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Happy American Independence Day

IT'S July 4, American Independence Day. With the spirit of that occasion in mind, here's a revisit of a blog from five years ago - a checklist for American ballers arriving in Australia.

NEW to our shores? Just stepped off the plane for your first pro ball gig or trying your luck "Down Under" for the first time?

Well, as those of you who have been coming Down Under for a while now will know, it can initially be very mysterious and even a little scary, but eventually very pleasurable when you adjust to the fact it's probably not as hairy an experience as you first thought.

But there are many wonderful new things for American travellers to our NBL (and WNBL for that matter) to adjust to so here are some helpful tips.

1) If anyone who greets you at the airport mutters something about "Pacific shrink" do not be unduly alarmed. It has nothing to do with the ocean or cold water.

It merely means we expect 6-7 to be 6-7, not 6-5. (And soon enough, you will know that means we expect 201cm to be 201cm, not 196).

2) "Last cut". If you were just with an NBA program or on its fringe, spice up your story about how you were the "last cut". Pretty much every second import to Australia since 1964 by his own admission was the unlucky last guy cut by the pro team. If you want to be believable, one of two things has to happen.

a) You need to actually have been the last guy cut. (Heard of the Internet? We will know. This isn't a Third World country.)

b) Instead of being the last guy cut - "It just came down to me or Jordan"- make yourself ONE of the last GUYS cut. We'll buy that. Or at worst, someone in a nightclub will. Everyone wins.

3) If you say you played NBA, make sure that you did. (See the stuff in brackets in 2a for why).

4) Don't tell anyone you are "finna go to the stadium". Check any dictionary. There's no such word as "finna". Finna does not mean "about to". It just means you're making words up, which, in itself is OK, if you aks me. Just don't expect random folk to understand what you're saying.

5) We don't have cute accents. You do.

6) If someone suggests "Maccas", it means Mickey Ds.

7) Unless you get cut prematurely - a sad but everyday danger of the job description - you will be here for Christmas. Now be aware we already know it's likely to be stinking hot and we can probably guess you've never been to a barbecue on Christmas Day before. No, there won't be any snow and while there will be exagerated claims of much "Ho Ho Hoing" at this time of year - this could be very different to what you might be expecting.

8) Yes, we speak English.

9) No, we don't drive on the wrong side of the road. You do.

10) It is very unlikely you will be seeing kangaroos hopping down the main street anytime soon, unless you're playing for the Halls Gap Halibuts or the Mossman Valley Mangoes.

11) You are as likely to be bitten by a venomous snake or spider as you are to be struck by a falling piece of space debris. (Unless you play for the Mossman Valley Mangoes).

12) Yes, Melbourne is pronounced Mel-ben, NOT Mell-borne and Brisbane is actually Briz-ben, NOT Briss-bain. Sydney can only be pronounced Sydney, so you're safe there. (Unless your name is Juan Antonio Samaranch.)

13) So, finally, you're on the court. Whether you travelled or not, you will be called for four travels in your first game. It's just our referees' way of saying: "Howdy stranger".

14) A "Septic Tank" is not some obscure Aussie way of cussing you out without your knowledge. We have a way of talking called "rhyming slang" (consider it lazy rap without the mofos, hos and musical grabs from decent songs). "Septic tank" is a rhyme for "Yank", a generic term for Americans which nowadays seems to be going the way of the term "Ruskie" for Russians.

15) And while I think of it, Aussie is pronounced "Ozzie" and not as OSS-ie.

16) If someone calls you "a wanker", depending on the circumstances, this could be a good thing. "Ah, he's a funny wanker," admittedly not a term you hear often, does suggest the recipient has a humorous upside. OK. That's a stretch. Usually a wanker is someone who you might call a jerk, jerk-off or Basketball Australia official.

17) If someone says they're going outside to "smoke a fag", they are not necessarily homophobic or armed. Just unaware of the dangers of cigarettes.

18) It is bound to happen. No, amend that. It is INEVITABLE that at some point while you are here, it WILL happen. (In some clubs, it's even a test of your manhood!) Yes, you will be exposed to that most Australian of Australian spreads, Vegemite.

It is black and comes in an innocuous little yellow-wrapped jar which, when opened, reveals something which, to you, will look like shoe polish. Hell, it will even smell like shoe polish. 

DO NOT, under any circumstances, allow your host to spread this on a piece of bread for you as though it is peanut-butter or jam (jelly?) or Nutella.

Your first exposure to Vegemite will carry enough terror anyway so follow these instructions to the letter.

a) Request your host lightly toasts the bread to a golden brown.

b) Cover the toast in butter and give it a second to soak in.

c) Dip the end of your knife into the Vegemite and extract a small amount, very lightly just scraping it onto the toast. I said LIGHTLY.

d) Bite in and actually enjoy.

If you ignored the above sequence and bit into a big thick spread of Vegemite on bread, your likely reaction will have been horror and a throaty spit into the nearest sink or bin (waste disposal unit), your dark dismay played out to the sounds of the long and deep laughter of your Australian hosts.

You have been warned.

In time, you may spread Vegemite a little more thickly, as you warm to the flavor. But your first try will determine whether you ever come back for seconds so trust ME on this and NOT your Ossie teammates.

Unlike peanut-butter or Nutella, Vegemite isn't something you can eat from the jar with a spoon.

As long as you understand that, you have a fighting chance.

19) Unless we are law enforcement or criminals, we don't carry guns. Our "right to bear arms" means wearing T-shirts, singlets and tank tops. We resolve our differences over a beer, generally.

20) We don't care if you're white, black, yellow or red. We just care if you're sincere, honest and can really make that jumpshot when the chips are down, like your resume said. Oh, and we will admire you a fraction more if you can handle Vegemite.

That's it.

I'll update this list of tips if/when I think of it or when other important differences are brought to my attention requiring urgent action.

Otherwise, can I just say that it is all very good that you have a friend named Jackson who moved to Sydney in 2003, but no, I haven't met him.

I have a friend named Garry who moved to Phoenix in 2010. Do you know him?

TOMORROW: The NBL draw and a surprise signing.

Jul 4

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