Jeff Pearlman

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The South African water polo players and a magical trip to Costco

Post-Costco bliss

Post-Costco bliss with Keet (far right) and the gang.

So it’s 12:30 Sunday afternoon here in Southern California, and I just experienced a truly magical, amazing whirlwind of wide-eyed awesomeness.

Over the past bunch of days we’ve had two visiting South African high school water polo players stay at our house. Their names are Alex and Meralda, and they are these lovely girls who we introduced to (among other things) boba, roller skating, “Get Out!” and (of course) the Slurpee.

Anyhow, a few moments ago Alex, Meralda and their coaches and teammates took off for a different part of the state, but not before the wife and I hosted a breakfast shindig at our house. I would say, oh, 50 people crammed into our crib for the wife’s legendary French toast bake, sausage, eggs, fruit, etc. There was chatter and laughter and … and …

Costco.

Yup, Costco.

It turns out a couple of the South Africans visited Costco yesterday, where they purchased Apple Watches for about 60 percent of the price they paid back home. Well, we have a Costco just six minutes down the road, so I mentioned that we certainly could go if they wou—

Yes!

Yes!

Yes!

Yes!

I loaded my car, as did another parent. We pulled into the lot, and you could all but feel the electricity shooting off from girl to girl. They posed for photos out front. They looked up with awe-filled eyes. Before we entered I warned them that, inside Costco, a store rule demands no one ever make a sound.

“OK,” one said.

“I’m kidding,” I replied. “I’m kidding.”

Deep breaths.

Escape from Costco

Escape from Costco

We entered, and they scattered like wide receivers in the Run ‘n Shoot. Apple watches! Big bags of candy! Sweatshirts! Underwear! Bras! Giggles! Cheers! In between purchases we spoke at length about the whole phenomenon. Back home in South Africa, I was told, there is access to very little of this. Apple Watches are purely luxury items. You might buy an enormous sack of sweets, but it’ll cost an arm and a leg. Another coach went into deep detail about crime. Sleeping with a door unlocked? Never. “When you pull up to a traffic light, you slow down,” he said. “But you absolutely do not stop.” The kids, he said, were blown away by America’s possibilities and bountifulness. “It’s overwhelming,” he said

And, inside Costco, I could see that. They’re actually visiting Disneyland in a few days, and I asked whether they’d prefer a trip to Costco or the Magic Kingdom. As a group, they were indecisive.

It was all an important reminder of how spoiled so many of us are; how accustomed we are to this and that and that and this. We enter Costco, we see the vat of relish, we purchase the vat of relish. It’s not much of a debate. We just … buy it.

Seeing these girls, with their jaws dropped and their eyes the size of Oreos—it was a needed refresher course in Spoiled: 101.

An important one.

PS: Side note one: They were absolutely dazzled by Alexa. D-a-z-z-l-e-d.

PPS: Side note two: The team’s coach, Marcelle Keet, is both lovely and really well known.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life