Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hooked on Sonics

The name Sarunas Marciulionis came up today. How, you ask? Trust me, old basketball fans love to throw out obscure names to make each other laugh. For example, I have an ongoing joke with a friend. Whenever I call his office and his receptionist asks who's calling, I'll answer with names like Kyle Macy, Paul Mokeski, or Terry Duerod. She tells him who it is, he immediately knows, plus he gets to come off like he's getting calls from all sorts of important people. It's a win-win.

You can't just throw any old name out there. There's an art to it. My cover would be blown if I identified myself as Michael Jordan, Larry Bird or Magic Johnson. But at the same time, the names can't be too run-of-the-mill. So no Steve Smith, Kevin Johnson or Jim Peterson.

Similarly, they can't be too obscure. Even diehard NBA fans would be hard-pressed to remember the likes of David Pope, Franklin Edwards and Keith Edmondson (I just looked 'em up otherwise I wouldn't have remembered, either).

And finally, they can't be too unique, nickname-y or ethnic, given the way I sound. I just couldn't convincingly pull off a Kiki Vandeweghe, Sly Williams or Sarunas Marciulionis. See how I bring things around?

Hearing that name again today reminded me of the time the Seattle SuperSonics played an exhibition team in Vancouver in 1994. This was pre-Grizzlies days, although, as you'll read, they were conceived by this time. The city was pregnant with excitement.

Re-reading the story today, I'm surprised at a few things:

1. I realize I wasn't exactly asking relevant questions, but would we hear these types of answers today? It seems unlikely. Maybe nobody is asking stupid questions anymore, but I find it hard to believe that players would be so open about controversial subjects. The players are so over-coached when it comes to dealing with the media these days that you hardly ever read any really juicy quotes.

2. I made a quip about potentially being smacked upside the head, but at no time did I feel threatened. Or even cheeky. But reading my questions today, I feel like that was some young smartass, the kind of person I'd look derisively at today if they were asking the same nonsense.

3. That was a small sample size, I admit, but were/are all NBA players conspiracy theorists? As hard as it is to imagine, I don't think I even linked all their comments together at the time. But looking at it now? O.J. Simpson, John F. Kennedy and UFOs? Krazy.

That was, incidentally, the first time I had ever heard of Roswell. Was Marciulionis ahead of his time or was I just not up on my UFO conspiracy theories? Who hasn't heard of it these days? No one, that's who.

So here's the column from the week of November 3-10, 1994:
An era has ended. Erica Ehm, the lovely and talented veejay, left MuchMusic at the end of October. I, for one, will miss her.

In her program, Between the Sheets, she asked rock stars about the books they were reading. She felt that if the youth of today learns that their heroes have interests outside of their idolatrized professions, and even read books on occasion, then maybe kids themselves could be persuaded to develop good reading habits. It was kind of a Hooked on Phonics for the acne set.

As a tribute to the Divine Miss Ehm, I thought I would carry on her tradition of discussing great literature with role models – in this case, members of the Seattle SuperSonics. I call it Hooked on Sonics.

To break the ice I try to get Sam Perkins and Kendall Gill to comment on the Grizzly logo.

PERKINS: I haven’t seen it.

Are you just being diplomatic?

PERKINS: I haven’t seen it, I’m sorry. What does it look like?

Well, it’s turquoise and there’s a bear on it. There’s some red and gold.

PERKINS: I can’t comment on it. I haven’t seen it.

Okay, then. What are you reading now?

PERKINS: I’m reading The Chamber.


PERKINS: Grisham... John Grisham?... The Chamber?... You never heard of it?


PERKINS: What?! You’ve never heard of it? See, it’s possible you never hear of something or see something, okay?

Are you giving me a hard time?

PERKINS: No, but you couldn’t believe I didn’t see the logo.

But you’re in the NBA. It’s your business.

PERKINS: It’s the first time I’ve been up here.

It didn’t make the news down there?

PERKINS: Hey, I ain’t been with the team. It’s my first game.

Oh, yeah, you were away. What was the problem?

PERKINS: Don’t you read the news? See? Okay, then.

Okay. What else are you reading?

PERKINS: Magazines. I read Essence, a black magazine. About black women. I’m trying to understand them as much as possible. The more I read the more confused I get. What else am I reading? Home Remedies.

What’s that?

PERKINS: What to do in case you have a headache or bee sting or various things.

Don’t you just run to the trainer when something goes wrong?

PERKINS: Well, you know, trainers always get you on medication or something like that, so it’s a good book to have.

A good, entertaining read. I’m waiting for the movie to come out.

PERKINS: Which one?

Home Remedies.

PERKINS: The movie? I ain’t heard about that one. Um, what other books? I read The Client... Oh, this book I read called And Deliver Us From Evil [Murder, Madness and Mayhem in the Lone Star State by Mike Cochran]. It’s a book on Dallas, Texas, all the happenings from John Kennedy to Reverend Walter Railey.

So do you believe in the conspiracy theory?

PERKINS: Oh yeah, definitely, that was a conspiracy, no question. But there are different events that happened in the state of Texas they still haven’t solved. Like Walter Railey. You never heard of him?


PERKINS: Dang, where you been? You’ve been up here too much.

You played in Dallas for a few seasons.

PERKINS: Yeah, it’s a Christian-like city but [there are] a lot of evil things, that’s why the book is called And Deliver Us From Evil. There are a lot of things that happen down there to be so Christian.

They’re hypocrites, is what you’re saying. All Texans are hypocrites.

PERKINS: No, they’re not all hypocrites. But they say one thing and do another.

Let’s all think about that one for a while. It’s an interesting distinction, to be sure. I move on to Kendall Gill but keep Perkins in the conversation.

Kendall, have you seen the Grizzly logo?

GILL: No, but I’ve seen the colours. They’re nice.

PERKINS: See?! See?!

What do you think about the name?

GILL: The name is nice.

Come on, speak your mind.

GILL: Grizzlies? I’m speaking my mind.

You really like it?

GILL: Yeah. What do you think it should be named?

I don’t know. I don’t have one. I can just sit back and criticize.

GILL: I know. You’re a reporter. It’s in your blood.

Are you reading anything right now?

GILL: Right now I think I’m going to go get, uh, what’s that girl’s name? O.J. Simpson’s wife?

PERKINS: Nicole.

GILL: Yeah, I think I might go get that book.

Do you think he did it?


But the book paints him as doing it, doesn’t it?

GILL: Yeah, but I mean the power’s in the paint. You know that, right? (laughs)

(To Perkins) You think O.J. did it?

PERKINS: I don’t think so. Do you?

I don’t know. It’s got to be proved. But why did he take off?

GILL: What would you do in that situation?

PERKINS: What would you do? Go straight to the cops and let 'em take you to jail?


PERKINS: You say ‘yeah’ now. And plus, he was black so what of it?

So what?

PERKINS: I guess if you’re white, I guess you’ll say, “Here I am.”

But he’s a superstar.

PERKINS: If he wasn’t a superstar the case would have been over. That ain’t got nothing to do with it.

GILL: So was Mike Tyson, so was Michael Jordan, so was Michael Jackson.


GILL: They were all superstars and look what happened.

What happened to Michael Jordan? Did I miss that one?

GILL: Yeah, you all ran him outta the game.

I decided to get out of that debate before I got smacked. Shawn Kemp, aka the Rain Man, says he’s just finished reading the latest issue of GQ, featuring his rival Charles Barkley. As for books, he is a horror fan whose favourite author is Stephen King.

But science fiction is no match for science fact. Or at least fact according to new Sonic, Sarunas Marciulionis:

What are you reading?

MARCIULIONIS: I’m very interested in all these UFO mysteries.

There are a lot of sightings in your country [Lithuania], aren’t there?

MARCIULIONIS: No, in the States much more.

Do you believe in UFOs?

MARCIULIONIS: Oh yeah, sure. You think there are just us in this whole space? You think there’s only we human beings?



Why haven’t they been better documented?

MARCIULIONIS: They’re filmed. The thing is, we have to prepare society for all this news. The government, they don’t really want to publicize everything, because people would think that we’re an experiment on this earth. Nobody would feel good about that. This is hypothesis and it’s almost proven.

Have you seen one?

MARCIULIONIS: Uh, not yet.

Aren’t a lot of sightings simply lights people can’t identify?

MARCIULIONIS: No lights. No, this is what some scientists want to tell you. You know, lights, shadows, planes. I’ve seen tapes and it was pretty impressive.

Is this a hobby of yours?

MARCIULIONIS: Yeah, kind of. I’ve been interested for the last 10 or 12 years. But in the former Soviet Union you weren’t allowed to think that way, so we didn’t have much information. People would stop working if they knew there was something more powerful, something stronger around.

What about the Bermuda Triangle?

MARCIULIONIS: There’s gotta be some connection with that stuff – magnetic anomalies in the former Soviet Union and the Triangle. It’s very interesting.

I leave the Sonic locker room secure in the knowledge that our children are in good hands with such well-read role models. Then Marciulionis catches up to me. He informs me that there are four aliens in a Roswell, New Mexico warehouse, having been captured in 1947. He tells me that you can learn more from such TV programs as Montel Williams.

Maybe it’s just as well Erica is no longer on the air. Such discussions can be disillusioning.


  1. I miss Erica Ehm. But only the 1994 Erica Ehm. I have a feeling she hasn't aged too well.

  2. Me, too. On both counts. But I'd love to see her now, anyway. I haven't aged all that well my own good self.