To capture the full feel of Mike Turin’s current 3 week training for his November 18th match up with Edwards, I have decided to spend today to see just how he is training to become the subsequent victor.
Breakfast of Champions: 6am
It’s early. Still dark early. Wiping the early morning excess from my eyes, I march up Turin’s front steps and enter the extravagant half wood, half opaque glass front door to his West Roxbury mansion. As I enter into his front hall, on the wall I notice that Mike has hung a portrait of himself, posing like Napoleon, but with his shirt ripped off revealing a glistening six pack while two albino tigers lay by his feet. Is this a dream? Before I can answer my own question, Mike comes storming out of his bedroom at me with a bat thinking that I was some looter. I threw my hands up and screamed, “Mike, it’s me, O’Cal! You said to come by today!”
Identifying me, Mike abruptly halted his assault and told me, “Sorry, O’Cal. I’ve had to take extra precautions now that I got a target on my back. C’mon, I’m just about to make breakfast.” The apology did little to slow my heart rate down, but I was glad that I didn’t start my day off with a blow to the squash.
After dropping the bat, Mike leads me into his modern kitchen, equipped with all necessary appliances. He swings open his refrigerator door and doesnt even hesitate for a second before ripping out the carton of eggs. Making his way to the counter, Mike takes a tall glass out of his cupboard and begins to crack the first of six eggs into the cup. Wow, I obviously thought, just like Rocky. “You’re really going to drink six eggs, Mike?”
“Not exactly,” he mumbles. He starts walking back towards his bedroom as I silently yet inquisitively follow him. We reach his bed and he nudges Steph, who is sound asleep nestled under her sheets. “Steph?” Mike repeatedly asks until she grumbles something indiscernible. “Can you cook these eggs for me, honey?” he pleads. “I don’t want to burn my dribbling hand.”
“Oh, Jesus, Mike, it’s just a stupid one on one game!” Steph cries out before rolling back over.
Mike coyly looks over at me. I shoot him a look like don’t look at me. Then, he walks me out of the bedroom and says, “She’ s…ah…been on edge lately, you know, cause of the game.”
“I can tell”, I sarcastically blurt out as I roll my eyes.
“You know what, we can get breakfast on the way. After today, you’ll see how hard I’m training and why Edwards has no shot at beating me.”
“That’s why I’m here. I can’t wait.”
Welcome to the Hood: 10am
Mike is fully dressed in his basketball gear and we are driving through Roxbury. All of a sudden, his car stops right in front of a sign that reads WASHINGTON PARK. Unsure what we could possibly be doing here, I await Mike’s lead. He can tell I’m a bit apprehensive as I look over the court that is equipped with cracks along the pavement, graffiti, chain nets, and finally, what looks like some serious gangstas at center court. Mike swings his door open, with ball in hand, and insists, “Don’t sweat it. Those guys are with me.”
Dumfounded, I reluctantly get out the car and uneasily stroll towards the group of men that look like they are straight out of a G-Unit video. Faint sounds of police or ambulance sirens fill the air until the men cheer out, “MixTape!!!” Then, my eyes have a hard time following the elaborate exchange of daps between Mike and his apparent crew, which reminds me of when David Ortiz comes back into the dugout after hitting a homerun. “O’Cal, this is my crew, The Sizzles.” They all throw up a gang sign, consisting of them imitating the sound of bacon sizzling over the oven while waiving their fingers in the air. I am speechless and in awe as they start playing ball. Is this really happening?
Now, I’ve seen the AND 1 tapes and TV shows, but this basketball is ten times better and hardcore to the max. I watch them play for a while and just as my attention begins to wander in the direction of a scream from the nearby projects, Mike erupts on the court, berating someone in his crew. “Yo! Aint no way you think you better than me, Switchblade! You soft fool, you soft!” Right then and there, Mike calls me over. Apparently, someone in Mike’s crew has challenged him for the top spot in the group. “O’Cal!!! Come see me wet this cat up.” It seemed like this is how they settled all conflicts. Game to one, that’s it. Everyone lined up on the sides of the paint, confining the two to use only the paint to score the coveted, hard earned one point. Chants began to echo, “Attica! Attica! Attica!” Mike checked the ball with Switchblade in the newly formed tight quarters. Everyone was going crazy on both sides of me as Mike proceeded hurl the ball off the backboard, caught it and started dancing with the ball, instigating deafening cheers from the rest of his crew. Then, Mike dribbled the ball through Switchblade’s legs, spun around him and threw down a reverse dunk. (Keep in mind, we’re in the hood, so the hoop is drooping down a few feet) Everyone erupted as Mike triumphantly strutted around the court exclaiming for Switchblade to, “bounce up outta here till you lose that attitude, sucka!” Before Switchblade could leave, Mike hollars, “Now, give me it to me, fool, you don’t deserve it.” Mike is holding his hand out, adamantly demanding that something be handed over to him. Finally, like a dog with his tail tucked through his legs, Switchblade spits out a razorblade and gives it to Mike. “And you don’t get it back till you get your mind right, bitch!”
About an hour after Switchblade took his walk, Turin decided that he had enough fine tuning his handle for one day. After everyone said their goodbyes, Mike and I got back in his car. As we started to drive away Mike confesses, “Yeah, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without my Sizzles. That’s where the game all game from.” I don’t even know how to respond to what I have just seen. I just sit quietly until we reach our next destination.
Middleton Fat Camp: 5pm
The next stop on the training day parade brings us to a ranch out in Middleton, Ma. I’ve never been this far into the sticks in my life. We pull off a main road and follow a dirt path until I see a massive compound, chained all around with a huge white sign at the gate. MIDDLETON CENTER FOR THE OVERLY ROUNDED GENTLEMAN. I thought to myself, I haven’t heard a euphemism like that since my mom told me when I was 5 that we had to put my dog to sleep because he was too tired.
After Mike parks the car, we get out and head towards the main facility until we are greeted by security. All of a sudden me and Mike got our hands on the wall and we’re spreading ’em. As we get patted down, the burly security guard sporting Aviators, circa 1990, asks us a series of questions. “You’re not smuggling any outside substances into the camp are you? The penalty for smuggling banned foods into the compound is a $5,000 fine.”
He turns us around and I try to test his sense of humor by confessing, “You’re right lieutenant, I’m trying to smuggle a chocolate cruller in, but I don’t think you want to go search where I got it.” I get nothing except muffled chuckles from Mike next to me.
The security guard gives us clearance to enter after the man with the rubber glove gave us the ol’ colon check. Walking a tad bit funny, I quietly ask Mike, “What are we doing here?” Before he even gets to answer my question we reach our intended destination. I see that there is a basketball hoop set up in the middle in what looks like an airplane hangar.
Mike hands the director of the facility a couple bills from his wallet and the director waives over to the far door, before exiting. Waddling over is a man that hasn’t seen his genitals since the Reagan era. The pale blonde man heading our way must be at least 500lbs. Mike leans over and professes his strategy. “You see, all Edwards can do is back people in. It was either, fine tune my defense by going cow-tipping or coming here. So, I paid the director to let me train with the fattest guy here so when I guard Edwards, it will be like child’s play.”
The large gentleman picks up the ball, and for the next hour, all he does is back Turin down to the hoop. Now, I have seen everything. Instead of doing school work, I’m at a fat camp watching some chubby bastard backing Turin down to the hoop. What is wrong with me?
At first, the Michellan Man has little problem barreling over Mike to get to the hoop. However, as time progresses Mike thinks he is starting to get the hang of defending such a large mass. I am too nice to tell him that the reason he is starting to get steals, blocks and such is because after the first drive, Jupiter was out of breath.
On the last possession, Mike gets a steal before the titan passes out and hits the ground with a loud thud. Triumphantly, Mike trots over to me. “See, another two weeks of this and Edwards won’t score a point.” I don’t really hear Mike because I notice that the big man hasn’t budged an inch.
“Ah, Mike?” I hesitantly ask. “That guy aint moving.”
Mike cautiously approaches the downed man and nudges him with his foot. “You ok?” he asks. No response. Mike and I look apprehensively stare at one another before we make a bee line for the door like the end of Butch Cassidy. When we get in the car and speed off, out of breath I sputter out, “You didn’t give him your name did you?”
Mike wryly shoots back, “I didn’t give him my name.”
“Whose name did you give him?”
“I told him I was John Edwards.”
“Mike, I really need to get home. I got school tomorrow.”
“Don’t worry, this is the last stop.”
We pull up to the Hooters by North Station a little before 9pm. For some odd reason, all of the waitresses in there know Mike. “So this is the first time youíve ever been here, huh?” I sarcastically inquire.
“I’ve been here once or twice for entertainment purposes, but tonight is all about business” We don’t sit down for a minute, when a barrage of wings and pitchers of Harpoon litter the table, thanks to our well-endowed servers. Mike throws me a stopwatch. I snag it out of the air with a perplexed expression. Then, Mike tells me, “Ok, time to work on strength and conditioning. Say go and keep time.”
Reluctantly I say, “Um…Go,” and begin the stopwatch. Like feeding time at the zoo, Mike dives in, taking wings 5 at a time, flushing them down with a pitcher of beer. He does this for a half hour straight until he lets out an enormous burp and grunts, “Time!” When all is said and done, Mike has polished off 11 buckets of wings and 9 pitchers of beer.
Slightly slurring, Mike informs me, “Ha. Last night I was at 30:57. See, the conditioning is improving.”
Although Mikeís training is over, I start to think that he is working OT when he proceeds to order more pitchers of beer. It’s almost 10 and Turin is officially wasted. He throws his arm around me and starts telling me his darkest fears.
Almost incoherent, Turin rambles about his re-occurring nightmare, “…And I’m Serge. All I want to do is take a right handed lay-up and it won’t let me. Ah, you, don’t…um…But, seriously, I, ah, what was I saying?” But the rants don’t stop there. Turin continues to drunkenly carry on, “I really donít trust the metric system. I’m 6 feet tall and they want me to be something like 2 meters. Where’s the rest of my meters? That’s bull…(burp) You tellin’ me I can’t be six feet tall and I will knock you out.”
“You’re six feet tall Mike.”
“That’s right, bitch (hiccup).”
Once Hooters closes at 1am, and Mike is done making me feel like I want to Van Goh my ears off, we head out to the parking lot. Mike tries to go to the driver’s side of the car, but I snatch the keys out of his hands and announce, “I think I’ll drive.”
Mike doesn’t put up much of a fight. Still slurring, “Yeah, these cops around here can be dicks if you’ve had a beer or two.”
“or three dozen,” I utter under my breath as I hop behind the wheel.
As we pull up to Mike’s estate, he is zonked out. I debate pulling the ole, wheel barrel delivery, but I like Steph too much. I walk around to the passenger seat and go to fireman carry Mike. Once I get him over my shoulders and agonize over each step I have to take with him on my back I wondered how much easier this would be if he didn’t bring 20 extra pounds home with him from Hooters. I ring the door bell and eventually, Steph answers the door.
“He trained hard, huh?” Steph coyly asks.
“Yeah, he’s a true testament to hard work paying off,” I managed to mumble out as I steered my way towards Mike’s bedroom.
Finally, I plump him down on his bed. Just as I turned around and reached his door, Mike, almost painfully, calls out, “Tical!”
I maneuver back towards him, annoyed, and ask, “What, Mike?”
“How come you didn’t mention me in the write up two weeks ago?
I don’t even acknowledge the comment, “Good night Mike. And don’t take this personal, but I really don’t want to see you for like a year, ok?”
My comments didn’t even sink in. Mike drunkenly yells out, “Steph! I love you. C’mon lets do maritals.”
Looking at the wing stains all over his face and seemingly stomach busting at the belt, I don’t know how Steph didn’t jump his bones right there in front of me. However, she showed me to the door and thanked me for driving Mike home
After seeing Mike’s training routine, I got to change the official line to Turin (-2). Next week, I visit Camp Edwards and hope that I don’t decide on taking my toaster to the tub if it is the same as going through what I just went through.