Yet again USA 50 is quite successful in their efforts on
the hardwood court as they secure another large margin
of victory.   USA 50 moves closer to the medal round in
a dramatic fashion, and they are now 2-0.

                               THE 2016 FIMBA DINNER AND DANCE IN COSTA RICA






Details at FIMBA.net

Day Four  
Game Three 
USA vs Puerto Rico B
La Musica de Puerto Rico 
Today at the FIMBA 
games the sun seems 
to be shining brighter,
and brighter as we 
are blessed with 
yet another day of 
sharing, all the while
experiencing...the Costa Rican Vida Pura. 

Today we played a very tough Puerto Rican team.
Every-one on this Puerto Rican team knew all of 
the people I grew up with, played with, and against 
from NY [The Bronx & El Barrio/Harlem] who 
had stellar careers in the Superior Balocestos
League in Puerto Rico.  Players like "my mans 
and them"...Chicky Burgos, Carmelo Rosa, Billy
Santos, Caesar [RIP], me Hermano...Corky Ortiz, 
George Torres [We called him "Pretty Boy"...And 
of course, my neighbor on the first floor of building 
281 E. 143 Street...Angel "Machito" Cruz.  
      Yo soy Boriqua.  Me madre dia es Puertoriqueno
de pueblo de Toa Baja.  Tu sabe Toa Baha? Bueno.
My grandmother came to the United States of 
America in 1917, and my mother was born in
Harlem in 1924.  They made a life for themselves
in El Barrio [Spanish Harlem] and lived on 111 Street
between 5th & Lenox.  They lived and survived
poverty, discrimination, poor health care, 'The
Depression", 'Prohibition","The Recession" 
"The White Plague" Racism and lived and loved
through it all.  My mother is still living and loving
at 90 plus.  I thank God for their courage, love,
and sacrifice.  Here in sunny Costa Rica, as I struggle
with my "Spanglish", I stand proudly on the brave 
shoulders of my ancestors.  
       We played fairly well as a unit and we are slowly
gelling during this tournament.  Everyone on this
USA 55+ has a great skill set, and we rarely find
ourselves out of sorts or with a loss of composure.
It's great playing with a group you've never played
with before, and for the most part, when you are
all on the same successful page.  Hats off to
Roger Larson and the Seattle Connection for
selecting such a great group of ballers to 
represent the USA.  We have rebounders, 
Defenders, Shooters and all were great ball-
handlers.
     We had injuries, sickness, even a couple of
players who didn't make this historic trip due 
to personal matters at home.  We stuck together,
covered each others tails when necessary and
played well together.
 We never had a commanding lead due to the 
great effort of the Puerto Rican ballers.  They 
never gave up and played with "Mas Fuerte!" 
[Very Strong]  After the game, one of the players
asked me where I was from.  I told him I'm from
the Bronx, and Harlem...He said he used to live
on University Ave....We hug, and laugh, and
he said he used to run up at Roberto Clemente
State Park.  Madd shout to the ballplayers up
in the BX and Harlem.

USA 55 wins by about 10 or 12 points.

Details at Fimba.net

                    



Day Four
Sunrise 
Country Tour of Coffee Plantation

Poas National Volcano Park Website

La Paz Waterfalls & Nature Preserve Website 

Alajuela, Costa Rica




                                  Pas y Bendiciones....La Paz Waterfalls

Day Five
Sunrise
Aportel La Sabana Hotel
San Jose, Costa Rica
 We had a day off from scheduled 
events, and games.  Many teammates
relaxed about the Aportel Sabana 
Sud Hotel at pool-side or in their 
rooms.  Some casually walked the neighborhood and shopped for 
groceries and gifts.  I bunkered 
down in my Roger-less room, [head-phones booming] 
Toumani Diabate Kora Master and finally began writing some 
of the emotions and words you are reading at this 
moment.  I'd been in Costa Rica for almost a week, 
over-whelmed, and blessed.  However, I hadn't wrote 
a single syllable.

But, before all of that, and right after another incredible,
fresh, sunlit breakfast...I was off to the wooded area of 
the park, across the Avenue of the Americas, to play 
my alto saxophone with the incredible audience of
sun beams, tiny brown squirrels, gold and green bees, 
and an assortment of black birds with hats on. 



Day Six
The Medal Round One
USA vs Panama B


Day Seven
Free Day 
DJ Rockin Rob
                    [Ladies] Peru vs Guatemala 






 Flag of Guatemala                                                  Flag of Peru

Details at FIMBA.net 


                                             THE LADIES OF TEAM GUATEMALA 


                                                         THE LADIES OF TEAM PERU



                        *************************************
Moskow Never Sleeps 
  
The Black Russian
Who was Alexander Pushkin? 
Translated Poems of Pushkin

                                 Alexander Pushkin: Famous Russian Poet of African decent.

...In the mornings I try to get out, run freely, 
and see some of the country I'm visiting.  Before the 
traffic and the hustle of the scheduled day I make an 
attempt to see the waking faces of the immediate 
community.  On just about every morning I would 
run into one of the Russians in front of the hotel.  
The Russian 45+ Basketball team, all militarily
fit, were stationed in the same hotel as we were.  
So in my best Russian, I would smile and say "God 
Morning...you play today?"  "You win yesterday? 
Yahh?!...NO?!"  Hand signal, grunts, thumps up, 
thumbs down...pantomime...How many syllables?
This was a daily exercise, until I ran into Yuri.  Yuri
is one of the outstanding players on this Russian 45
team.  He's a 6'6" swing forward with guard skills.  
He can score, rebound and defend...He is a game 
changer...on and off the court.  One morning at 
breakfast, after I go through my usual exercise of 
trying to speak Russian.  Or should I say, trying to
communicate with a Russian.  He turns to me, and 
asks, "I heard you won your game yesterday at the 
Tennis Club, No?" I was like wow, my man's english 
(sic) is clear as a break-away lay-up.  So from then 
on, Yuri, and Special K, and myself continued to 
click and each day we would have a few moments 
to talk.  One morning, Special K was out front, 
relaxing, puffing on tobacco and checking his 
secret messages on Facebook.  I walked up on 
him and I asked could I interview him for my 
website...NYDLBALL.com  He gave me a puzzled 
look, not sure what I was trying to say to him.  He 
kind of looked around for an assist.  However, 
Yuri, the translator, was nowhere in site, so we
were on our own.  Special K, smiles and laughs
in Russian as he pulls up an app on his phone
that would translate the two non-romantic
languages that are distant cousins to one another.
                                            The great communicator machine

I asked him a series of questions, that came up
on the touch screen of his phone in Russian.  
After he spoke, I saw his answers on his phone
in English, and we giggled like biddy ballplayers 
getting our first gold trophies together.

So after running past one another for almost a week,
we [USA 55] had a day off before we were to 
compete in the medal round.  Most of my teammates
relaxed with family at the hotel.  I elected to join my
Russian friends at their game vs Argentina.  At breakfast
they told me to be ready at 2 PM and I could ride with
them.  Cool.  Back in my room I made a few calls to
family, and sent some mass text messaged updating
folks on our "so far-so good" experience in Costa Rica.
    Later we squeeze into the van.  The back was
packed with teammates, and friends...Special K 
driving, seat belt-less...cellphone in hand.  
Yuri riding shotgun, and myself riding the parking 
brake holding on for "dear life." We stop at a mall
...apparently we are early and have some time to 
kill.  We walk the mall, as a Russian unit...Mostly 
window shopping, and yes, we buy several 
windows.  I get it, people want to see how other 
people are living on the other side of the world.  
And what better way to find out than walking 
through a mall.  I walk with several Russian
players as we pass electronics, and clothing stores.
Several store employees asked where we were from,
and in my best Spanglish I explained that we were here
for the Pan American Games.  "I Americano y mi 
hermanos...Russians."


Minutes later we are all in our places in the van, and
when we get to the arena the security guards froze
in their tracks when they see the van full of Russian
athletes and the single Africano. Yuri, our leader, 
states in an authoritarian voice,"We are the Russian
team scheduled to play here, now."  The guards don't
open the gate.  They peer into the front of the van,
they look into the rear of the van, and then back at 
me.  The guards briefly speak to each other, and
glance my way again.  Just keep cool, I think to
myself.  Yuri must not have heard me thinking
and repeats, "We are the Russian Basketball team
scheduled to play here!"  The guards look at him...
then they look at me, shrug their shoulders and lift
the barrier up so that we can enter the arena. 


Special K and Yuri, talk to each other as we pass
into the parking lot, wondering what the delay was
all about...I mention to them that the guards must
not have ever seen a Black Russian before.  Yuri
chuckles, and translates my remark to the teammates 
in the rear of the van and everyone had a good laugh.


Russia vs Argentina
                                                  







Flag of Russia                                                     Argentina's Flag

                                      
                                               RUSSIAN MEN'S [45+] Head Coach

This Russian 45 is a very good basketball club.  They have
a commanding presence.  They challenge on defense, and
rebound as a unit. They like to run and attack the basket
with a fierce intensity.  Even when they had broken plays, or
momentary losses of continuity on the court, the individual 
talent of these players reflected their strength and versatility.  
They hit their threes, they got low post buckets, and Yuri
got a breakaway dunk or two.  By halftime the Russian team
was up at least 15 points, and that lead was doubled in the
second half. I don't believe they lost a game the entire week.
They were not allowed into the medal round because they
were not from a country located in the Americas.  It would
have been interesting to have seen this team play against
either of the US Teams [50 or 55] or the teams that represented
Puerto Rico or Brazil.  This Russian team has some very
good ballers on it.  Maybe we can persuade them to visit
us state site and get some games in at Rucker Park. That
would be very cool. 


 
Lahh Woods [USA] with Yuri Kovalev [Russia] and Guatemala
 
 

What can be said about the medal rounds?  This can
be difficult to express to someone who hasn't experienced
it.  For me, it's a combination of excitement, and nervousness.
However, when you've spent countless hours in preparation
the excitement is enhanced, and the nervousness is minimized.
There is a place of comfort and confidence that kicks in
once the game finally gets started.  It's the concern, and sometimes
pain in your opponents eyes, when they realize that, on this
day, they are not properly prepared for competition. 
This is that massive final exam...at the end of the semester...of 
your senior year...and only you know in your heart whether
graduation is in jeopardy. However, basketball is not an
individual event.  It is a team sport.  At what point do you trust 
your teammates with the responsibility of your graduation?
The reality is, "No one graduates alone, work together,
and learn to trust your teammates!"    
   



PUERTO RICO vs MEXICO 
[LADIES 35+]
 
 PUERTO RICAN DAY [NYC]
 


                         COACH RODRIGUEZ of TEAM PUERTO RICO [LADIES 35+]



National Flag of Mexico


                                          INTERVIEW WITH TEAM MEXICO'S COACH

                              The Ladies of Team Mexico  

Details at FIMBA.net 

Day Seven
The Medal Round Two
Semi-Final Game
USA Men's 55+ vs Equador



 








          This FIMBA 2016 final four game was a bit of a 
challenge for the US 55+ team.  No excuses, we had a 
week of injuries and sickness, and I'm sure other teams 
did also.  With that said, we were challenged by the 
offensive and defensive heart showcased by this tough 
Equadorian team.  This was an emotional week for
this courageous team of ballers from Equador.  As a 
result of the devastating magnitude 7.8 earthquake 
that took place two weeks ago, many of these athletes 
lost loved ones, friends and fellow citizens in the 
Central American nation. 

Massive 7.8 Magnatude Earthquake 2016
How could they persevere, deal with all of that loss,
and continue to participate in an event like? I know
their hearts are worn, and their minds were without
a doubt at home.  My prayers, my heart, and 
my condolences to the loving, courageous, and proud 
people of Equador.  They were true professionals 
during these FIMBA Games in every sense of the 
word, from the coaching staff on down to the players.  
Mucho Bendiciones.  
    In regards to the game, they spread the floor on 
offense and scored three pointers and baskets to keep 
pace with the US Team 55.  They played physical, and 
made some great shots from beyond the arch and in 
the paint.  Equador came with a large crowd to support 
them.  However, now that I think about it, they had the 
support and sympathy of many who had attended the 
contest.  How could you not root for them, after all 
they've been through?  They never gave up and the 
US Team secured the win by six points and qualified 
for the Gold Medal Match-Up with Brazil. Pas 




USA defeats Equador to advance to the 2016 FIMBA
Pan American Games Age 55+ Championship Game 

Brazil Men's 55+ defeats Uraguay A       ********************************************

                           2016 Gold Medal Celebration at FIMBA

Men's 50+ Divison
    2016 FIMBA
  Championship   
Puerto Rico vs USA





                                  USA 50+ Men Defeat Puerto Rico in FIMBA 50+ Final

           USA Men's 50 secure the 2016 FIMBA Championship defeating Team Puerto Rico

                                  **********************************************


Men's 55 + Division
     2016 FIMBA 
     Champioship   
     Brasil vs USA






Facing Brazil in the 2016 FIMBA Final was one of the biggest
games of my life.  I didn't sleep well the night before.  I hung
out with my Russian partners well into the evening...It's not
like we were out on the town, we were in my living room
trading jerseys, and youtube videos that bridged the verbal
communications gap.  They didn't speak much English, and
I didn't speak any Russian.  The only Russian that Roger and 
I had learned from our new friends were a few Russian curse 
words that are normally said when taking group photos.  

The team was up early, and breakfast was once again world 
class.  I ate solo...next to the pool...right next to the palm trees...
right along the side of the waterfall.  Towards the end of my 
prayers, I also thanked Mom and Dad who have given me 
so much in life.  I stare into the sun bouncing off the tranquil waters, and think of how much they, and my other family 
members, would really enjoy this Pan-American experience.
I close my eyes, and I can hear my wife, and grandchildren,
busy laughing and moving about poolside.  Can we get a do 
over?  
        From the time we walked into the arena, all eyes were
focused in our direction.  From the bleachers we cheered 
and screamed for Team USA 50 in their championship 
victory over a very talented club representing, me jentes, 
[my people] Puerto Rico.  At times, I was torn like seeing 
two family members battle "toe to toe".  By half-time 
I resolved my emotions by saying to myself, "May the 
best team win", and something corny like, "I just want to 
see a good game."

At the trainer's table, helpful associates did their jobs with 
welcome smiles and professionalism.  I was reminded of
a time, during my three year NCAA experience at
The City College of New York in the seventies.  A 
wonderful world of managers, trainers, radio...televised games...administrators, flights, fans, adoring classmates, 
team buses, smiling women, and the signing of autographs.
It all came back to me in a heartbeat.  Hard to put
into words.  It can all be quite intoxicating, and you can 
be blinded in your own foggy reality.  This was a second
chance at it.  A chance to be humble, respectful, and
to truly enjoy the blessings of the good vibration 
around me...And I am thankful to God. 

        When I came into the game five minutes in, we were
already up six or seven points.  I was amped and ready to
make an immediate impact on the game.  I was on the floor
for what seemed no time at all, making things difficult for
their ball-handlers...The Brazilian front line hovered around
six-foot ten and were where they got most of their
offensive production.  "My mans and them" Ron Knect
had played with the Croatian team that served Brazil with
their only loss of the week.  Ron had told me before the
game that the US guards were superior to Brazil and that
he believed that we would get that 'W".
I get into the game, denying the post-ups, pressuring the 
ball in the back-court, hanging out in the passing lanes...
Feeding our numerous shooters...I'm feeling pretty good, 
when on defense my Brazilian opponent elected to smack 
me across my mouth.  WTF? I react, and push him across 
his chest.  WHISTLES!! A FLURY OF ESPANOL!!
As my opponent raises his palms to the heavens with
that innocent, "What did I do?" look on his face.
Teammates get in between us...A double tech is called.
When play resumes, in my best "Spanglish", I express
my best apology for having pressed my big mouth
against the firm palm of his hand.  NOT EXACTLY 
what was said to him.  However, I believe he got the 
message. 
      My teammates make my limiting leg injury very
manageable.  Ricci Greenwood, the great guard from
Chicago, stayed within eye-site when I brought the 
ball up.  My calf injury had me moving at about 65%.  
I can play basic D, run the floor well, however, 
shooting the ball, or pushing back in the paint on 
defense were extremely difficult.
     Just the way Player/Coach/Manager/Hoop Guru
Roger Larson was correct when he predicted, 
"Build chemistry during our four upcoming games
in Costa Rica, and in the medal round we should 
find our stride, and win this darn thing!"
       Brazil had a physical presence, like many of the
other teams at the Pan American Games.  Physical
play can take alot out of the aging legs and lungs
of Master's competitors.  It is hard to sustain that
type of play for forty minutes...and fatigue, once
again, became a factor.  

The keys to the U.S. victory was solid team defense,
rebounding in bunches, and phenomenal perimeter
shooting.  A steady collective effort by Team USA 
55+ created the separation that was needed to secure
the 2016 Pan American Games Championship.

My heartfelt thanks and gratitude to my USA 55+
teammates.  My teammates, and their families, 
made my Pan-American experience one that I will 
treasure for the rest of my years.  The conversations,
kindness, acts of generosity were the highlights of
my dream experience in Costa Rica.
       After the game, the Brazilian guard who I had
the altercation with on the court came over to me
as expressed his sorrow for smacking me in the
mouth.  "I'm sorry for what I did to you earlier", 
he confesses in clear, and polished English.
I keep it moving and say, "All right", shake his
hand, and move quickly to line-up for photos, 
and the heartfelt celebration.  
The people of Costa Rica, and other participating 
countries were congratulatory, gracious...I took 
many photos, got many warm hugs, but I didn't 
sign any autographs...And I was cool with that.   
Blessings.  Lahh







The United States Men's Age 55+ were crowned Champions of 
the 2016 Pan American Games by defeating Brazil 64-40.

Details at FIMBA.net 


Much love and blessings to all the family and friends from
New York to San Jose for the love and prayers during
this experience.  Special thanks to the families who traveled
with the team and added a real sense of community during
this Pura Vida happening in Costa Rica.  Much love and
blessings to my wife and the extended Woods family through-
out the world for their love and support.   
Pas y Bendiciones...Lahh

                               AT THE SUMMIT OF A VOLCANO IN COSTA RICA

PAS Y....BENDICIONES

 

8 comments:

  1. Hey my friend, I still waiting for you to post tge video for the Ecuadorian coaches, please. It was nice to meet you. USA won by only 6 points against Ecuador, it was a tight game.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Bendiciones, Ayer, El dia de mas magnifico...USA 55+
    es Ganadores de Baloncesto de FIMBA 2016 Games de PanAmericanas...Yo estoy muy, muy tranquillo y todo
    tambien chevre...Bueno...
    Mucho Gracia por me familia y me jente por la
    amor y mas bendiciones. Gracia por my jente y
    me familia en Los Estados Unidos, me hermanas y
    hermanas en Puerto Rico...y me hermanos Yuri
    y Special K en Russia. Bueno, ahora en
    Charlotte, NC y en tres horas...me casa
    en Nuevo York...
    Felicidades, Pas, mas Bendiciones,
    y Pura Vida!.... Tu Hermano Lahh

    ReplyDelete
  3. The following are some of the beautiful
    messages I received from people all over
    the world. Pas y Bendiciones...Mucho Gracias,,Lahh

    Mike Napolitano:
    Congrats to the 55+ USA team in Costa Rica!
    Childhood friend and ball player Lahh Woods
    from Paterson Projects is living his dream!
    Bringing home the gold medal! — with Lahh
    Woods in Costa Rica.

    LikeShow more reactions
    CommentShare
    82Tamara Mitchell, Melody Mercer and 80 others
    14 comments
    19 shares
    Comments
    View 8 more comments

    James Snyder
    James Snyder Lahhh Woods is in the building yall !!!!!!!!!!
    Like · Reply · May 1 at 1:33pm

    Mark Lewis
    Mark Lewis Nice pic congrats Lahh.
    Like · Reply · May 1 at 1:36pm

    Aj Creswell
    Aj Creswell CONGRATULATIONS LAHH WOODS AND TEAM USA!!! AMESEGE'NALLO!!!

    Like · Reply · May 1 at 6:44pm
    Leon Manning
    Leon Manning Congratulations Guys💪🏾
    Like · Reply · May 1 at 6:58pm

    Courtney Myers
    Courtney Myers Congrats
    Like · Reply · May 1 at 9:50pm

    Orlando Mcallister
    Orlando Mcallister Hope you have footage Lahh. Congrats!
    Like · Reply · May 1 at 10:15pm

    ReplyDelete
  4. USA fought them in the backcourt and on the glass. When confronted with injuries and sickness the team never waivered. When future fimba.usa ballers look back on the championship game against Brazil, they will say that this was our finest hour. We never surrendered. Winston Churchill.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Pas y Bendiciones...Just wanted to thank all of the friends
    and family for all of the comments and support for our
    efforts in the Pan American Games...It was an opportunity
    of a lifetime and the memories will be cherished for the
    rest of my life. All of my new friends from Costa Rica,
    Equador, Panama, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Peru, Mexico,
    Belize, I will remain in contact until the next event.
    Maybe it will be in your country so I can see how
    you are living...I hope that it happens sooner than
    later...To my Russian Friends Yuri, Special K, Coach,
    and all the others...All I have to say is MOSKOW DOESN'T
    SLEEP!! Till we meet again...Pas y Bediciones! Lahh

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Lahh, this is Cesar wife from Ecuador, we was wondering if Cesar can get in touch with you, here is number 617-510-1467. Take care friend.

    ReplyDelete
  7. How does somebody get signed up to play on a FIMBA team? I don't have a team to play. thank you

    ReplyDelete
  8. If you want to get on a team you can contact the tournament directors in each of the host cities. Go to the EVENTS PAGE on this site and find an event that is for your age group. That's a good place to start. In the meantime, make sure you are healthy, work-out, and get in shape for basketball. For some of the older players, it may take months or years to regain your touch and feel for the game. Be patient...set realistic goals, work hard, and have fun....Justice. LW

    ReplyDelete