Remember folks, you can go back to earlier posts to see where I began my Pacers journey...
Today was media day here in Indianapolis. That meant that there were a ton of pictures, interview, and interactions. I was just hoping I didn’t look too messed up from my lack of sleep, even after a hearty night in a hotel. My body clock was not at all adjusted to eastern standard time.
Before the media festivities began, I had to sign my contract. The two other training camp invitees and I were lead into an office, and then one by one into a smaller room. When my time came, I was a little overwhelmed. I guess I just didn’t expect to see Larry Bird in there waiting for me.
Mr. Bird and the GM David Morway were both seated at a table that had the contracts placed on it. I sat down, and they told me where to sign. It’s funny signing a contract that essentially means nothing. It’s bittersweet to know that you’re signing a contract for an NBA team, but also that it’s the same as practicing your signature on a blank piece of paper in the 9th grade. It an even odder feeling handing these papers to Larry Bird afterward so he can sign them. If I don’t make the team, maybe I should ask for the contracts back so I can have three copies of Larry Bird’s signature intentionally written on the same piece of paper as mine. I could white out a lot of the contract words and replace them with “Rod Benson is awesome. Sign below if you agree with the previous statement.”
After my future collector’s items (the contracts) were signed, I was poised to make a graceful exit, but there was another matter to be handled. David Morway announced that there was something else.
“Rod, we understand you’re a blogger. I’ve seen it. I think it’s good,” he started. “The thing is, here in town weve been dealing with a lot of issues in the past few years as far as our public image and our community perception. That’s not to say that you say bad things on your blog, it’s normal 25 year-old stuff on there. But to be safe, we thing it’s best that you take it down while you’re here. Your twitter page too.
The NBA is working on a policy to handle all of this stuff, and it would just be best that you take it down if it’s not too much effort to do so. You know, I took a look at your twitter page and it said something about a gun, and those things can be perceived the wrong way here. I assume you were talking about the rebounding machine, but still, you get the point?”
“Yea, I was talking about the rebounding machine. I had taken a picture of it too, but I guess it didn’t upload, so a couple of people commented with anti-suicide messages. I get the point. I can definitely take all of it down, no problem,” I answered.
“If it’s not too diffi-“
Larry Bird interrupted Mr. Morway.
“Yea it wont be too much for him to do it, I don’t think. Right? Rod you just gotta understand we had guys out here involved in real gun fights. We’re just working to make sure we have quality guys here and provide a quality image that the community will appreciate,” he said.
“Yea. No problem,” I told them both.
We stood up and shook hands. I walked out of the room and took a minute to collect myself. Larry Bird just asked me to stop blogging. It was such an unexpected five minutes, to say the least. Truth be told, I had always expected someone to ask me to give it up in the name of the team. It was something I had been prepared to do for quite some time, actually. And, to be honest, I didn’t really want the pressure of updating the fans while in Indy anyways. Their request was welcomed. I can just focus on hoops now.
Life is funny sometimes when you realize that something has come full circle. I started toomuchrodbenson.com just over three years ago and today, it came to its end. Well, it aint dead, but it’s at least in a coma. When I think about its conception and birth, I realize how different the circumstances are.
I haven’t really told many people the real reason that I started TMRB back in the day. When I think about its beginning, it makes its end so much more meaningful to myself as a man.
It was the summer of 2006. I had just come off of a very disappointing senior year at Cal. It was supposed to be the one where I defined myself and carved out a place in the NBA draft, but I got injured before the season, then again midway through the season and was never the same player I was the year before. That was extremely tough to deal with. One game, I played so badly, including a costly turnover in the last minute, that I cried in the locker room for the first time in my life. Basketball wise, it was as low as I had ever been.
After the season, I had to actively pursue agents, because nobody would really help me. I ended up signing with Bill Neff, who is still my agent today, partially because he was partners with a guy names Gus Armstead. Gus trains players in Sacramento, so I would still be close to the bay area, my girlfriend at the time, and my friends. I would also get to play against some great competition while I trained for NBA pre-draft workouts.
I ended up only doing 3 workouts, two of them for the Sacramento Kings. The second one, I really impressed them, and they invited me to play in the summer league with them. It felt like I might be starting to return to my old form, with Gus’ help and the intense training.
It was now time for summer league to begin. I showed up at the practice facility with all my bags. We were going to have a three hour practice, then hop on a plane and fly to Vegas. Man I was so hyped. My girl was going to meet me in Vegas. My boys were gonna come out and watch a game or two. My mom had booker her room at the Tropicana hotel (I never knew why she liked that spot). The pieces were all in order.
After the practice, we were all headed to the locker room. On the way, coach Eric Musselman called two other guys and me over. One of the other guys I knew because he was a really good college player and we had the same jersey number. His name was Odarty Blankson. I didn’t know the other guy. It didn’t really matter. Coach Musselman wasted no time in telling us that we wouldn’t be needed.
We didn’t quite understand, at first, but it became clear that we would not be travelling to Las Vegas with the team. I remember feeling equally as devastated as that day I cried after the game. We wandered into the locker room and watched everyone else get dressed and eventually leave on the team bus on the way to the airport.
I had to sit there for hours, literally, alone in the locker room, because I didn’t have a ride arranged and it took a while for someone to be able to pick me up. I felt every piece of my dignity floating away each time the security guard came by and checked on me.
Yes, I’m still here. Jerk.
While I was there waiting, I got a text message from my boy Sam asking if I would be in San Francisco that night. I guess he was one of the few people I hadn’t bragged about my Vegas trip to. He had no idea where I supposed to be. I told him that I could be in San Francisco if there was a good reason. I had nothing else to do.
He explained that a band that he had attended high school with was playing that night and that I should come check them out. He said that they had been pretty successful and that they were really good. Months later I would hear their single on “Smallville.”
I had never been to a rock concert before, so I thought it could be cool. Essentially, I saw it like this: at this point I was no different from any other unemployed 21 year old with problems in this country. A wild party is how kids like that wash away their problems. It’s not like I could see my girl because she was in Eugene, Oregon, staying with her family because it was summer time. Sam provided my only potential outlet for my issues.
When my ride finally came to whisk me away from ARCO Arena, I had them take me to the train station. I was going to San Francisco to let my problems drain away in a river of Smirnoff.
I know you’re thinking: “What does this have to do with TMRB?”
Trust me it’s coming.
Sam and I arrived at some hole in the wall looking spot in San Francisco that I had never been to. We had some drinks and watched the band play. He was right. They were really good. I think a part of me accepted rock music into my life that night.
After the show, we went back stage to kick it with the band. They were as cool as their music was good. We talked about a million things, drank many drinks, and had a ton of laughs. I had completely forgotten that they all, Sam included, went to the same high school as my girlfriend. It seemed like we were all connected long before this night was ever conceived. If it wasn’t the talk about music, it was the talk about hoops, or it was the taco run at 5AM, or the random vehicles we rode in all night. It was kind of a blur. The only real thing I remember was Sam taking off at 2AM. He had to do something early in the morning. Whatever.
I woke up in some loft in the city, wrapped in a sleeping bag. When I looked around the room, the band was there, all over the place, half asleep. They were awaking as the sunlight crept into the room just the same as I was. I had no idea where the two women in the room had come from. All of it seemed to scream “good night.”
It was earlier in the morning than I thought. It was close to 8. We had only had a couple hours of sleep. Hangovers were nowhere to be found, because to be hungover, you need to be sober first. Im sure we weren’t yet. We were laughing and putting together the pieces of the night that was. I couldn’t believe I was still there, with them, when I was supposed to be in Vegas that day, playing in the NBA summer league.
They started to get ready to leave. Apparently, they had to drive back up to Eugene that day to prepare for another show. We started laughing again about how my girlfriend went to the same high school as them. Craziness. It was even crazier that they were going up there at that moment. Wouldn’t it be funny if I just surprised her by showing up with them? Man how funny would that be?
The jokes and questions started becoming dares and suggestions. Then, before I knew it, I was in their van riding up the Interstate on my way to Eugene. We couldn’t stop laughing and joking about how funny this all was.
Six hours later, I was sober, tired, and asking myself why I had decided to do this. It was shaping up to be a terrible idea. I didn’t know these guys, really. The ride was going to take like 13 hours, and I had completely forgotten that the Oregon Country Fair was going on, and that she would be ‘locked’ in the woods for days. I couldn’t even reach her on her phone when I wanted to let the cat out of the bag.
I arrived in Eugene with no real aim as to where to go. Luckily, I knew some other friends of Sam who let me stay with them while I waited for the Fair to be done. Those few days seemed like weeks. I had to tell my mom and friends that I was not in Las Vegas, like they thought I was, but that I was in Eugene, OR, with no specific game plan on how to get back.
Finally, on the fourth day, Leah called me up. It seemed like only minutes later she was there to pick me up and take me to her parents house. Even though she had known for days that I was in town, she was still surprised to see me. It was like she had found out that the rumors were true.
We sat on the couch, awkwardly, and watched “A Beautiful Mind.” When it ended, I got close to her. She finally opened her mouth:
“So, we’re just friends. Right?”
I’m pretty sure I had the dumbest look my face can register. All I could muster was “I guess so.”
We sat there in silence for five more minutes before she took me back to Sam’s friends house. We didn’t say a word. Just like that, it was over. My pointless journey that began as a trip to Vegas with the Kings, ended with an awkward breakup in Eugene.
It took me two days to arrange a flight out of town, but when I did, it was cheaper to catch the train to Portland and fly from there, so that’s what I did. On that train ride, the weight of all my recent losses caught up to me. It really felt like I had nothing left to be taken away from me. No girl, team, or future, my immediate past wasn’t too hot either. It felt like stepping on a nail, and then asking someone to take it out, only to have them shove it in all the way, then walking on it for days.
I opened up my laptop while on the train. I decided I needed to remove myself from myself and do something constructive. I had only had my MacBook for a few weeks and I had yet to use most of the apps on it. I opened up iWeb and just started creating things, mindlessly. The two hour train ride went by in a flash. I was consumed with my creation. The flight back to Sacramento, the next two weeks, the whole following month, I was caught up in my new creation.
I had written funny stories about myself. I had photoshopped pictures and made funny graphics. It started to resemble a product after a while. It started to look like a website. I called it Too Much Rod Benson partially because I had used that name ever since an announcer said it during a Pac-10 telecast, and partially because I figured my friends thought I talked about myself enough already.
The more I worked on it, the more my confidence grew. I began to realize that my creativity was the one thing that could keep me from harboring negative thoughts. It felt great. I started working out again, and killing it on the court. I started going out and meeting women, forgetting about my ex completely. The site took my swag from a zero to a ten in no time. I would go home after every workout, every party, every funny social situation, and write it down. It was doing wonders.
Finally, when my agent told me that I’d be entering the D-League draft, I decided to make a music video, since I had iMovie on that MacBook as well. JGant and I had been saying “Boom Tho”, “got ‘em”, “ready like spaghetti”, and “in there like swimwear” for a while now. I put them all into a lyric and made a song based on all of it. Then we went out on Halloween and filmed all of our escapades. The result was a video called “Boom Got Them Tho.” I then realized that I had something more than swagger. I had “Boom-Tho-Ness.”
This new trait carried me for the past three years. I needed it, especially in the beginning to become the super confident, halfway-narcissistic, super social individual that I am today. My play on the court, my nightlife, my great attitude, all based around that.
So, when Larry Bird asked me to shut down the blog for a while, I realized that I enjoy it, a lot, but I don’t need it anymore. I’m a great player because of it all, but I can be without it too. My Boom-Tho-Ness exudes all the times. Heck, I’m listening to my Boom Tho Mixtape right now as I write this. TMRB started with a basketball failure, and it was put down today while I stand at the doorstep of basketball success.
Media is a reminder of that. I took a million pictures today. I did interviews and videos, the whole nine yards. There’s nothing like doing a photoshoot with Troy Murphy to remind you that you’re doing something big. No, I didn’t make the Sacramento Kings summer league roster, but I sure as hell made the Pacers training camp roster, and I’ve got something to prove.