February 2013 Archives

February 2013 Archives

Meet Marc Griffin from the Hoops Lounge


I had the opportunity to sit down with Marc Griffin (aka @montrealmarc)  on Sunday, November 25th 2012 at Café Myriad, a local coffee shop located on Mackay, just North of St-Catherine.  The environment was cozy and homey with a blend of jazz/house music playing the background.  I asked Marc what he has been up to these days.  His weeks are pretty full right now as he is working full time for the telecommunications giant Level 3.  That's just his day job though. 


For the past ten years, Marc has worked as a filmmaker, including a brief stint in Hollywood.  Marc, 35 years old today, looking not a day over 28, was only 22 years old when he won a National Film scholarship and moved to Toronto to work as a post production assistant on the movie "The Score" with Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando and Edward Norton.  Although he never met them, this experience, along with developing a slew of contacts in the film industry in Los Angeles is what made him decide to give a shot at Hollywood. 


He told me he moved to LA in September of 2001, just five days before 9/11.  As the result of the attacks, the film industry as a whole really took a big hit and Marc ended up working on low budget films and had a hard time finding work.  He stayed for about a year and a half.  I asked him what it was like living in L.A. in general.  "Culturally, I didn't like living in LA.  I felt like I was in a zoo to be honest."  He describes LA as a city with a façade, a fake, artificial place where everyone believes their own lies.  Yup, sounds about right.  He was also 3000 miles away from his family and friends so that was pretty hard on him.  "I did it for the experience and I'm glad I tried it out".


After the LA stint, Marc backpacked his way through Europe for three weeks during the 2006 World Cup in Germany.  "I just basically said I'm gonna do a buffet tour of Europe cause I don't know when I'm ever gonna be able to come back here.  I went to something like 11 countries."  Marc spent the bulk of his time in Germany due to the World Cup, but he also did his share of hoping on one train to another and staying at hostels for spans of two days at a time.


It is exactly this open mindedness and willingness to learn new cultures and perspectives that brought him to the hub of Canadian pluralism: Montreal, Quebec.  "That's one thing I love about Montreal, is that you have so many different cultures here, it's like a bit of everything."  Despite growing up in upstate New-York, Marc was always in touch with his French Canadian roots as three of his grandparents are Quebecois.  He explained to me that he always had a piece of Quebec within him.  For one, his grandparents spoke French at home, ate poutine, and followed Les Canadiens de Montreal.  He moved here four years ago and calls it one of the best decisions of his life. 


This love of Montreal took birth during the layovers he had when returning from back and forth trips to Kingston to visit family in Trois-Rivieres.  "I would visit my family in Trois-Rivieres by train or by bus, and I would always have a layover in Montreal, so I would just wander around Montreal, and I just slowly fell in love with the city just by walking around during my layovers". 

Marc is a regular guest on CJLO (Concordia University radio station) sports show "The Game Misconduct" which airs every Sunday afternoons from noon to 2pm.  He told me that one day, he decided to tune in and just called in.  That call on the air lasted about 30 minutes.  Being an avid NBA basketball buff, he was talking to another basketball buff, Phil Boileau aka @sportingphil.  "I started playing basketball when I was four, so it's just ingrained in who I am."  Their love and passion for the game of basketball led Marc and Phil to recently launch their own NBA basketball site together, HoopsLounge.com.


On October 19th 2012, the New York Knicks played the Toronto Raptors in an exhibition game at the Bell Centre in Montreal.  Marc was there with a media pass in hand.  This was a very special moment for him.  He recalled particular events that took place on that day, which really stood out for him.  The first thing he mentioned was meeting Walt "Clyde" Frazier.  Here's a quick bio:  Now announcer for the Knicks, Frazier is considered by many one of the best point guards of NBA history.  He played for the New York Knicks from 1967 to 1977 and led them to two NBA Championships in that span.  "Growing up in New York State, I was a huge Knicks fan.  He was before my time but he's a legend and icon and it was amazing just to shake his hand." 


Another memorable moment for Marc was going into the Knicks locker room after the game and meeting some of the players, including long time NBA veteran Jason Kidd.  "I ended up talking to Jason Kidd about him growing up in Oakland playing hoops with Gary Payton and Steve Nash.  The three of them would play pick up ball. --  Just having a conversation about ball.  Man, I loved it."  I could tell just by listening to Marc talk about his experience at the Bell Centre that day, that this was really something he enjoyed a lot and that meant a lot to him.


Now that I had a better understanding of Marc's love for the game of basketball, it was time for me to test him.  I asked him point blank.  Who is your favorite basketball player of all time?  "This is not an easy question because I'm a history buff so I like to look at guys from different eras, and I would say Pete Maravich.  He was before my time, but "Pistol Pete" Maravich played in the NBA from 1970 to 1980 and was a college basketball legend playing for Louisiana State University (LSU).  He is still the all-time leading NCAA Division 1 scorer with 3667 points scored and an average of 44.2 points per game.  "He played 'showtime' basketball before there was 'showtime' basketball; behind the back passes, full court passes, no look passes and he could score from anywhere.  - He was a white guy playing like a black guy in an era where no one did that.  Everything he did is a big part of the game now and no one did it before him.  He was a pioneer." 


Although I agree with everything Marc said, I couldn't understand how his answer was not Michael Jordan.  I personally think everyone's answer should be Michael Jordan. As we continued to discuss Pistol Pete's style, he mentioned two guys from today's era whom he thought played most like Pistol Pete: Steve Nash and Minnesota Timberwolves sophomore sensation Ricky Rubio. 


Now that we had established who the best of all time (in his opinion) was, it was time to find out who, in his opinion, was the best in the modern era.  "I wouldn't have said this a year ago but now I would say LeBron James.  Since he won the title, and the Olympics, he's figured out how to play at a superior level now and his confidence is out the roof. --  He's not intimated, he's not timid.  He used to play like a bull in a China shop and now he's just full throttle, and that's scary."  We were both on the same page with that one.  LeBron is a beast, no question about it.


Next, I discussed the state of hockey in Montreal as a parallel to basketball.  Most people would argue that Montreal is primarily a hockey city, but Marc says that this is only what the media feeds us.  I asked Marc why he says that.  He first acknowledged the fact that Montreal is definitely a hockey town.  He is quite aware of this fact given his French Canadian roots.  His grandfather is from small town Quebec and was a Canadiens die hard.  Despite him having a very fond understanding of the importance of hockey in this city, he is also aware of an increasing social phenomenon happening in Montreal.  "Because of the influx of immigration from Latin American countries, African countries and European countries, there is a younger generation of people, say between the ages of 15 to 30, who LOVE the game of basketball." 


One of the reasons Marc knows this is because of the all the basketball jerseys, hats, jackets and other clothing gear he sees people wear when he walks around Montreal.  Another reason is the reaction he gets from people when they find out that he, like them, he a huge basketball fan.  "When ever I start talking basketball with people, their eyes light up.  Ohh you're a basketball fan too?"   The third point that Marc brought to the table is the social media aspect of things.  He noticed last year, when this thing known as hockey was still being played, that NBA games were trending big time on twitter, and this, while Habs games were being played.  Marc believes that's definitely saying something. 


"Yes, we love our hockey in Montreal, but there is also a an overwhelming rise for the love of the game of basketball and the media are slowly but surely realizing it.  We love hockey here, but there's also a love for other things.  The mainstream media is slowly clueing into it.  Obviously they have their contracts and their stipulations to support hockey because it pays the bills right?"


Logically, my next question was if Montreal had any chance of, like our neighbor Toronto, having its own basketball franchise in the NBA.  Basically, his answer was yes, but not any time soon.  Given the fact that the main fan base for the NBA lies between the 15 to 35 demographic, most of these people are still young and don't have solid permanent careers and as a result cannot afford to fulfill the regular season ticket holder criteria.  If we would ask this question in say 10 to 15 years from now, the answer could be surprisingly different.  "The biggest problem is that these 15 to 35 year olds can't afford season tickets.  If we could wait say 10 years, when these people would have more stable jobs, I think that would be a really good starting place to get a pro team."


Catch Marc doing his sports talk radio thing on "The Game Misconduct", which airs on Sunday afternoons, from 12pm to 2pm. He's always available on Twitter via @montrealmarc discussing his passions for Sports, Film, and Culture. And visit his recently launched website HoopsLounge.com for a fresh take on basketball from the streets of Montreal. On top of all that, Marc is currently writing his first book "The Rope" about surviving the tragedy of his father's suicide. He's a busy guy, and a man of many hats.


And Marc's objective, in his own words: "To become a major voice in Canadian media, harnessing different platforms to express my uniquely insightful, honest, creative perspective."  Go check him out.

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