Another basketball game, Samsung Thunders this time. Yes, Thunders not Thunder. Perhaps they are named after the late New York Doll. I saw him, you know, in 1984 supporting Hanoi Rocks at Newcastle Mayfair. At least I’m told I did. I can remember Hanoi Rocks but I can’t remember Johnny Thunders. It’s possible therefore that I might have spent the support set in a nearby pub, although with the layout of the Mayfair it’s slightly more likely that I did watch him whilst stood at a bar. Whatever. It’s probably a bit early for digression or else I’d go on to mention seeing Hanoi Rocks twenty five years later at one of their farewell gigs in Helsinki. Although I suppose I have now.
I don’t remember much about that performance either actually, although I do remember that I enjoyed it. I went with my friend Paul and we did a bit of salmon fishing on the same trip, not that we were too successful. We did get to cook our lunch on an open fire though, so it worked out fine.
Right. The basketball. I’d tried to go and see Samsung Thunders the previous Friday but had got the venue mixed up. They actually play at Jamsil Gymnasium which part of the Sports Complex and next to the Olympic Stadium, the baseball stadium and confusingly, the Jamsil Students Gymnasium. The SK Knights basketball team plays at the Jamsil Student Gymnasium and perhaps thats why I’d somehow got it into my head that Samsung Thunders were based a couple of miles away at the Gymnastics Hall in the Olympic Park.
Anyway, it had been a spur of the moment decision the previous Friday and I arrived at the Gymnastics Hall to find nothing more exciting going on than some rigging crew preparing for a concert. I did get to walk around the Olympic Park in sub-zero temperatures so I suppose the evening wasn’t entirely wasted.
By the time the following Thursday came around I’d done a little bit of research as to which team played where. The upshot is that no-one plays at the Gymnastics Hall, Samsung Thunders play at the Jamsil Gymnasium and SK Knights play at the Jamsil Students Gymnasium. It’s probably worth mentioning that the Jamsil Students Gymnasium is where the boxing was held at the 1988 Olympics, so those of you that know your pugilism will recognise it as the venue where Lennox Lewis won his gold medal and where Roy Jones Jnr was cheated out of his.
Right, so that’s the venues cleared up. Twice, in fact. But you can’t be too careful, someone might be reading this thinking that it’s Wikipedia. Jen was back from America so I met her at the subway and we got floor seats for behind one of the baskets. The ticket office woman told us that the sides of the court were sold out, but if they were it was apparent that a lot of people hadn’t turned up. Perhaps they were all trekking around Olympic Park looking for the Gymnastics Hall.
The Gymnasium has a capacity of about thirteen thousand, but I reckon that there were only a couple of thousand people in there. The upper tier had about a dozen people dotted around and there was plenty of space lower down.
There weren’t many fans supporting the visitors, SK Knights, despite the Jamsil Gymnasium being no more than a couple of hundred yards from their home venue the Jamsil Students Gymnasium. A bit surprising I suppose, how can you decide not to watch your team because it’s an extra two hundred yards? In fact, depending upon what side of the Sports Complex you live on it might even be two hundred yards closer.
One odd thing that I did notice was that when the stadium announcer started a chant, both sets of fans would join in. The cheerleaders were worth a comment too. They didn’t bother their (admittedly well shaped) arses until it was almost half time, then they disappeared and returned in what looked like dressing gowns.
At the interval we got a couple of songs from some American soldiers with guitars. Whilst I’m sure that they did their best and seemed to enjoy themselves, they had even less in common with Mr Thunders than the basketball team did. I reckon that if they were sent to play at the De-Militarised Zone then Kim Jong-il would soon be calling it a day. There wasn’t a bar that would have allowed me to pretend that they were the support act either. There wasn’t any beer at all actually, a major omission at a Korean sporting event if you ask me.
Now so far, none of the players have stood out at any of these basketball games. Until this time that is. Samsung Thunders had a centre that at first glance I’d have guessed was my age. I won’t reveal my age just in case he tends to Google his own name. But he’s actually only thirty. Still, he’s bigger than me and I wouldn’t like to mess with him. Quite a lot bigger actually, 6’9“ according to the Thunders website and 353lbs which is over twenty five stones in real money. Thats heavier than Shaquille O’Neal who I’m told is 7’1“. In yet one more wander from what went on, I’ll just mention that Shaquille O’Neal went to University with Jen. Ideal for when she needed a book from the top shelf of the library I imagine. Or the middle one, come to think of it.
This fella, Nigel Dixon, had, like Mr. O’Neal, been an American college star too. Although his brief spells at NBA teams hadn’t been quite as successful. It seems though that he has managed to make a pretty decent career for himself playing in a number of leagues around the world.
The game was a bit one-sided with the Thunders getting ahead early on and never really being within SK’s reach. One advantage of the result being decided long before the end was that the coaches didnt feel the need to use all of their timeouts and the players didn’t need to try to either keep stopping the clock or to run it out. They just played end to end basketball right to the finish without having to pay much attention to the scoreboard
For what it’s worth the scoreboard read 84-65 to Samsung Thunders at the end, although SK did have the satisfaction of ’winning’ the final quarter by two points. I think I’ll probably pop along to see the ’Big Jelly’ again. I’ll take a couple of beers next time though and maybe some earplugs for half time.