Monday, April 17, 2017

Time for a Break

So I initially advertised this as more of a travel or adventure blog and I can understand why you might feel disappointed by my subsequent posts. I am too.

The simple truth is that the weather has been unpredictable and shitty so far this season. This has led to 3 out of 4 road trips being cancelled because of high probabilities of rain outs.

I have tried to give you insight into other aspects of korean sports as some kind of reparations. This is fine but enough of them in a row have made this a bit too much of a sports geek's blog. Not what I promised nor delivered.

It was always planned that I would now take a break as I am moving home and have a vacation in the Philippines coming. So the blog will disappear for a few weeks.

Let me assure you that it will return and it will take the form of its intentions. I will write it when required instead of on a weekly deadline. It will be serialized to follow adventures. It will also include simple travel advice. There will be exotic food and plenty of booze filled misadventures.

Thanks for reading so far and I hope that you have learned or been entertained. For those who were disappointed, you can go fuck yourself! But seriously, please stuck with me!!! It will get better!

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Cheer King! - Now with added cheer!

So I noticed that my blog readership was increasing until last week. A 30% drop in hits. I must admit that this was a disappointment but not just for the obvious reason. Last week was my first positive post. Those of you who know me well, will know that I am usually a positive person but also an honest speaker. However, for my readers in some European countries that decided not to read last week's edition, there is a return to some of the bluster that you had become used to.



For many years I have heard fans of soccer teams in England or baseball teams in the USA complaining on stupid phone-in shows for the embittered and alcoholic that there is no atmosphere in any modern stadiums. Fans of teams even point out that their rivals are not making enough noise. My EPL team, Aston Villa, even chant "Shit support! Shit Support! Oh Lord Shit Support!" at any visiting away fans. The truth is, some are better than others but pretty much all are "Shit Support"! Indeed Aston Villa fans are as guilty as any other for turning a stadium into a library. I don't really blame the fans, (although they could do better) there are a few factors at play. Firstly, ticket price increases have frozen many real fans out or forced them to set apart from each other. Seats are filled by corporate types and tourists. Secondly, the teams don't really help stimulate any atmosphere. Leicester city revitalized the Walkers stadium by using a Korean cheering tool known as the clapper. Leicester home games became difficult environments for away teams and I am sure that the increase in noise contributed to their amazing Premier League title triumph. Now other teams are busting out the noise making clappers.

I think more needs to be done and that is where this chap with the drum comes in. His name is Kim Ju Il and put simply he is a legend. This man is hired by the team to rouse the fans. He writes the songs and chants and then leads the fans. He is a cheerleader. Now, previous suggestions of this idea to my British friends has led to mocking and complete disgust but I will continue to make the case.

Kim Ju Il in action!


video

Korean baseball is fun. Even non sports fans like going to games. The cheap beer, the friend chicken and the atmosphere make for a good day out even if you don't watch the game! You nearly always leave a stadium with new friends! A huge part of this atmosphere is down to these cheerleaders who work their asses off! Take them away and the atmosphere is relatively dead. Away teams innings in some stadiums can be like libraries. Home team support on days when cheerleaders don't attend can be terrible. National team games are like watching Manchester United.

The importance of these cheerleaders was recently underscored by the changes that have occurred at my team of choice. 3 years ago, the man with the drum, Kim Ju Il left 10 times champions KIA Tigers to join new start up Kt Wizz. Having had drunken misadventures with Ju Il, I have been able to ask him why he did this. He says that he wanted to a change and the chance to build a new fan base for a new team. Just to let you know, he remains a very passionate KIA fan. Since his departure, the KIA stage has been a bit of a revolving door.

Na Yoon Song came in and did a decent job but got arrested for basically ticket scalping.




His replacement, So Han Guk, to put it mildly, is killing the team. He has scrapped popular songs and bought in some real garbage. KIA once had the best fans in Korea, the noisiest for sure! Now, people look at each other confused by silly dances and songs that do nothing for the atmosphere. Done badly, the cheerleader can wreck the atmosphere. Done well? It is an addition that the Premier League should consider. I will even dare to say that Liverpool could even benefit from a real cheerleader. But So Han Guk can fuck off!

Think that these guys are all pretty boys? Just dancers? Think again! Yes, most of them can dance. Yes, most of them are agile and athletic. Yes, they enjoy singing. But soft pretty boys they are not! Try keep up with them, you'll be exhausted. They get serious air. They shout for hours at a time. They lead thousands. They are fitter than anybody you know. Some of them cover 3 games in a day. They all write the chants and can be very innovative. They can also slam a bottle of soju or chug a beer faster than anyone you know. I have been fortunate enough to drink with several of them and I know how much they care about their teams.

So who is the best?

Third Place: Han Jae Guan, Doosan Bears



I have had drunken disagreements but also hugs and laughs with Han Jae Guan of Doosan Bears. I mention this because I haven't always given him the credit that he deserves. He has put together a list of completely addictive cheer songs and energized masses of Doosan fans. He has been a real force in helping to build their fan base in recent years and so he has to make the top three. I don't usually admit it to his face but he has done a great job. So here it is, a matter of public record.



He is only beaten by 2 outstanding candidates.

Second: Cho Ji Hun, Lotte Giants



If you asked me to pick a winner a year ago, I would have chosen Cho Ji Hun of Lotte Giants as the winner. Many will choose him as their winner. In many ways, he is the most controversial of them all. He seems to get under the skin of fans of other teams but that is because he is good. Watch him whip up the Lotte fans and you have no doubt that he is a leader of people. A real character! However, he has always been with Lotte. Lotte have great fans. Maybe the best. It is hard to really prove that he is the best. But you know that you are good when the other team is desperately trying to shut you up! There will be some videos in my fan special that will blow your mind. All thanks to this guy!



So who is our winner? There is only one choice in my mind. 

1st Place: Kim Ju Il, Suwon kt Wizz

Kim Ju Il! This man can start a party at anywhere. He can make anybody dance. He can have songs sit in your brain for weeks on end. He can make anybody that I have ever met smile. The cheerleaders have an organization called the cheer kings. But this guy is the THE CHEER KING! He should be given the chance to work with an EPL team and try to bring cheering back to the UK! A great guy to boot!







Anyway, that is enough for this week. Youtube these guys to see more of the great atmospheres that they have created. The JoKBOL show has had to skip a week as 2 planned trips were cancelled due to rain. Our special with the Cheer King was cancelled because of this. Kim Ju Il will be with us for a show sometime later in the season.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Love From an Unlikely Source

You will have noticed that the first few of these blogs have had a negative tone. Nazis, Nexen and Holligans are three of the worst things in the world. Interestingly, the blog that compared Nexen to Nazis got a lot of hits in both Germany and Sweden looking at my statistics. Those punters will now be disappointed as I start to write about what became a bit of a love filled orgy in Incheon last weekend.

Just to point out, the actual name of the Incheon baseball stadium is: SK Happy Dream Park. Our experience was good but very real. Let's just say that the Jokbal campaign may have just taken off!

Many of you may have expected me to have written this blog about our opening day experience for Doosan v Hanhwa at Jamsil. Nothing to say. Relatively low key game in a stadium that we know well. Just know that ticket prices have increased about 20%, the Burger Kings are gone and so are most of the young, trendy, female fans. You will have also expected something about Daegu. We had planned to go to Samsung Lions Field for the opening KIA v Samsung series but the chance of rain was too high. So, in search of adventure, we decided to hit the Happy Dream Park.



I have been to the Happy Dream Park more than a few times. Pretty much every time as an away fan. I have always appreciated it's cleanliness, friendly staff, cheap beer, good views and its excellent food options. However, I have to say that overall the SK Wyverns are a team that I neither love nor hate. I am an SK Knights fan. I go quite regularly. But Wyverns are the team that I always forget about. Ask me to list the 10 Korean baseball teams and I'll easily roll off 9. The 10th will come but it will nearly always be SK. Ask any fans, "Which teams can make the post season?" and they will have a detailed discussion but SK will not really figure in it. Not because they aren't good enough, they are just always forgotten. Just to let you know, they have some of the best talent in the league. 

So I'd like to take back my comments comparing SK to rice cakes or pajeon or Kloud beer or any other distinctly forgettable or mediocre thing. I'm now pretty sure that if I wasn't already an avowed KIA fan or if I hadn't already drunkenly promised kt cheerleader Kim Ju Il that I would be "a bit of a" Wizz fan on several occasions then I might be thinking about pledging loyalty to the Wyverns.

I have to say that the day was looking a bit negative to begin with. I arrived feeling like utter garbage following an opening night drinking binge at Jamsil.  Then, we went to our seats, an old chap immediately rejected our Jokbal campaign by repeatedly shouting "No!" at us. Maybe he is auditioning to be an employee at the Dome??? This was followed by two "hooligans" (see previous blog) staring us down as they enjoyed their coffee and pastries. The two ladies then moved because they couldn't stand us. The feeling was mutual! 

But then... things changed! A lot!

Almost everybody else in the stadium was a legend. I mean literally hundreds of people adored us. We were like celebrities! All the people in the seats around us, talked to us with respect and they all seemed to get what the campaign was about. Make Baseball Fun Again! 



As you will see if you watch our JoKBOL show, people were lining up for photos, to shake hands and talk baseball. Men and women, boys and girls, young and old. The Wyverns fans were fully on board with the Jokbal guys! They even put our banners on their giant (and I don't use this lightly) screen, several times!  Once, they zoomed in on our faces and asked a question. "Did you enjoy SK?" Yes we did! 



For regular kbo fans, I have to tell you that the food options here have changed. Popeyes is gone, but newer, better, cheap options have arrived. So don't worry!



For newbies, you will love the Happy Dream Park. Besides what I have already mentioned, there is a fireworks display after each Saturday game and Pocha tents outside the stadium. 


Pocha is a kind of eating and and heavy drinking done at night. Fans mingled at them and drank into the night. I even met my girlfriend at one! Most stadiums had Pocha tents or picnic areas but have 1 by 1 removed them, but SK has kept them. The Happy Dream Park is better for that! I will write about this in more detail in a few weeks. 



SK also encourage their players to sign autographs and meet fans at the entrances!

To get there, try to avoid the subway and get a bus to Incheon Bus Terminal which is nearby. Just a tip. 

On a side note, as I think about next week's blog, a  couple of candidates for cheer song of the year were also found. I will also try to explain the green wig and it all relates to this chap on a hydraulic boat in the picture below. 


Happy Dream Time! Munhak Stadium Review

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Different Kind of Hooligan

I had been wondering what to use as the central theme of this blog. I had toyed with the idea of praising one of my favorite places on God's green earth, Jamsil Stadium. With the old girl being scheduled for demolition in the coming years, it would be fitting to talk about just how much that stadium means to me but that's something for later in the year.

I haven't entirely wasted your time with that first paragraph as I will be talking about the stadium somewhat but I will focus on what I think might ruin it's legacy. Korean sports hooligans.

Back home a hooligan is likely to be a middle aged man with a shaved head, plenty of tattoos and a beer gut. They tend to do it because they are stupid and often drunk. Many of them are just primates that just enjoy fighting. They don't actually have anything personal against anyone. They just get off on smashing up places and smashing in faces.


So, what does a Korean hooligan look like or act like. Well... not like that. You would now expect me to talk about Ajussis or older Korean men tanked up on soju but I am actually going to talk about their polar opposites. I am going to talk about creatures that look nothing like those skin-headed apses pictured above. I am going to talk about young, self-entitled, fashionable Korean females. Usually between the ages of 20 and 32. Usually caked in make up and manicured to perfection. So, what has led to me branding some of these people as hooligans. Well lets start where you would expect... Jokbal! Yess... back to pig feet!!!

Those of you that have followed my various social media streams and especially those of you who have read this blog before, will know that we have our jersey for jokbal campaign on the go. We are offering players delicious pig meet in exchange for a game worn sweaty jersey. So we took our campaign to the next level. We decided to camp outside of the stadium entrance from 8am with our banners and we would do a trade with any players that fancied a bit of pork. Sadly, riddled with cold, I arrived too late to catch any meaningful players and George had lost his sign in his hotel parking lot. So we failed on that front but that is where the hooliganism began to be apparent.

Let's make it clear, our campaign is good hearted. We will not specifically harass any players. We will not get into anybodies personal space and we will respect everybody. We will not push hard. We will just show our signs and sing our songs about jokbal. However, these Korean female hooligans are different. They terrorize the players. They go beyond what is reasonable or decent. They bother the players when they are with their families. They block the entrances to their homes. They stop them getting in and out of their cars. They block doors. They push and they shove! Last year, Oh Jae Won of Doosan Bears crashed his car because of these hooligans. Apparently, this stuff happens every day of the year. These people are unreasonable. They don't get basic rules of decency. Their behavior gets worse once inside the stadium.

So come 11am. We headed into the stadium. To our joy, there was a jokbal provider. A good one. Our new official provider should a player take us up on our offer.


We posed for our picture with their stand and then headed to our seats. Our view wasn't great but with freedom to move and the always friendly staff employed by Doosan coupled with cheap beer and good company would ensure a good time. Until more Korean hooligans arrived!

video


These hooligans usually have all of the team clothes. In fact they spend hundreds of dollars on every last item that is available. However, they don't really cheer. They just sit and complain. They judge those that cheer. They make very racist comments in Korean. They sit and take selfies. They do their make up. They try to stop anybody standing up cheering. They think that all foreigners are dumb, fat and dirty. They will take your seats and refuse to move. One such hooligan refused to leave because her seat was next to a child. Another wanted a seat for her handbag. As I said, their behavior is unreasonable. They will also push their own grandmother down the stairs to get a home run or foul ball.

Whenever I hear them moaning and spouting their racist bullshit, I tend to become a loud and obnoxious Trump fan. I tend to find that they become uncomfortable with that. I usually cheer louder and stand my ground. So do my friends. Oh... and we eat our jokbal.



I am not joking when I tell you how much support we get from the other Korean fans. I have been overwhelmed with photo requests. Most people see our campaign for what it is; fun! We have already met so many great people after just 2 weeks of the campaign. But with ticket price increases, the LG stunt and the huge amount of Doosan memberships, I feel that a lot of these good people will be forced out of going to games. I feel that guys who have supported teams for 20 years will be gone. You know that they aren't factored into the business plans of the respective new stadiums for either Doosan or LG. We know that those teams will keep increasing prices to ensure that only these young female hooligans who are willing to spend their parents' hard earned money on the team crap such as plastic jackets will be the ones remaining. By the time the teams have put off all of the regular, loyal punters, these hooligans will have moved onto something else trendy and the stadiums will be empty.

So I love Jamsil stadium, but I am really worried that its' last years could be spend dealing with these hooligans and maybe without the people that helped make it a real hallowed ground of world sport.

We didn't get a jersey again. But a couple of players seemed to be really interested. Judging by the media attention and fan reaction, the campaign is going well. It is achieving its' real aim: Make Baseball Fun Again!!! Let's hope that we don't get shutdown by these attention grabbing hooligans!












Monday, March 20, 2017

An Important Campaign Begins

So I started the blog with a bit of an introduction that basically made it clear that there would be little if any talk of sports on this sporting blog. That is a promise that I will gladly keep as I talk public transport, Nazis, wigs, taco bell and most importantly... PIG FEET.

So let's get on with the main issue at hand. Jokbal. If you don't know what it is, it is a delicious boiled pig's foot dish eaten in Korea. It seems to have enough fat to have caused all of Dick Cheney's heart problems on one plate. So what does this have to do with baseball or anything for that matter? Well the Korean Baseball League has several larger guys who look like they may be partial to a plate or two of this festival of cholesterol. We too, also like to partake. So we have (drunkenly) developed our own stories about Korean players sitting down together and stuffing their faces with the stuff until a cardiologist and a defibrillator are required. I'm sure that you are still confused by all this talk of pig feet. So, I'll get to the point. Inspired by World Class soccer player Sergio Ramos accepting a plate of pork in exchange for his Real Madrid jersey, we decided to see if we could trade Jokbal for a Korean baseball jersey. A campaign was born!!!

So George and I started this important crusade. A little last minute, mind. In fact, I could only use what could be found in Daiso (a Japanese $1 store in Korea that sells Chinese crap that breaks easily) come closing time on the night before the game. So, I spent Friday night alone with some whiteboard markers and a $3 table cloth. I think that the result wasn't all that bad given 1. the materials 2. the time spent and 3. The drink consumed. It got the point across anyway. Jokbal will be exchanged for a player jersey!


So armed to start our campaign, we headed to the Geocheok Sky Dome in positive spirits. We even stocked up on Taco Bell for our pre game party. Optimism was brimming.

As usual the mood changes when you get to Sindorim station. The dome is in a horrific location. From my home, which is pretty much in Seoul, it would be faster to go to see a game in Gwangju than get to the damn Dome. For some odd reason they built it on the worst subway line that runs infrequently and goes to some small village more than it goes to Incheon which is a city of around 4million people. I hear that Nexen, the team that plays there, don't actually want to be there but some corrupt public official(s) are forcing their hand. Seriously, the trip is annoying enough with that extra 20minute wait near the stadium to transfer to travel just one more station, you arrive with stress and anger levels close to those who go on killing rampages. No logic would have resulted in the construction of this place, especially, not where it is. Some official needs to be shot or at least be sentenced to hard labor!

So we finally try to go into the dome. Calmed down from our long journey, we are ready to enjoy some sport. But then a Nexen Nazi stops us. It turns out that our friend Justin can't enter because he has a baseball bat... given to him by a player who was in the game! There was to be more fascism to come!


So we finally got into the dome, and took our over priced seats with abysmal sight lines. But hey! Game time! Jokbal time!


We tried mounting our banners. Achtung! Nein!!! Screamed the little Kim Jong Un (he is actually a pretty good lookalike). Anyway, we thought we could just cheer as we always do and have a good time. It seemed like all would be well. The Nexen team lined up for the national anthem, looking at Jokbal signs and struggling keep straight faces. We got waves from Doosan stars, smiles from Nexen players and even a nod from the umpire. We were filmed for the live TV broadcast, asked to pose for tons of pictures and idolized by children (a fair few adults too). The campaign was going well. So it looked like we might finally have a good time. Nope! Not at Nexen! Another Kim Jong Un impersonator ran over telling us to be quiet. Telling us to not show our signs in any way!

Disheartened, we quietened down for a while. But the rows of people behind us started cheering and shouting "Jokbal!!!" We got the show going again.

Unfortunately, our first day on the campaign didn't result in a jersey. But there were plenty of encouraging signs. But there will be no more trips to the dome. That place needs to be consigned to a dark place in hell along with the people who designed it and the people who run it.

So we gave our first stadium review. We have been told to tell you that the dome has made some minor improvements such better visibility due to new nets and new big screens. They are improvements but they basically improve the dome from being like having an incurable degenerative disease such as MS to being more like having a cancer that is curable. Don't go there. Everything is expensive, the staff are rude and the views are terrible and the transport is useless. This is without pointing out just how inadequate the facilities are or how woeful the food is in the dome. Marcus had the pleasure of waiting over 3 innings for a yellow lettuce sandwich which was advertised as a burger.

So, George and I have been lucky to gain a decent amount of TV coverage recently. George's green wig is probably the main cause. I'd like to explain this now but I think that I have ranted on long enough. All will be explained in our basketball post season blog and review! Anything that helps get us a jersey is enough right now!

So failure but plenty of optimism for when we go to a stadium that is run by South Koreans instead of North Korean Nexen.

So this weekend, the Jokbal campaign will go to Jamsil for a special edition. We will have our full season preview and a stadium tour that will be radically different. We actually quite like the old girl. We are hoping to have a couple of special guests in the broadcast too!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Let's get something straight... An introduction

So let's get something straight. I want to be very clear. The #kbokojengi blog will not be a blog about baseball. It will not contain that much information about what actually happens in any sport. This is kind of to sport what Top Gear has been to cars. It will use sporting events as an opportunity to have an adventure. I will tell you about the mishaps that have happened on the way to games, I will tell you about stadiums that have been designed by the visually impaired and I will probably get drunk in many different ways with many people. I will report on the amazing people that can be met around and on the way to stadia. I will entertain with new colorful characters and I will try to bring glorious exotic packed lunches.

The blog won't be without advice. We will be reviewing stadia, suggesting where to go and how to get there. Also, you will find out places to avoid in stadia and in cities. You will hear negative reviews but honest and unbiased praise when credit is due.

All opinions on the actual sport will be honest but not serious. If you want real analysis, there are plenty of fountains of knowledge out there. You will only see statistics in special circumstances, there are better sources for those things too.

So I hope that makes things clear. So it is time for our first adventure, a preseason jaunt to see Nexen v Doosan at the Geocheok Sky Dome. One of the newest and most expensive venues in world baseball. A host stadium of the 2017 WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC. Should be impressive, right? Well even if it isn't, Vodka and Taco Bell should make it an interesting experience! Follow @kbokojengi to find out!