Jimmer and China

A few weeks ago an article was written about Jimmer and his basketball season in China with the Shanghai Sharks.  It was brought to our attention that the article painted a negative picture of his life over there.  I didn’t think about that at the time when I first read it so I went back to read it over again.  I guess I can see what they mean.   It does sound a little bit bleak in some of the writer’s assessment of Jimmer’s life over there. He’s a really nice guy and a good writer but I think that maybe he was going for the dramatic affect and maybe his perception of what he saw was a little different than what Jimmer and my husband (who has spent many weeks over there) know to be true.  Some of his description of things over there made it seem a little more lonely or negative than it actually is for Jimmer.  Maybe the name “Jimo Dashen”, meaning the lonely master, got to the journalist.

After the article appeared in the Deseret News, another man, who currently lives in Shanghai and has met Jimmer, took offense to the the article because of the perceived dreary portrayal of Shanghai and published a rebuttal blog post. (Both articles are on my Facebook page) I must say after reading his blog , I can appreciate his thoughts on the Deseret News article.   I am actually grateful to him for bringing this to our attention. I didn’t think that people would take it that way but I guess some people did.  The last thing Jimmer and our family would want to do is to offend, in any way, the Chinese people and the great city of Shanghai. So I wanted to set the record straight concerning that.

My husband Al went over to China with Jimmer on the first trip last year.  I was so glad that Al was going to accompany him because, let’s face it, going that far away in a strange land, not knowing the language or what to expect, is a little intimidating for anyone. Jimmer’s wife was pregnant at the time, and understandably, she couldn’t go with him.  Not only is the length of the flight tough, but the time change throws you off for a few days, along with the jet lag.  They both were wiped out but also excited for the new adventure.

Right from the start, the Shark management, took good care of Jimmer.  They met him at the airport and had a Chinese English speaking gentleman, “Teddy”, who came to be Al and Jimmer’s sidekick for the entire time that they were there with the Sharks.  Al said he is such a great guy who wanted to make sure that they were comfortable and well taken care of during their stay in China. He would take the time to explain so many things to Al and Jimmer about the culture and their monetary system.  They got the hang of it pretty quickly, but if it were me, I’d still be wrestling with it.   Teddy was there to “show them the ropes” of  Shanghai.   He would teach them, or make suggestions as to what they should do and what they should not do so they would not inadvertently offend the Chinese people.   For example one of the first team dinners they had, they all were expected to take a drink of Saki (Sake) to honor the team and the coaches before the start of the season.  It’s customary over there to drink and toast this or that.  The interpreter explained to Al and Jimmer that it was considered disrespectful if you didn’t participate in the drinking part. It put Jimmer, as well as Al, in an awkward position because they don’t drink at all, but yet as the new guys, they didn’t want to give the impression that they were being anti-social or disrespectful.  Jimmer explained to the interpreter beforehand that he and his father were not going to drink anything other than water or something non-alcoholic when they did the toasts.  So that’s what they did….they raised their glasses of water for their toast.   Once it was explained to them (the team) by the interpreter, they all understood.  That’s just the way it was going to be.

They had a driver that took them to Jimmer’s apartment in downtown Shanghai and would be there the whole season to get him to the games and practices on time.  At the games there is always an interpreter for the import players (2 imports for each team) because the head coach didn’t speak much English at all.  The assistant coach was American but lived in Australia so he could help with the language barrier also.  I’m sure it was very confusing at first for Jimmer but he adjusted really well.  After all, it was basketball….something that he could figure out no matter what language they were speaking.  Surprisingly enough, he said that most of his teammates spoke English.  Some of them better than others.  That was very helpful.  I’m sure that they learned some things from Jimmer and he learned some things from them as well.  But ultimately, it was the team camaraderie that they felt.  Regardless of the language, they came to feel a bond with one another.  Jimmer genuinely has fond feelings and appreciates his teammates, his coaches, the trainers, and the entire staff of the Sharks organization as they reciprocated those feelings for him.  They support and encourage one another.

Now a few words about his apartment….  I know the first article mentioned that the apartment seemed lonely and cold, devoid of the homey feel that one might like.  My first thought was what young professional athlete, who is temporarily living away from their permanent home, cares about where they are staying as long as it is relatively clean, has a kitchen, TV, and a bed?  What athlete would go out and buy homey things like colorful throw pillows and accessories to liven up a temporary place?  Only a mother would do that, and to be honest, if I was over there, then I probably would have done that.  Wouldn’t have mattered one bit to Jimmer and to most guys, but it would have mattered to me.  Us mothers are like that sometimes.  I remember when Jimmer was staying in Westchester County for the Knick’s D league.  His apartment was in a high rise building.  It was small but nice.  When Al and I went to visit the first time, and this was before Whitney got there, it was bugging me that the couch was in the wrong position in the room and so were the coffee table, rug and lamps.  He had to go out to go to practice for a few hours and when he came back, I had completely rearranged the furniture.  Even though it had a small amount of furniture there, I thought the placement of it was crucial for Jimmer’s utmost comfort and coziness.  At least it was in my mind and it was important to me that he was comfortable.  Jimmer didn’t care one way or another but graciously told me that it looked nice when he came back.  He is a really neat person so it was never messy, but now I felt that it was a little more homey for him.  So I’m sure over in China, the apartment was just fine for him and didn’t signify loneliness or anything for that matter. It’s just what they had provided for him and it was fine.  The location was great. One of the first things that I asked Jimmer to do when he got there was to give me a tour of the place by facetime.  My thoughts were that it looked very clean and shining with beautiful hardwood floors.  It had more of a modern contemporary feel to it. He had at least one flat screen TVs, (maybe two), a washer and dryer and a kitchen. He was all set.  Was it cozy looking?…probably not by most mom’s standards, but it was nice.  If he has a TV and his ipad to facetime his family, that’s all that he needs.  As I said before,  I think the writer of the article just perceived it to be lonely looking for the dramatic effect of his story.  When I saw a recent video of his apartment, he had so many colorful sneakers around that it would be hard to feel down with all of that bright neon color! Who needs throw pillows for color when you have those brightly colored sneakers?

Both Jimmer and Al have told me of the beauty of the city of Shanghai.  There are flowers everywhere, interesting statues and art sculptures, beautiful high rise buildings that light up the sky with color at night, there is a Disney World amusement park, there are stores and malls so big that Al got lost in a few, there are street vendors eager to barter with you.  So many things to see and experience. So much history.   The first article mentioned the smog and bad air over in China.  Yes there are times that people choose to wear masks to shield themselves from an especially bad day, but as the man said in the blog, parts of Utah, where the man used to live, and many other cities have bad smoggy air sometimes too, so you can’t define a city with just that.  I have experienced it myself in Utah.  It’s what they call Inversion. It would be nice to be able to wave a magic wand and bring in clean air but with large cities or areas with so many factories and traffic, it’s hard to keep it under control.  I know the writer of the first article was going for the gritty feel of the city of Shanghai and maybe it added to the dramatic theme of his story, but it wasn’t really an issue for Al or for Jimmer.

I remember Whitney saying that she felt so safe over there.  It’s probably because they have guards to monitor the streets for any signs of trouble.  Even at the games they have guards to keep order if it is needed.  I was worried that Al was going to be taken away if he didn’t stop yelling so much at the refs.  Ha!  I think they gave him a pass because he was Jimmer’s father.   It’s a Communist country and it’s something that you have to always keep in mind.  They do some things differently than we do here in the USA.

I think when Al went over there with Jimmer the first time, he was worried about what he was going to eat. Yup he’s always worried about that.   It’s no secret that when going to a different country, you may have to adjust to their cuisine. One of the first things Al said to me when we finally talked for the first time was that the food was amazing in Shanghai.  Anything that you can get over here in the USA, you can get over there. There is a McDonald’s, a Burger King, a Kentucky Fried Chicken, a Wendy’s, lots of pizza places, seafood places. steak places, dessert places, fine dining places etc. etc. Anything that you want to eat, you can get….even great ice cream places.  I know that because I saw pictures of Jimmer and Whitney’s little girl with chocolate ice cream on her face.    He tries to eat healthy things to stay in shape so maybe it’s hard to decide what to eat sometimes, but the choices are certainly there. Are there places in China where the food is less desirable and inferior than in Shanghai?  Absolutely.  The team travels to some rural areas during the season that can’t provide all of the food options of Shanghai, but they plan for that and bring food for the team or the guys can bring their own snacks. There is sometimes the threat of food poisoning for the team members, or not being able to tolerate certain foods that they are not used to, so they have to be careful of that.  As a matter of fact, one of the imports did suffer from a bout of food poisoning and had to sit out a game.  But that’s also true for athletes or anyone in the USA…. or any country for that matter.

The article mentioned something about Jimmer just watched TV or movies in his downtime, and that’s probably true when he was alone, but when someone is over there with him, he ventures out on the streets and takes advantage of all there is to see. I think most people are like that.  It’s much more fun to have someone to share those things with than doing it on your own.  He goes out to the occasional get together or dinner with the coaches and team.  He goes out to shop when he wants or needs to go to a store.  When you’ve seen just about everything that there is to see in your area, what more can you do by yourself?  Besides Jimmer has time restraints everyday because everything is centered around practices, shoot arounds, travel and games. Sometimes he has to do endorsement obligations that can take up quite a bit of time.  That’s his job.  The time that he does have off, which is not much, he probably likes to stay put and relax from the exhaustion of a very busy schedule. I know one thing that he enjoys every day and does it as many times as he can in a day….. and that is Facetime with his family.  Thank heavens for modern technology.  It makes being away from your family a little more tolerable for the many people that have jobs far away from them.

I mentioned this before on Facebook but I’ll say it again, one thing I disagreed with wholeheartedly in the article is the statement that the writer made about Jimmer having no rhythm and not being about to dance.  What?!!!  Jimmer is known for being a terrific dancer.  That assessment most likely comes from a person that can’t dance at all so it’s hard to pick out a good dancer if you have no dancing skills of your own.  It has been my opinion over the years that most athletes can dance.  They are born with good hand/eye coordination and can find that rhythm when they hear a beat.  I have 3 brothers that were all good athletes and everyone of them can dance really well.  So does my other son and daughter…both good athletes.  Of course there are always exceptions to the rule but generally, athletes can dance.  So I really took offense to that comment.  It made him sound like he was awkward on the dance floor and nothing can be further from the truth.  The video that the guy put up of Jimmer and the wedding crew was a fun day for them.  Any confusion of the dance moves was because they put that dance together pretty quickly and had to perform under pressure for the bride and wedding guests.  Ha Ha.   It was fun to watch.

The CBA….I know that people say that the Chinese basketball league is an inferior league and it’s not as good as the NBA or the Euro-league and that’s probably true about the NBA,  but the Euro league, that’s just a matter of opinion.  Yes the NBA has the top basketball players in the world but there are some players that have been cut from the NBA, gone over to the CBA, and then work their way back to the NBA. There are a couple of Chinese players that played in the NBA for a few seasons but wanted to go back to play in their homeland. One example is a player named Yi Jianlian, who played for the Dallas Mavericks for a time. The competition in China can be a little weaker sometimes, depending on the team.  Some of the well known players that have played there or are still playing there, are Marshon Brooks, Carlos Boozer, JJ Hickson, Jason Thompson, Josh Smith, Gilbert Arenas, JR Smith, Metta World Peace, Tracey McGrady, Pooh Jeter, Chris Anderson (Birdman), Shavlik Randolph, Stephon Marbury of course, and many more. Some came over for a short time and went back to the NBA and some left basketball altogether but China was their choice of where to play, so it can’t be that bad.  Although the teams can only have 2 imports on a team, some of the Chinese players are very skilled, scrappy and can shoot the lights out!  It all depends on the team of course (that’s also true in the NBA) but to Jimmer, every game is a battle.  Because of his scoring abilities, he has become a target no matter where he plays.  To those who have said, oh of course he can score there, the competition is weak, I would challenge them to spend one game in Jimmer’s sneakers and see what it is like.  He is grabbed, scratched, tripped, elbowed, pushed, slapped and yes even head butted.  After some of the games he is sore and beat up. This season he came home with a black eye from an over zealous defender. They rotate fresh defensive players on him throughout a game in which their only assignment is to just stop Jimmer, never mind the ball, just stop him!  I don’t know how he can stand a guy two inches from his face all of the time and constantly touching him.  I guess he is used to it. The reffing is less than perfect (just ask my husband who has been there in person) so they let a lot of that kind of fouling happen for the most part.  Every once in awhile they will call a good game but seems like those games are few and far between.  I won’t say too much about that but there are articles written about the reffing in China and the CBA in general.  As I think back, I don’t even remember Jimmer being roughed up that bad in the NBA.  Almost every game is tough for him and I am still in awe of what he can do in spite of all of that.  But still he is enjoying it.  It’s a challenge and Jimmer always did love a challenge.  He is a starter and he plays the majority of the game. The worry that he is going to be taken out if he makes one mistake is gone.  The coach recognizes that sometimes he needs time to get warmed up and play through mistakes (a luxury he didn’t have in the NBA)….but when he catches that rhythm, watch out.  People sometimes think that Jimmer is just a shooter.  That was the misconception that the coaches had in the NBA.  They stuck him in the corner waiting for the ball that never came.  No doubt that he has the 3 point shooting talent, but I always say to people that he’s not just a shooter, he is a scorer, plain and simple. He’s been that type of player since he was a little boy.  He has a variety of shots.  He CAN create his own shot but I have heard so many announcers say that he can not.  Wow they haven’t really watched Jimmer if they say that.  That’s why he is so hard to stop.  If his 3 point shot is not working in some games, he tries something different.  He’ll take it in and score that way.  He is a great passer and sees the floor really well.  He is quicker and a lot stronger than people think.  You have to have a certain amount of strength and quickness to score like that.  So not only do the coaches and players in Shanghai have confidence in him, but he has gotten his own confidence back.  As a very astute and fair announcer said once when Jimmer was in the NBA, the talent that was on display at BYU has not gone away, it’s still there, but he hasn’t found the right situation yet where he can showcase that talent.  That was the frustration for all of us in the NBA.  That’s why going to China was a good move for him.  As the article said, he’s gotten his swagger back.  I could go on and on with this subject and my feelings, but I won’t.  I will move on.

I want to say something about the Chinese people.  Both Al and Jimmer have mentioned to me that they are the kindest, most loving, giving people that you would ever want to meet.  Very hard working.  He said that they have a sweet spirit about them… and they love their basketball.   Al has so many stories of encounters he has had with the Chinese people.  They are more than willing to help you if you just ask (and if they speak English.) He ventured out every day to experience some of the local color.  Sometimes he went with Jimmer if he had some free time, but mostly on his own. The population, of course, is mind blowing in Shanghai…about 24 million people, almost 3 times the population of NYC.  Some days are wall to wall people. Lots of activity and lots to see and do.   Sometimes Al got lost and sometimes he maneuvered himself around Shanghai pretty good.   He told me that because of Jimmer’s notoriety over there and the fact that Al’s face was frequently shown on TV during his games, that some people started to recognize him on the streets and asked for pictures with him.  He once walked by a group of armed guards that must have watched the games because they started talking back and forth with each other and as Al looked back, one of them was going through the motion of shooting a basketball.  They laughed as Al smiled and nodded yes at them.

My intention was not to slam the first article from the Deseret News about Jimmer’s life in China.  In fact, the journalist is a very good writer and the article was well written.  He spent alot of time researching it. He talked for hours with Al, Tj and his sister Lindsay on the phone. He flew over to Shanghai to spend some time with Jimmer.  If you scroll down to the end of his article, you will see a video in which he did a great job describing his findings of Jimmer’s life in China.  However, I just wanted to counteract any feelings that one might have had after reading it and coming away with the conclusion that Jimmer’s experience over there is not a good one.  On the contrary, it has been amazing.  Let’s just say that he is as happy as one can be living over there without his family by his side the majority of the time.  That’s probably where the journalist’s perceived melancholy feelings from Jimmer may have come from.  As Whitney said, he is pretty level headed and doesn’t get too high or too low.  He is a go with the flow type person.  To go back, one of the inaccurate comments in the article was that his brother TJ said that Jimmer became extremely depressed when he was with the Sacramento Kings.  Tj told me that he never used those words but rather he said that he was having a tough time.  When Jimmer heard that he quickly said that he wasn’t depressed and that was too strong a word, but frustrated was the correct word for the situation at the time. Again I guess for the writer, the word depressed was more dramatic. He was going through alot of adjustments.  I was there for his first year in the NBA so I was sharing in that frustration, as was all of our family. Did he get on his knees for strength and guidance as it was written in the article? I didn’t see that myself like Tj did, but I would say, knowing Jimmer, that it was absolutely true.  Jimmer is such a positive thinking person that he doesn’t dwell on things too much and moves forward.  Tj always told him that you have to have a “short memory” in sports. It’s a term used that means that you can’t stop to think about a mistake that you may have made on the court because otherwise if you do, you will loose your focus and it will take you mentally out of the game.  That term can also be used in life in general.  Have a short memory and not dwell on past mistakes or even the injustices that happen.  That is good advice. I think Jimmer lives his life like that.  He could have very easily harbored resentment against the NBA, but he chose to have that short memory and look ahead at other opportunities and it landed him into another round of Jimmermania.  He is grateful to everyone of his fans in the USA and now in China.  So yes after awhile when he is in China towards the end of the season, he is ready to come back to the USA because like anyone else, you can’t be totally happy without your family by your side. This is his job and it is a way to give his family a good life.  It’s also doing what he loves. He is so appreciative for the fans that he has, the people that he has met and the opportunities that he has been given.  I know that he has a grateful heart for his blesssings, as do we as his family.

One last thing that I really pondered a lot is when the article mentioned that this was not the way that it was suppose to happen. In other words, he was saying that Jimmer’s dream was that he was suppose to be successful and playing in the NBA and he wasn’t suppose to be playing in China.  My thoughts are maybe this is EXACTLY the way that it was suppose to happen. Sometimes life throws you a curve ball, as they say, but sometimes it’s just the right pitch.  Life is not only about basketball. It’s about learning, and growing, and experiencing all kinds of things in our journey.  If he didn’t go to China, he would have not met all of the people that he has met. He would have not experienced another culture and learned about life in a country different than our own.  He would not have gotten the opportunities that were made available to him and will be in the future if he stayed sitting on the bench in the NBA.  He belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Who knows if he has influenced someone there in a largely non-Christian country to investigate what he believes.  Maybe there is a reason why he is there other than to play basketball.  Those are questions many people have thought about.  He has one more year under contract with the Shanghai Sharks.  After that who knows what will happen.  Maybe he will again play in the NBA and maybe he won’t, but make no mistake about it, Jimmer has alot of basketball left to be played and wherever he goes, he will bring with him the light that he has, a positive attitude, and a work ethic that any team would want.  Time will tell.

I have posted some pictures and a video to show you some of the experiences that he has had in China over the past two years.  The final video was last year when he won the MVP trophy.  What’s not to love over there?  The first 4 pictures were taken as he arrived back in China for the second season.  How great for a mother’s heart to see that.  Thank you to the Shanghai people.  Right now Jimmer is home in Colorado with his wife and his daughter (and their great dog George)….another perk of China basketball is that it’s a short season so it means more family time for him.

Take care everyone and thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Kay

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wes wit jimmer at bund

At a place called “THE BUND”.  Beautifully colored buildings to see.

wes wit at bund

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Wesley was the star on the streets.

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jimmer in China

got her Disney ears in Shanghai.

Jimmer giving talk in China

accepting an award

colorful scarves

Beautiful silk scarves that Al brought home for me.

jimmer and roger federer

Got to meet his all time favorite professional tennis players, Roger Federer, who had a tournament over there in China. He said he was a really nice guy. Liked him alot.

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memories of a lifetime

pink building

great wall

Great Wall of China in Bejiing…about 2 hours away from Shanghai.

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china photographer

Wonderful lady who was a photographer for the team.  Al said she is in her 80s.

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Jimmer Update – Career high 51 pts.

Around 4:30 A.M. this past Friday morning (5:30 P.M. Shanghai time), while I laid fast asleep in my bed, my little brother Jimmer was just leaving his apartment in Shanghai to go to the nearby Pudong Yuanshen Gymnasium, where his Shanghai Sharks would soon be taking the court to battle the widely revered Guangdong Southern Tigers. As Jimmer stepped out of his apartment, walked by the stray dog that hangs out in front of his building (which he has named Hufflepuff), and entered the car which was ready and waiting to take him to the arena, he mentally went into his zone, focusing on nothing but the game. With a team featuring 3 very formidable former NBA players in Donald Sloan, China’s renowned Jianlian Yi, and former two time NBA All-Star (as well as Jimmer’s former Chicago Bulls teammate) Carlos Boozer, Jimmer knew that the Tigers would be his biggest challenge yet in his overseas career. When Jimmer entered the  Arena, he could tell that the vibe was very different than on any other game night up to that point. There was the kind of buzz in the air that only can truly be felt when a major event is about to take place. Jimmer is no stranger to that kind of buzz, and possibly more than anything else, it is that very kind of fuel that feeds him as an elite athlete.

So once this highly anticipated match up began, the 4,000 plus fans (just short of the arena’s maximum capacity) would waste no time in expressing their excitement with each Shark basket. Jimmer started out very patiently, similar to a boxer feeling out his opponent in the early rounds of a fight. With a bigger defender draped all over him by design, Jimmer had to strategically lull his defender to sleep before exploding towards the ball, creating just enough separation to receive passes from his teammates. After getting into the lane, creating contact, and working his way to the free throw line a couple times, Jimmer started to heat up. Then midway through the first quarter, Jimmer dribbled off of a screen and hit a tough, highly contested 3 from the top of the key. One possession later. . . Jimmer dribbles up on a fast break, stops on a dime, and sinks another contested 3 from the right wing. The crowd eats it up. They were absolutely loving it, and after Jimmer’s 2nd consecutive 3 pointer, you could hear the crowd gasp with anticipation the next time the ball was in his hands. So in typical Jimmer fashion, with the momentum all on his side and an arena full of fans ready to explode, he shows Shanghai where the term Jimmer range came from, as he pulled up and stuck a 3rd consecutive 3 pointer, this one from well beyond the ark, bringing the shark fans to their feet.

From that point on, Jimmer never let up. His dazzling drives to the basket and eye popping 3 pointers excited the crowd all night long, as Jimmer helped lead his team to a 111 – 88 victory over the Tigers, with a career high 51 points! By the end of the night, the fans were chanting MVP each time that Jimmer stepped to the foul line. Obviously this chant was all in fun, but even so, it certainly was a wonderful sign of respect, and a very congenial way for the fans to show how much they appreciated Jimmer’s amazing performance. Even NBA Hall of Famer and Celtic legend, Bill Walton, who was in the building enjoying the game Friday night, had to smile ear to ear as he watched Jimmer (who Bill knows well from his days announcing for the Sacramento Kings) put on a show. After the game, Bill, along with part time ESPN basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla, who was also in attendance, came into the Sharks locker room to chat with Jimmer, and congratulate him on a job well done.  Jimmer also had the chance to catch up with his former teammate and friend Carlos Boozer, who has always been very supportive of him. Carlos joked with Jimmer that despite wanting to win the game, he couldn’t help but enjoy the great show that Jimmer put on for the hometown fans.

In the end, this incredible performance by Jimmer sparked feelings of nostalgia for me personally. From Jimmer’s 30 point performance against Florida in the first round of the NCAA Tournament – where he lead BYU to their first tournament win since the Danny Ainge era. . . to the 49 point performance against San Diego State, in what was at that time called the biggest game in Mountain West Conference history – and in my mind, the game that birthed Jimmermania. . . to his 52 point performance in Las Vegas against a New Mexico team that had beaten them twice already that season, to his 24 point performance as a Sacramento King against the Knicks at the Garden – the Mecca of basketball, where the lights shine brighter than anywhere else on the planet. . . to now. . . to now where Jimmer’s 51 point performance, in the biggest game in his career in China gave him a new career high, and a very meaningful victory. Now, if there is one thing that I’ve learned about my little brother – it’s that when the stage is at it’s biggest, and the lights are at their brightest. . . that is when Jimmer is at his best!

After winning another game last night (Sunday night) with a 37 point game from Jimmer, the Shanghai Sharks are now 6 and 0! How far can the sharks take it from here?  Stay tuned to find out.