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Panellinios and the Search for Meaning

Anthony Grundy, Panellinios Basketball, Athens, GreeceI went to this guru once on Chapel Hill. He was presenting himself as a personal counselor- therapist but you could see that he had it in his mind to be a guru. Probably he had a degree in psychology and became a disciple of Rajneesh or Muktananda and thought to himself, this doesn't look so hard, and went back to America and opened a little office in the closest thing he could find to a hippy town which was Chapel Hill, the town he happened to be from. I was in my twenties and wondering what was so wrong with me that I could not find a girlfriend, at least one that I liked, or the meaning of life for that matter. He diagnosed my disease and the cure immediately. It was my relationship with my father and as soon as I forgave him I would progress on my path to enlightenment. I did not really have a clear idea of what I needed to forgive my father for but it sounded like a good deal so I forgave him and waited for the heavens to open for me. After the silence became awkward my Guru said to me that it was not that easy and in fact it would be a process of self discovery that he would lead me through once a week for an hour for a small fee. That seemed fair too. If enlightenment were free than nobody would want it. But there was one stipulation he had, one rule he demanded of all his students, disciples, sanyasins, patients, whatever it was I was about to become. Here it comes I thought. I have to wear only purple clothing, or change my name to Swami Goolabo, or eat only green leafy vegetables to purify my vibrations, or swear off casual sex or something else essential. He leaned forward and spoke these words to me which I will never forget:

"No matter where we are in your personal training, you must not disturb me in the month of March. I am here for you the rest of the year, but March is my own."

Wow I thought. What could this be? It seems pretty esoteric, like maybe he fasts and goes into silence for the entire month of March in order to maintain the self-knowledge required to be a guru, like teachers and doctors going back to school to see what has been discovered since they graduated. "I understand" I told him. "But tell me oh wise teacher. Why March and what do you do for that month?"

"Because in March I watch the ACC and NCAA Basketball tournament" he told me.

I didn't go back. I guess I figured he was suffering from the same ailments as I was.

This is a true story! And an introduction to my current dilemma.

Being from Chapel Hill, I have had the joy (and agony) of watching the UNC Tarheel basketball team every year as they battle with Duke for the ACC championship and march through the NCAA Tournament, usually falling to some inferior team having its best game of the century, though occasionally going all the way to the NCAA Championship. This season could be their best team ever. Actually it is surprising they did not all turn pro after last season when they were expected to win the championship but ended up playing their worst game of the year against Kansas in the final four, who I assume went on to win the whole thing, though I don't know because I didn't watch any more basketball after that game and swore I never would again. Carolina, as they are affectionately called by their fans and un-affectionately by their enemies, (of which there are many), will probably win the NCAA championship this year barring any disasters like last year, which I assume was the once-in-a-generationvariety.

But watching your favorite college basketball team in America from as far away as Athens, Greece is problematic. First of all I have to wake up at 3am. Second of all I have not found a website to even listen to games, much less watch, even if I happen to wake up for it or still be awake as the case often is. So I can watch something called a "live scoreboard" that looks something like this:
Missed Three Point attempt by Douglas. (click)
Rebound Hansbrough

Three point shot by Lawson. Good.

Carolina Wins. 100-75

Not really very exciting, especially at 3am. So until I find a solution so I am able to watch my team, I need to find a new team. Something a little more local, at least on the same continent.

I think I have the answer and it was staring me in the face every day. Just two blocks from my home is the Panellinios Sports Club, not only  the oldest in Greece, founded in 1891 or thereabouts but one of the oldest in Europe. Their basketball team began playing in 1929 and won their first National championship that year and many others right up until 1957 when they won their last. They finished third in 1970 and 1978. Then they got bad and were dropped to the second division and then the third before fighting their way back to the first division in 2004. They usually finish between 4th and 6th place. In Greek basketball Olympiakos and Panathiniakos are as Duke and Carolina are to the ACC. So Panellinios could be say, the NC State of the league. But to make this comparison even more interesting, one of the best players on the team is Anthony Grundy, one of the best players to ever play for the Wolfpack as well as one of the most popular. So I have my local team and one that will keep me out of the Panathiniakos-Olympiakos fray and also give me the opportunity to root for an underdog, something I don't get to do very often as a Carolina fan. They lost to Russian Dynamo in Moscow the other night but they play at home Feb 3rd against Marousi. They just signed Mustpha Shakur of Arizona fame and are in the Sweet 16 of the Eurocup.

So if you love basketball and are in Greece and shopping for a team I think Panellinios is the one to go with. They have new owners, a great team and an excellent website, in English too:

See you at the game. Go Blue! Go Anthony!

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