Monday, September 27, 2010

Season Opener

On Saturday we had our season opener against the cross-town rivals BSV Wulfen. I guess the whole week our coach had been talking about the rivalry, but his english isn't great, and to me it sounded like he was saying 'river game'. I have learned not to ask to many questions out here so I just went with it and assumed we were crossing the river on the way to the game or something. Before the game the guys were getting really hyped up and one came over and asked me if I had heard of the Duke-North Carolina rivalry. I obviously nodded yes and he told me that this was their equivalent. I then put it together to what I thought was river game was actually rivalry game. I have obviously played in a lot of rivalry games before, but this one was different because I didn't have any extra motivation. I obviously wanted to win the  game, but the rivalry really means nothing to me. I couldn't even pronounce, much less spell, the name of the team we were playing, so how could I honestly be apart of a long-standing rivalry between the towns and clubs. This leads to a much bigger point about the effects of having random American's come to these German teams each year that I will get into later.

Thankfully our fans did not have the same indifference to the rivalry that I did, and when we got onto the court they were going crazy. The gym was pretty small, but what the fans lacked in quantity, they made up for in quality. It reminded me of the soccer games I had seen on TV with everyone decked out in scarves, waving banners, banging on drums and blowing those annoying vuvuzelas that were such a hit at the world cup.

A group of traveling fans
They also had a beer garden behind the home bench which no doubt contributed to the fans excitement as well. Sticking with the soccer theme, the home team ran out for introductions holding the hands of young kids in basketball jerseys. 

BSV-Wulfen jumped out to an early ten point lead in the first quarter but we were able to fight our way back into it and actually took a 3-point lead going into the half. My shot finally started to come around and I actually played pretty well in the first half. This was a big relief to me because both the coaches and management had told me how much they and the fans expected out of the Americans and that first impressions were pretty important. The second half was a battle back and forth, but our German big man Hack took control of the boards and we knocked down our freethrows to seal the win. 

In the middle of the third quarter I shot a three and was hit by the defender on the play. I assumed they had called a foul on the defense and so I started to walk to the line for my three freethrows, but when I got there the ref shook his head and said the world technical. I wasn't exactly sure what was going on but I assumed the defender had complained to the ref and been given a technical or something so we would shoot those freethrow first. Wrong. One of the guys on my team came up and explained that I had in fact been given a technical for 'flopping' on my shot. He thought I fell down on purpose and gave me a technical for a dangerous play. I was mad for three reason: one, not only had I never even heard of this rule, but I had clearly been fouled on the play and two, europeans are known for their flopping, how dare they have the audacity to try to penalize me for it, and three, there is a 25 euro fine for getting a technical. I went over to argue with the ref but about 5 seconds into my cursing I remembered I didn't speak any German and wasn't going to get anywhere.

 This call had greater implications than a few freethrows for them. Needless to say I was pretty upset, but not as mad as my coach who squatted down and hit the floor in disgust at the call. When he did that his pants ripped, leaving about a 6X9 inch hole in the seat of his pants. This was more entertaining for us than it was for him and he quickly put on his jacket to cover it up. Of course his jacket wasn't long enough and he made one of the younger guys on the team stand behind him during timeouts so that he wasn't mooning the crowd.

 After the game our fans went crazy. We were at an away gym and they were clearly outnumbered, but they started chanting and singing songs and I followed the guys on our team into the stands where we were serenaded with the 'Olay' song.

Below is a picture from the game. One of our sponsors happens to be Gut. which is a German bank. The placement of the Gut. sponsor logo on our stomachs is pretty ironic, but when I asked the guys on the team about it they had no idea.

Speaking of weird language coincidences, I ordered a schicken pizza last night from a restaurant assuming that it would be chicken. Nope. Apparently schicken is ham. Go figure.

From now on we will play a game every Saturday night and then have Sundays and Mondays off. I have to get in the gym to lift and shoot on my own, but I also want to take advantage of this time to travel. Next weekend we open up at home and everyone in the town seems pretty excited about it. From what I can tell we have about half as many bleachers as Chandler but I think they put up temporary ones behind the baskets for the games and they also have sections that are standing room only. All in all, I think there will be about as many people as at some our of Williams games last year, but the fans are certainly not going back to the library after the games, and they serve beer, so I am expecting them to be a little more rowdy.

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