Michael De la Cruz wanted to know what that meant, and Eddie said, "I saw a picture of him in L'Equipe the other day? The French sports paper? The guy looks like he swallowed Notre Dame."
Eddie pronounced it right, "Not-rah Dahm," so his boss, still pretty new to sports, wouldn't confuse the cathedral with the Fighting Irish football team.
The p.r. guy from Olympique Antibes, Jean-Claude something, another guy with an attitude when Eddie'd talked to him on the phone, had forgotten to leave him a ticket. Eddie'd found that out when he'd called over to Stade Louis II in the afternoon, but the concierge at Loew's, Lebortvaillet, had said he'd take care of it, and did.
Eddie overtipped Lebortvaillet when he came downstairs. The guy just took the fistful of those Monegasque coins that were the same as francs, and shrugged. France, Monte Carlo, it didn't matter where you were, it's like they all took some kind of course in not giving a shit. Most of these bastards, even the well-meaning ones, were like the old joke about New York City.
"Could you tell me how to find the Hotel du Paris, or should I just go fuck myself, s'il vous plait?"
The cab to the arena took him through the kind of tunnel where Princess Di had got it, and dropped him on the arena side of the Stade Louis sports complex. The sign outside said it was Antibes vs. Lyon Villeuranne, eight o'clock. Lebortvaillet had said the game was an exhibition to benefit one of Princess Stephanie's charities. Or maybe it was Princess Caroline, he wasn't sure. Eddie remembered that one of them had had her hair fall out one time and the other was in the car when Princess Grace bought it, he just couldn't keep them straight anymore. Lebortvaillet said that out of respect for the royal family, each team had sent at least five of its best players, and that the rest of the rosters would be filled out with some of the better college kids from Monte Carlo and as far up as Cannes and Nice.
Eddie had watched some tape on Earthwind back in New York, but now he needed to see if the guy, even in a charity game, could still do things on a basketball court only one other point guard his size--Magic--had ever been able to do.
Inside, Stade Louis II looked as if it might belong to some small Division I college team back home. Iona, someplace like that, or the gym where Rutgers played its home games. It was about the size of Alumni Hall at St. John's, Eddie's alma mater, with the same kind of theater balcony, except this was a lot newer and not nearly as much of a dump. There were maybe twenty rows of seats on either side of the court, nothing behind the baskets and then maybe twenty more rows in the balcony. The blue seats down by the court looked as if they'd just gotten a new paint job and were supposed to be the color of the sea. Eddie's seat in the balcony was bright red. He sat up there sipping the local version of Perrier, waiting for the game to start.
He'd walked around trying to find a Coke, but the snippy girl at the concession stand acted offended that he'd even asked for one.
It was the variation of the look you got when you asked for directions in Paris or someplace, as if you'd broken a law not knowing if you were on the right rue or not.
"We 'ave no Coke for you," the girl said. "We 'ave water, wiz or wizzout gas."
Eddie knew that one; it meant carbonated or not.
"Wiz," Eddie said.
Earthwind, he saw when both teams came out for warm-ups, had definitely put on a few since the NBA had kicked him out after he'd failed his fourth drug test in two years. They'd called it a life sentence at the time, but you could apply for reinstatement after three years if you could show you'd been a good boy. Earth, which is what the playground boys used to call him back in the city, had also added a few tats, one on his neck that resembled a knife scar. Or maybe it was a knife scar; Eddie remembered reading something in the gossip page in Sports Illustrated about how a bunch of guys from Antibes, Earth included, had gotten into it outside some club on the Left Bank after the Division I All-Star Game a couple of months earlier and ended up in jail for the night.
Reprinted from Full Court Press by Mike Lupica by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2001, Mike Lupica. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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