The game was in Munich and each time the team plays there, the whole stadium is lit in red. Kind of like the flag that flies when the Queen is in residence at Buckingham palace.
Bayern München is Thorsten’s absolute favorite team. He has a very compelling story about watching the team when he was three years old and being hooked ever since. I feel that it is important to mention at this point, because my blog is named “Becoming a Franconian” and not “Becoming a Bavarian,” that there is another team we could be fans of, living here in Franconia. That team is colloquially known as “The Club.” Officially the team is called FC Nürnberg and many many of Thorsten’s friends are fans of this team. They staunchly believe that if you are really Franconian, this is the team you should root for especially because they are kind of an underdog…There is an ongoing argument/rivalry about this issue. I can actually see their point. It is possible that FC Bayern is the Yankees of pro-soccer. They have the most money and the best players and they win all the time. Being that I have rooted for the underdog my whole life, it would make sense for me to like “the Club,” But I have to admit, that its the first time in my life I’ve liked the team that wins all the time and it’s fun! Even though my underdog O’s have not won the pennant since the early 80’s, I’ll never stop being loyal to them. But this is a new chapter and a new sport on a new continent.
We drove to Munich on the day of the game; the traffic and crowds were the way you would expect at any pro sports game in the US. One great thing though is that they don’t really check tickets on the U-Bahn on game days because it’s so crowded. And just like the Metro in DC on a Nats game day, you can tell where everyone is headed because everyone is wearing their Bayern München gear, everyone including us.
The atmosphere at the game was so festive and celebratory. I have only attended one pro-soccer game before this, the DC United, a few years ago. The fans there did a great job of creating an atmosphere so that I would have an idea of what soccer games are like, but it was nothing compared to the Bayern fans. The ends of the arena are filled with what I can only call Super Fans. They have flags and drums and other instruments. They have cheers and chants and songs. They make a rumble that you could liken to an earthquake for the entire game. The fans go wild when a goal is scored. And what is amazing is that it is a totally concentrated ritual. No one leaves for drinks in the middle of the action, no one gets up to go get food. Hardly anyone is talking, unless they are cheering. Everyone is mezmerized by the game.
It was easy for me to become a Fußball fan when I moved to Germany. Fußball is fast. It’s a 90 minute game. There are no time outs, there are no flags on the field and then a lot of standing around. There is no break for switching between innings, even when a player switch is made, it happens fast. When a man is down, they game doesn’t stop, they keep playing until he gets up and joins again. Ok, if it’s really bad, they send someone out to get him, but they hardly stop playing. There isn’t lining up and waiting. It’s go, go, go. They just run and they run and they run.
Last night we attended a pro basketball game in Bamberg. The Bamberg Brose Baskets vs Spain’s Zaragoza. The Brose Arena is sweetly referred to as Bamberg’s Hell, apparently because it’s hell for the other team. This was my very first pro-basketball game, as I’ve yet to attend an NBA game, so I can’t do much comparing. However, I was surprised that the fans behavior was almost identical to the Fußball fan behavior with one exception. When you find your seat at the basketball arena there is a poster made of cardstock waiting for you. It contains a photo of the team and preforated lines to help you easily fold it into a fan. I thought that was nice because it was kind of warm in the arena. But quickly I found that the purpose of this poster is to create a loud rapping sound when you clap it onto your hand. An arena full of this rapping/clapping is loud! Add to that the ends of the arena with drummers, a brass band, a shouting fan club with chants and a dance team and you can’t talk at a basketball game either. As you look across the arena it’s funny because you just seeing the motion of a few thousand people tapping these fans on their hands. It’s very orderly and serious and very rhythmical. At the beginning of each quarter everyone stands up cheering until the first points are scored and then it’s ok to sit down. The Brose Baskets blew them away in the first half, but during the half time, the other team must’ve had a real pep talk because they came back fighting and gave Bamberg a real run for their money in the second half. Bamberg still won in the end, but it was closer than I expected.
Two interesting things:
1. From what I could gather from their names there were at least 5 Americans on the Bamberg team and at least 2 or 3 on the other team. The official language of the league is English because players come from so many different places that they have to find a common language for the refs, etc.
2. When you buy a drink at the arena, they charge you a little extra as a pfand. They give you a plastic coin for each drink that you buy. When you bring the plastic cup or bottle back to the concession stand, you turn in your plastic coins and you get your money back. As a result, you could look across the arena and not see one piece of trash at the end of the game. This was the most effective way I have ever seen to keep a place clean. I have never seen anything like it. Pro sports in the US could seriously take a lesson from this idea.