It’s getting closer to the football season with the first games just over a month away now. In six weeks time there will be some baseball pre-season friendlies too. For the time being though it’s still basketball.
It’s been a couple of weeks since I last got to a game partly because Jen and I went to Taiwan for the Chinese New Year holiday. Unfortunately they didn’t seem to have any sport going on over there. Not even any horseracing, which surprised me. My fallback plan to hike in the hills around Taipei didnt work either as it rained just about all the time we were there.
We did visit the Taipei National Palace Museum which contains a load of stuff that the Chinese Nationalists had nicked from China when they fled to Taiwan after Chairman Mao got the top job at home. A lot of the exhibits were a few thousand years old but in fantastic condition. One thing that I did learn is that whilst the olden-days Chinese were great at making vases they were absolutely crap at painting. You’d think that if you can pick up a grain of rice with a pair of chopsticks then you would be able to handle a paintbrush reasonably well. Apparently not though. I doubt that they would be able to poke one another in the eye with any great accuracy.
I’m actually surprised that anybody thought the efforts on show were worth bringing with them and I dread to think what the paintings that they left behind must have been like. I wouldn’t have stuck any of them on my fridge door.
So, with no sport or hiking and the culture dutifully viewed, we spent most of our time wandering around markets or eating and drinking. I’d expected more from the markets. There’s one called Snake Alley where I was keen to try their speciality. Egg and Chips. It wasn’t really but it might as well have been. They had a couple of restaurants with snakes outside but they were intended solely to get us tourists gawping. No way would they be cutting slices off a fifteen foot python. The only bit of gruesomeness that we saw were some recently decapitated turtles, still with the legs moving.
We did see a bloke selling live birds to people so that they could briefly hold them before releasing them. I suspect it’s for good luck or something. One fella bought about twenty quids worth whilst we were watching. I suppose it’s healthier than spending it on beer and fags, although I doubt he’d get much sympathy if he came down with bird flu.
We spent a fair amount of time in that Taipei 101 skyscaper. Initially for the view, but then mainly because it was hard to find restaurants that were open during the holiday period. It’s an impressive building, especially from the ground.
That was it really. Taipei is a scruffy looking place, but in five years time I imagine that it will be like Seoul with coffee-shops every ten yards. I had a good time but that was more down to the company than the surroundings.
We did some hiking when we got back to Seoul, knocking off a bit more of the Bukhansan Dulegil last weekend. I won’t rattle on about it as I think that once we’ve done the final stretch I’ll devote a post to the entire thing. Suffice to say that it was cold, but good to be out in the fresh air.
Right, the basketball. I only really went along to get out of the apartment. It’s been as cold as -17 in Seoul so it’s tempting not to go outside very much. I don’t like being stuck indoors though and as SK play within about fifty yards of exit 8 of Sports Complex subway station, I thought I’d chance the sub-zero temperatures.
I bought some chestnuts and a bottle of water from a stall outside the arena. The water was, of course, frozen solid and remained that way until the game was over. I ignored the touts for a change and paid twenty thousand won at the ticket office to get a ‘floor’ seat three rows behind the players. That was a bad move as my view was obscured by coaching staff and towel boys. I’d have had a better view from the back row.
My over-rated seat did give me the opportunity to watch the coaches close up though. It’s similar to football in that you’ve got one main bloke who decides everything and a few others who watch him closely and then mirror his actions. All of the assistant goons had little folders with them that they would occasionally open and read intently before shouting instructions to the players. I suspect that each folder contained nothing more than the following words in large bold capitals,
PASS THE BALL TO THE AMERICAN.
One fella had obviously been given a new folder for Christmas. It was embossed with the words ‘Spalding’ and ‘NBA’ and looked to be made from the skin of an extra-virgin match-issue basketball. I suppose it’s better than getting socks.
This week’s foreign players were Amal McCaskill for SK Knights and Terrence Leather for Ulsan Mobis Phoebus. I told you all about Mr. McCaskill a couple of weeks ago so I’ll limit myself to a photo this time.
Terry Leather, who despite sounding like the sort of man-made fabric that would give you a nasty rash, is actually a decent player and averages twenty-five points per game. Although I suppose when all of your team-mates have a squad of coaches screaming at them to pass you the ball, it’s got to help.
Terry managed to maintain his average points total in this game and that was enough to help his team to a 94-90 victory. The win kept Mobis Phoebus in sixth place and dropped SK Knights from seventh to eighth. Not that it matters in the slightest, neither of these teams will be anywhere near the play-off places when the season finishes in a month’s time.
I’d intended to walk home after the game, but it was just too cold. I even had to wear my hat and gloves on the subway. Next will probably be a trip to Incheon to see their basketball team take on KCC Egis in a fourth v fifth clash. That one has a bit more at stake so I’ll get a cheap seat to make sure that I have a decent view.