The first thing you notice about Matt Bonner is how huge he is. Not just tall mind you, huge. He's a lot more jacked than you'd expect, especially in the arms. "The Red Rocket," does not look like the kind of guy you want to mess with. Also, his head looks small for his body, but that might be common for guys who are 6'10". I've been blunt in my criticism of Bonner over the years, but he has a well-deserved reputation for being a great dude and very accessible and quotable as far as Spurs players go, so I figured that it was in my best interests to get in good with him early.
The results were mixed.
Dan McCarney of the Express-News was trying to convince Bonner go accept Tim Duncan's offer to customize his ride with a "Red Mamba," logo at his Blackjack Speed Shop. "I don't know," Bonner hesitated. "I think it'd be the most narcissistic thing ever."
"No one would think that it was actually you," I chimed in. "Everyone would think it was just some crazy Matt Bonner fan."
That didn't go over too well, so I tried to win Bonner back when the topic turned to soccer. He shared that he spent some time in England and took in a Champions League game between Arsenal and a Turkish team he couldn't remember. I asked him their color scheme and he said it was black and white, so I suggested Beşiktaş, and boom, we had a connection. Bonner marveled at how much more hard core Turkish soccer fans are than American sports fans and I informed him that in Galatasaray's stadium, the slogan literally translates to "Welcome to Hell."
Knowing Bonner's well-chronicled love of sandwiches, I implored him to try a doner pide (a Turkish version of a gyro, but 20 times better) when the Spurs travel to Istanbul this summer. But the second I brought up my birthplace, he immediately asked me if there are lots of turkeys in Turkey.
Now this is quite an annoying question to a Turkish person. I've fielded this question at least as often as Duncan has dealt with the retirement thing. I told him, "Yeah, sure, but it's not a big food item over there. It's not a big deal. They don't have Thanksgiving or anything like that."
"So, why do they call Turkey, Turkey then?" he asked.
"Well, in English speaking countries they named the country "Turkey," because it sounded close enough to Turkiye, which is actually the name of it over there, and also because at the time they thought turkeys originated there. In Turkey though, Turkiye doesn't mean "turkey," at all. The Turkish word for turkey is Hindi, which also means "Indian" (as in person from India, obviously, not Native-Americans) because in Turkey they thought turkeys originated from India."
I'm not sure if he followed all that, but at least he seemed to appreciate a conversation he's never had before.