Information: Sheraton Buganvilias Resort
Phone: 52 (322) 2260404 or Cel phone (322) 1355236.
Attn: Verónica Alarcón
“Mexican Sports Vacation Serves Whole Enchilada”:
By: Guy MacPherson.
With summer nearing its end, many Canadians start dreaming of warmer climes. Here in Vancouver, we never stopped. After this mostly miserable rainy season, I think we all owe David Duchovny a big apology.
Vancouverite Howard Kelsey doesn’t have to dream. He’ll be back in sunny Mexico, where he spends part of each year. And he wants you to join him each May in a sports-vacation getaway in Puerto Vallarta.
In 1990, Kelsey started a humble basketball tournament in Puerto Vallarta for his friends who wanted to visit, just six teams playing on an outdoor court. Over the years, sponsors have come in, other sports have joined in, and the thing has grown to the point where next May’s “Sports Classic” reflects not just the year, but the number of anticipated participants.
“A lot of my friends are basketball junkies”. “They phoned and said, ‘We want to go to Mexico for our vacation, but we want to play. Set up a tournament.’ So we did. At the time, Puerto Vallarta didn’t even have an indoor gym.”
They have a gym now. It may not be air-conditioned, but it beats playing in the blazing sun. With more than 16 teams going, games run from 8 a.m. to midnight every day in 30ºC heat. The whole town comes out to watch.
Richard Cohee was the Vancouver Grizzlies’ manager of community relations. He’s made the trip every year but the first. “The fans are incredible,” he says. “For a 2 o’clock game, the gym is three-quarters full. The final is overflowing, people are cheering for you, they want pictures with you. It’s a real feel-good thing. They love the sport and love seeing somebody who can play.”
So you’re thinking: “I’m not a high-level athlete. What the hell am I going to do down there?” You have a point. Cohee, 31, played for the University of Regina, then played a little pro ball in the Netherlands and Taiwan. Kelsey played on the 1980 and ’84 Canadian Olympic teams. He still holds the B.C. high-school record for highest career average points per game, 37.5 for Point Grey. Next year, he’s expecting 10 to 12 veterans of the Canadian national team.
“Obviously, we want some celebrity players, good players who are positive and fun,” Kelsey says. “We don’t want a bunch of overweight guys that can’t play at all. But at the same time, we don’t want it to be so high-quality that recreational players like yourself can’t go and play.”
I’m not sure how to take that, but the idea is tempting. Of course, it might have to be in the newly formed slow-pitch softball division. How many ex-professional slow-pitch players can there be? Mind you, the games will be played at a triple-A stadium donated to the city by major-leaguer Jose Canseco, so you never know.
Each sport ( basketball and soccer) has its own Director, but Kelsey and Co-Chair, Lic. Gemma Garciarce, the owner of the home-base Sheraton resort, oversee the whole enchilada.
“Any person that’s got their own individual passion in sports – whatever you want to do – we’ll accommodate you, provided we have enough lead time and a competent enough director,” Kelsey says.
Several times throughout the course of our talk, Kelsey refers to the tournament as a “buffet” for sports. “If you want to participate, you do. If you want to watch, you watch. If you don’t want to do anything, just stay at the hotel. We just set the table and people can take what they want from the buffet. Let’s face it, when you’re on vacation, after two days you get bored. You don’t want to lie at the pool all day long.”
Although the focus is sports, everyone realizes they are, first and foremost, just an excuse. Everyone wants to win, but the question on everyone’s mind is what the social activities are ?
“At the end of the day,” Kelsey says, “it’s a vacation with sports thrown in.”
Consider this. Kelsey and company charge CDN $550.00, which includes: five days and four nights at the Sheraton; official event T-shirt; an opening-night open-bar cocktail party and fireworks display hosted by the Mayor of Puerto Vallarta; sports participation; and a party every night at the local watering hole.
“It’s a great opportunity to mingle with people from all over the place,” Cohee says. “It’s pretty amazing. That’s why I keep going back. We get so many different guys to go just by showing them the pictures.”
Kelsey continues to develop this tournament and tradition in Vallarta. “We enjoy doing it,” he says. “And things spin off of this. We never know where the stuff’s going to go.
One can register for events and make travel arrangements via their travel agent or on-line direct. The International Sports Classic runs May annually, but participants must register by January 15 annually. By that time, you’ll need a little sunshine in your life.
If you don’t already.
IMAGES FROM PAST EVENTS
You could be here… You should be here.
Former NBA Star, Jerome Kersey
a Profile by Bob Cohen & Alejandra Toca
|I ask Jerome to tell me about the one thing that stands out most in his career. He flatly stated, “Draft Day, June 26, 1984. It was my birthday, and I actually got drafted on my birthday.”|
|How did Jerome get involved with the Sports Classic? “About five or six years ago Greg Wilcher, a close friend of Howard Kelsey’s, called me and asked me if I’d like to play in a tournament in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I told him ‘sure,’ and after meeting Howard, I’ve been coming to Puerto Vallarta ever since.”|
|Bob Cohen, former NBA Star Jerome Kersey and Alejandra Toca are all smiles for the camera.|
Walking into a restaurant crowded with celebrities and dignitaries from the recent 13th Annual Sports Classic, ex-NBA basketball legend Jerome Kersey spotted me as I arrived to join the group for dinner. He stood up shook my hand and embraced me with a hug a Mexican would be proud to receive.
Jerome, who missed last year’s Classic due to his coaching job in the NBA, had promised me an exclusive interview two years prior. He clearly remembered his promise, stating, “Bob, I owe you one.”
That is the type of man Jerome Kersey is. His huge smile that lights up any room is entirely genuine, and people tend to gravitate around him. Kersey has lived an athlete’s dream, coming from tiny Clarksville, Virginia, starring for Longwood University, a small college basketball team, before being selected in the second round of the 1985 pro draft by the Portland Trailblazers, the 46th overall pick. “That had to be the highlight of my life,” Kersey stated over breakfast at the Sheraton Resort in Puerto Vallarta.
Kersey played eleven seasons with the Portland Trailblazers before spending some time at Golden State, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Antonio and Milwaukee. In San Antonio in 2001 he reached the pinnacle of any professional athlete’s career; he won an NBA championship ring.
Overall, Jerome played 17 seasons in the NBA and is in the Top 3 in almost all of offensive and defensive Portland’s all-time statistics. His unselfish style of play enhanced the games of the stars that played alongside him.
How did Jerome get involved with the Sports Classic? “About five or six years ago Greg Wilcher, a close friend of Howard Kelsey’s, called me and asked me if I’d like to play in a tournament in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I told him ‘sure,’ and after meeting Howard, I’ve been coming to Puerto Vallarta ever since.”
“Being in another country has always been a great thing for me, so I enjoyed it and it gave me an opportunity to see another part of the world and experience another culture. I have a lot of friends that have been to Cabo and Mazatlan, the one thing I tell them is that when you come to Puerto Vallarta, you’re visiting the real Mexico.”
I ask Jerome to tell me about the one thing that stands out most in his career. He flatly stated, “Draft Day, June 26, 1984. It was my birthday, and I actually got drafted on my birthday. I wasn’t even sure I would get drafted by any pro basketball team; my college had only 2900 students. I didn’t work out for any pro teams; however, I knew there might be some interest as I did play well in the post season tournaments. I was very surprised when Portland selected me.”
And Portland never regretted selecting Jerome. In the eleven years he played with the Trailblazers he still ranks 2nd in career games, rebounds, blocked shots, 3rd in scoring and steals and 4th in field goals.
A little known bit of trivia came in the 1986 NBA All Star game. This is when the stars competed in the slam dunk competition and Kersey finished second to Michael Jordan. He played with a group of players in Portland that had become family to him and that culminated in reaching the NBA finals two years in a row.
When asked about the fondest memory of his career, Kersey responded; “I’ve had a lot of great memories playing basketball, especially the two years Portland had in the championship runs. The team was together so long that the core group of guys were like family. Of course, winning the championship with San Antonio was a highlight and the pinnacle of my career, but I think the friendships that were formed are the most precious things I won while playing professional basketball.”
Regarding the players in Jerome’s era and today’s players Jerome flatly stated, “They’re spoiled! If you have talent and don’t develop it during this age of basketball, then it’s a shame. Teams take the time to actually go and develop players every day. Whatever you need, it’s there all the time.”
“When I came along, they worked with you but you had to be more self-sufficient, you had to go to the gym when there wasn’t a practice. You had to work on your game and develop it for yourself – that’s how your game would grow. But now they take the kids out of high school, and if they want to go to the gym at 7:00 at night, there is a coach that will go with them… in fact he’s expected to go with them whenever they want to go.”
When asked what he thought about players that state that they are athletes and not role models he replied, “They are! If you want special attention then you have to give some back because whether you want it or not, you are highly publicized and in the entertainment business with a lot of kids watching and they want to emulate you, so you want to set your best foot forward. It is sad for our youth to have role models that portray gang type behavior, for one.”
As for Kersey’s role as a professional basketball player and team player, he commented about how he needed to adjust his talent to fit the team. “When you say team, different players have to play different roles. We all come out of college as good or great scorers but all of a sudden you have to find out what is the nature of your team. Maybe it’s not to score every night, but on a given night maybe it is.”
“You need to find out what your forte is and try to do that and be consistent. You might be able to go out and score 20 and grab 10 rebounds, but that won’t be every night. The coaches need to know what they can count on you contributing on a consistent basis.”
“For me and the feedback I’ve received from fans and players alike was my work ethic, that I went out every night and played the game hard. That’s not hard to do if you love a sport and are passionate about it, and I don’t think that passion lies as deep with players of today. With the huge $100 million multi-year contracts of today a lot of players just stop trying. They stop doing what they did to earn the money due to the guaranteed pay and they become complacent at times.”
As for his stay in Puerto Vallarta and the Sheraton, Jerome responded quickly, “I feel right at home actually. Gemma Garciarce has made it very, very inviting for me and everyone who stays here. It just feels like a home away from home; we come down here and it’s relaxing, we get to have some fun playing basketball, meet a lot of great people. We get to take in a different culture while relaxing; I like it.”
My initial perception of Jerome Kersey when we first met was, Wow! Jerome Kersey, ex-basketball star, I watched him play on TV all the time! As I got to know Jerome a bit better, I found him to be a personable, caring, and friendly guy.
“Basketball is not what I am, it’s what I did. It doesn’t define me as a person because that’s on the court. I think what you do off the court. It’s how you are with people that defines you,” Jerome commented.
When I asked what Kersey’s present and future plans are, he quickly responded, “My present job is by far my daughter. This year, fortunately, afforded me the time to follow her young basketball career. Losing my job with the Milwaukee Bucks last season left me with a guaranteed salary this season, so I get to follow my daughter around and watch her grow as a person and a basketball player.” Jerome’s daughter is 11 year old Kiara Kersey, who stands 5-6 and plays AAU organized basketball for the Oregon Rain.
Not one to sit still, Kersey just started a sports management company based out of Portland, Oregon. Called Premiere Sports, Inc., the company plans to represent basketball, football and baseball players. And though it is still in its initial stages, positive things are already beginning to happen for the people who have come to Kersey for his services.
Alejandra Toca, who is in charge of Special Projects at the Sheraton, sat in on the interview. Alejandra asked Kersey if, when behind the scenes, it is easy for him to make friends with people, or if he considers everything as just another competition.
He replied, “Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter and I were together for about ten years and were all starters. Buck Williams and Kevin Duckworth were others that played with me for a long time and we all continue to be friends. Due to the amount of time we spent together, we got to know each other intimately and we have actually become family. In reality we spent more time together than we did with our own families.”
“Over the years, I made friends with many players on other teams, as I did play pro basketball for 17 years… and some of the friendships you develop just because you’re getting older,” he added with a chuckle.
Alejandra went on to ask what the best moment he remembers was, or did any particular game actually define him. “Playing in Phoenix in a playoff game, when we went to the finals that first year, Jeff Hornacek was going to the basket late in a tie game, and I blocked his shot on one end and the ball bounced out (it happened like a flash) and I ran down the floor and got the lay-up on the other end to give us the victory. I can see it in my mind right now and it happened to quick with all my adrenaline flowing, the action of the game and it was like ‘Wow’; a very memorable play because it put us in the championship for the first time,” he replied.
Alejandra’s final question to Jerome was how he found the Mexican competition compared to the level he played at. Jerome responded, “You can’t define that, the NBA is the pinnacle of all basketball. The guys here are good players, not at all bad, but there is no Michael Jordan, no Larry Bird. But it is competitive and on any given day you can be beat, as the Mexican team showed us last year.”
“Also, basketball in the United States is on the same popularity level as soccer is here in Mexico, anyone can afford to play and there are no economic barriers blocking you. In other sports, lessons and training can be quite expensive, but in basketball and soccer, all one needs is a ball and something to toss it into, or something to kick it through,” he added.
We all appreciate Jerome Kersey’s participation in the Annual Puerto Vallarta Sports Classic each year, and look forward to his continued involvement. With philosophies such as Jerome’s, it makes one think that the world just might be a better place if run by athletes – or even better, more matured ex-athletes rather than politicians. As always, it is always wonderful to make new friends. Thanks Jerome!
THE OPPENHEIMER REPORT
Yes, violence in Mexico is rising — but it’s less than in Washington D.C. or Chicago.
By Andres Oppenheimer
After the murder of two U.S. consulate workers in Mexico’s border city of Ciudad Juárez, many of you have written to me wondering whether it is safe to travel to Mexico. The answer is: If you are courageous enough to travel to Washington, D.C., you can safely visit most parts of Mexico.
Despite the escalation of drug-related violence in several Mexican cities, and the pictures of mutilated bodies dumped on the streets of Ciudad Juárez and other cities along the U.S. border, a dispassionate look at Mexico’s murder rates shows that some parts of the country are indeed dangerous, but the country as a whole is safer than what the latest headlines suggest.
A new study by Brookings Institute Latin American expert Kevin Casas-Zamora, a former vice president of Costa Rica, helps put Mexico’s violence in perspective.
According to Casas-Zamora’s figures, based on United Nations 2008 data, Mexico’s murder rate is nearly five times less than that of sunny Jamaica and about half that of Brazil, a country that was awarded the much-coveted 2014 soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.
Consider his data of Latin America’s most violent countries: Honduras has a murder rate of 61 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Jamaica with 60, Venezuela and El Salvador with 52 each, Guatemala with 47, Trinidad and Tobago with 40, Colombia with 39, Brazil with 22, Dominican Republic with 21, Panama with 19, Ecuador with 18, Nicaragua with 13, Paraguay with 12, Mexico and Costa Rica with about 11.5 each, Bolivia with 10.5 and Uruguay, Argentina, Peru, and Chile with less than 10.
Comparatively, while the United States homicide rate is lower than Mexico’s, Washington, D.C., has a murder rate of 31 people per 100,000 inhabitants and New Orleans has 74.
“Violence in Mexico is concentrated in a few cities, mainly in Sinaloa, Chihuahua and Baja California,” Casas Zamora told me in an interview. “In Ciudad Juárez, it’s out of control. But in the country as a whole, it doesn’t come even close to Washington, D.C.’s.”
He conceded that Mexico’s murder rates may have risen in recent months as a result of the cross fire between Mexican security forces and the drug cartels, and between the drug cartels themselves. But he added that they are still significantly below what they were 10 years ago.
Largely for demographic reasons — Mexico’s birth rates are dropping and large numbers of Mexicans have been migrating to the United States in recent decades — murder rates in Mexico have been falling steadily for decades. They may have picked up only marginally over the past year, he said.
The U.S. State Department’s latest travel alert to Mexico, issued following the killings of the two U.S. consular workers in Ciudad Juárez, says it has temporarily authorized the departure of relatives of U.S. consular workers in the Northern Mexican border cities of Tijuana, Nogales, Ciudad Juárez, Nuevo Laredo, Monterrey and Matamoros, and advises U.S. citizens “to delay unnecessary travel to parts of Durango, Coahuila and Chihuahua states.”
As for Mexico as a whole, it says that “U.S. citizen visitors are encouraged to stay in the well-known tourist areas.”
My opinion: Mexico is facing a dangerous rise in violence, and I would not advise you to spend your next vacation in Ciudad Juárez or any other place where the drug-related killings are taking place.
But Mexico is a huge country. To say that it’s unsafe to travel to Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta or Cancún — or that you wouldn’t allow your children to spend spring break in that country, as Fox News’ right-wing airhead Bill O’Reilly said last year — is as irresponsible as saying that it’s unsafe to travel to some of the biggest U.S. cities.
The State Department’s travel alert, while correctly pointing out that the violence is concentrated in some Mexican states, should have put Mexico’s national figures in perspective. It wouldn’t be a bad idea if, from now on, it compared them with other countries’ murder rates, and with that of its own home city — Washington, D.C.