Maybe it's just because I watched Dazed and Confused on cable. Or maybe because it's back-to-school time and I'm craving knee socks and a new Trapper Keeper. But here I am again, giddy with excitement over Gatorade's next installment of REPLAY.
For those of you new to the concept, Gatorade REPLAY stages re-matches of classic games between some of the nation's best high school sports teams, giving former teammates the chance to prove that once you're an athlete, you're always an athlete. (Some of you may remember the last REPLAY match-up, where my sister and I interviewed Eli and Peyton Manning, in a classic Sister-Kisser!)
Anywho, back to this round of REPLAY. The reunited teams train and condition for eight weeks -- giving them all the tools that professional athletes enjoy. Well, they don't get free Escalades and bottle service at the club, but they do have access to the Gatorade Sports Science Institute; plenty of pre-, during and post-workout Gatorade (known as Prime, Perform and Recover), and of course, access to hot-shot coaches to help lend encouragement and discipline.
Then, on September 10, the teams take part in the official REPLAY game so they can settle their score.
Season three of REPLAY brings two high school basketball teams from Chicago's South Side together again: Bloom vs. Brother Rice. In 2000, the teams faced off at a neutral site for the opportunity to play in the Illinois High School Athletic Association's Elite Eight. With a few seconds left in regulation and the game tied at 40-40, Bloom had the final possession and set-up for an inbound play.
After inbounding the ball, the clock didn't start initially and Bloom was able to take a shot -- and missed. Seemingly the game would go into overtime, but the buzzer wasn't loud enough and a firing pistol sounded to signal the end of the game instead. During this momentary lapse between the buzzer and the pistol, Bloom was able to get a last second tip in, giving them a controversial 42-40 win. It's been a bone of contention ever since.
I spoke to Bloom's honorary coach, a one Mister D-Wade -- just before he was announced to the team. (Here's the video of his big announcement:)
The cool thing is that Dwyane Wade grew up on the South Side of Chicago. And all of these players are his age. In fact, his high school played against these kids. And he's got a score to settle himself. So here, my Q&A with Dwyane Wade:
EB: So this is so cool! Do you think the guys have any idea about the announcement?
DW: Some of them might have heard. It's hard to keep secrets these days ... with Twitter and all.
EB: So I need to tell you that I am a huge fan of this program. I went to the REPLAY of the high school football game in Pennsylvania/New Jersey. I followed Season Two, with the Hockey rematch in Michigan. Now it's time for high school basketball in Chicago ... home to MJ and you ...
DW: [Laughs.] Yep, it's going to be really cool.
EB: So talk to me about Bloom vs. Brother Rice. South Side of Chicago. Why is this game going to be so special for them ... and for you?
DW: It's special for them to relive a game that was very controversial. This was a big game at the time in these kids' lives ... if that shot didn't count, it would have changed everything. And now, it's a great chance to get their competitive juices flowing, together as a team again. Some of the guys have been playing basketball ever since, and some have not. It's going to be really interesting to see how it all plays out.
EB: And why is it special for you?
DW: Well, back in 2000, I played against all these guys. And Brother Rice actually knocked my team out to get to Bloom ... So it's my chance to get even if we get this win. It should be really fun to coach Bloom, because I have some skin in the game myself.
EB: Coming back after 10 years is not going to be easy. What advice are you going to be giving the guys, as they retrain?
DW: I know they are ready. They have already been training really hard. They have been eating right, training hard, getting involved in the program Gatorade has set up for them. My job is to help them keep it up, going into game time. I'm gonna to help them turn up the volume a bit. This is going to be an absolutely grueling game they are going to play ... harder than the first time. I'm going to tell them to stay ready, keep working hard.
EB: So, can you related to what these guys are going through? What was the most controversial ending to a game you've played in?
DW: You know what, I have played in lots of close games, but nothing controversial like these guys have experienced. That's why it's cool for me to be around these guys -- to experience how they felt then and how they feel now.
EB: When I went to the REPLAY football game, they also retrained the cheerleaders and the band. I became a little obsessed with that part. Do you know if that is happening again?
DW: [Laughs.] Yes! The cheerleaders coming back. It's cool that everyone gets to practice, gat back into the routine of working out, practice discipline all over again and get back into the mindset. And for the cheerleaders, to get back into performing as a team.
EB: So, Dwyane, I want to get serious for a minute. You went to high school on the South Side of Chicago. At Richards High. Tell me how playing basketball affected your life -- and why you think it's important for kids, especially now as Chicago is experiencing an increase in murder rates.
DW: Basketball is what I always used as an escape. Sports were always my sanctuary. Playing sports gave me time away from the neighborhood and the violence. It's important to give our youth and kids something positive to focus on instead of what's happening outside their doors and windows that is not positive ...
EB: In all my research about you, I was blown away by how much effort you put into helping kids and developing your charities. Talk about Wade's World and tell me some upcoming things you are working on.
DW: First of all, thank you. You know, I really want to continue to grow the Wade's World Foundation in Miami and Chicago. One of the things we are trying to focus on for next year is to develop programming year round, so that kids have an even better opportunity to succeed in life. We want to focus on education, and put programs together that provide an education outside of school.
EB: Very cool. OK, enough serious talk. I watched your recent interview on Leno - you said you loved football growing up, too. What I love about REPLAY is that it allows you to look back and reminisce about the old days, and think "What could have been?" So, let's replay a few things for you, OK?
DW: [Laughs. Nervously.] OK.
EB: Do you ever wonder what it would have been like if you had chosen football over basketball?
DW: Hmmm, maybe.
EB: So who would your dream teammates be? And your dream team?
DW: [With no hesitation.] Chicago Bears. I'm a homer.
EB: My boyfriend will like that answer. [Note to self: My boyfriend may have a few issues with Wade's answer, based on this blog, but he will still take it.]
DW: My three teammates, hmmm ... Well, I would be a receiver, so I would need a great quarterback. Peyton Manning. Then I would need a great running back, like say Walter Peyton or Barry Sanders. When I think of myself, I like to think of myself as the Barry Sanders of basketball, running in and out of defenders. OK and who would I like as a receiver by my side? That's easy: Jerry Rice.
EB: Do you ever wonder what it would have been like if you had chosen marching band?
DW: No, never.
EB: OK, pretend that you did. What instrument would you have played?
DW: Oh jeez. Well, I guess the drums, after watching "Drumline."
EB: I love that movie!
DW: Me, too!
EB: Do you ever wonder what it would have been like if you had chosen cheerleading?
DW: [Laughs.] No, never.
EB: OK, pretend. Male cheerleader or mascot?
DW: [No hesitation.] Mascot.
EB: Is that because you'd be wearing a costume?
DW: Yes, so no one could judge me.
EB: Gatorade has a workout on their site called "Get your prom body back." So let's go back to the prom for a minute, shall we?
DW: [Laughs. Nervously.] OK.
EB: If the Miami Heat had a prom, who would you ask to go, Lebron or Chris Bosh?
DW: [No hesitation.] Bron. He's more silly. He would keep it light on the date.
EB: Who's a better dancer?
DW: Hmmm, that's a tough one. Well, I've seen Bron dance. I've never seen Chris dance. So I'd have to say Bron.
EB: So who would have a cuter outfit ... who's a better dresser?
DW: Me ...
EB: Um, I mean between LeBron and Chris Bosh.
DW: [Laughs.] Oh. Well, Chris has been comin' on lately. He's in Toronto, so we never had a chance to see his style before. But I would say they both dress well. It would have to be a tie.
EB: I see you're very diplomatic with your new teammates.
EB: OK also on Leno, you revealed that as a kid, you used to sing and rap and dance ... kiddie raps. And then you rapped on TV.
DW: Yes I did.
EB: Do you wish you could replay that?
DW: [No hesitation.] No.
EB: Do you have any other hidden talents we should know about?
DW: No, because that's not even a talent. That's a wannabe talent. The world has seen my performance on the court. That's enough.
EB: So, you're also a writer for Huffington Post, which makes me feel pretty lame because I cannot play basketball like you, however you can write for HuffPo like me. Is there anything you can't do -- so I can feel better about myself? Perhaps Scrabble?
DW: Well, I can't sing. But I do love Scrabble. I bet you're a better singer than I am.
EB: Well, I am known for my karaoke skills in certain circles. So I hereby challenge you to a karaoke sing off at some point in our lives.
DW: I will do it.
EB: I have you on tape. So now you have to do it, ok?
EB: No, I mean it. I'll tweet you.
DW: I'm here.
EB: [Laughs. Nervously.] OK , last question. The number three is big for you. It's your number. You have several pre-game rituals surrounding the number: You eat three pieces of Big Red and you drink three different kinds of Gatorade. And of course, your dream team of comprised of three. Name three things you want to do in the upcoming season?
DW: [No hesitation. Whatsoever.] Win a championship. Be the best teammate ever. Stay healthy.
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