Thursday, July 27, 2017

Here comes the shark!

Let's start with thanking Roger Bernadina, formerly of the New York Mets and most notably of the Washington Nationals, for being a good sport on this and a lot of other strange things since he arrived in Korea.

In fairness the strange half-man half-shark stuff started in the USA but Korea has taken it to heart. Maybe a bit too much...

Firstly, I have to be semi-serious before I can hope to explain a sombrero, a beach toy and a some hair removal. So bear with me if you are not the sporty type.

Here goes...

If you know anything about the MLB then you may know that Roger Bernadina has a bit of a reputation for making amazing outfield catches.

So much so that he got to be known as "The Shark" as opponents would never know if his hand would surface at the top of the wall to snatch a ball in much the same way that Jaws would take it's chance on any dangling limb. In fact, Bernadina was so committed to the cause that he has really roughed himself up making some catches... even willing to smash into walls and fences and dive on the gravel track.

Roger is also known for his ferocious turn of speed. For a long time, he topped the league on stolen bases. Here is an example of his speed in the MLB.

Oh and he is a bit of a slugger too..

That is literally as detailed as more sporting comments get and ever will do on this blog! So don't judge!

So... I always said that this is not a serious sports blog and it really isn't but here some context is necessary. Let's get on with the strange stuff.

Bernadina has been a great addition to the KBO and his all-round game has proven that the gamble to replace the hugely popular Brett Pill has paid off. Roger seems happy with how well things are going but you could forgive the slightly bemused look that he seems to wear.

As you may know, players in Korean Baseball usually have cheer songs. Some of them can be creative. (There will be an August blog on this.) Some range from classical music such as Hanhwa's use of Beethoven for Wilin Rosario, to western classics such as Hawaii 5.0 for Andy Burns of Lotte and of course many get K-POP songs, even foreigners, looking at you E E E E Evans of Doosan. But for Roger, poor Roger, they could have chosen any song for him. But he drew the shitty cheerleader and the odd choice of the Cartoons children's' hit Doo Dar!

So this is where that strange video that I posted last week comes in. Roger really has been stuck with the strangest of cheer songs. I have it on good authority from the "Cheer Kings" that it is not uncommon for players to complain about their cheer songs. But Roger is clearly a good sport, he has got on with this odd choice. He has even embraced it! When he wins MVP awards, he is known to sing and dance with the fans albeit while wearing his almost relentlessly bemused expression. The result of all of this? Unquestionable love and adoration from the KIA Tigers fans. The love that he receives is befitting of his talent and achievements in the KIA jersey but somehow he seems to be getting more love than anybody else in the league. Even more than legends such as Eric Thames or established legends on his own team such as Lee Bum Ho. Roger is clearly a nice chap and he has gone along with a lot since arriving in this country but he seems to be exciting fans in other ways. He seems to have some kind of X-Factor that magnetizes Korean affection. I have seen him get off the team bus and sign autographs for EVERYBODY. I have seen him smile and oblige when asked to do weird dances. I have seen him accept some strange gifts. I have also seen him dominate a game like nobody else in Korean Baseball history has done. I am not saying that he is the best player in KBO history or even this year. However, when he is on, he is ON!!! He can bat in 5 runs in one game. He can hit the same pitcher for 2 out of the park home runs within a 20 minute spell. He can steal bases with zero chance for his opponents and he can catch seeming certain home runs with loaded bases. All on the same night. He may not yet be as consistent as some of the stars of the past but if he can add that to his game... good god! 

Last month, Team Jokbal was at Jamsil stadium. Bernadina was even getting love from the opposition fans who were singing for him. With the exception of a couple of older ladies, it was a total love-in! These couple of old ladies (wearing LG shirts but were from Busan), had been racially abusing George and myself in the stands. Which is to be expected from people from Busan, sadly. Anyway, one of them was really trying to abuse Roger with the worst words! The worst! Happily, it ended pretty well. Bernadina hit a 2 run home run right at her. She was too far away from him to hear her horrid vitriol, but she got what she deserved. And no, somebody else got the home run ball, so don't worry! Thankfully, Roger had one of his unplayable games and went on to bat in a bunch of runs that night and make one of his trademark catches. The racist lady left and was booed by her own fans. Roger, on the other hand, was roundly cheered by home and away fans alike! Because class speaks louder than racism. 

Bernadina, has clearly settled in well and whatever happens from here, he will permanently be etched into KBO folklore. 

So Roger has signed a shark for Team Jokbal which we will be parading around all stadiums from now until the end of the season. If you see us, join in our shark conga!

Meanwhile... here are some more great baseball plays. I'll let you enjoy and decide where you think Roger Bernadina fits in all of these!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Blog Preview... Here Comes The Shark

Read next werk to find out what on earth this song has to do with my sporting adventures.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Masan Madness - Love beats Hate

So George and I decided to hit the table topping series between KIA and NC. A trip I greeted with trepidation it has to be said.

Firstly, my exchanges with NC fans hadn't been positive in the past. Once I got asked to leave their fan zone, even though I was cheering for their team, because I was a foreigner. The week before this trip, Team Jokbal had been told by some NC fans that they "didn't want us to speak English while [they] ate their dinner."

Secondly, a previous trip to Masan to sit amongst the NC home fans had been uncomfortable. Lots of seats with restricted views, expensive concessions, lots of over-priced table seats and some rude fans. It is fair to say that I wasn't in a hurry to return!

So I had dubbed Masan as the capital city of the Republic of Hate. When we got out of the station, with a green wig and and a shark finned sombrero on our heads, we got the usual stares. But different. The stares usually give way to grins and giggles and often cheers or selfie requests. The ajussis of Masan offered deep scouls. It really did feel like we had arrived in The Republic of Hate. There was one guy chugging a bottle of soju while leading the others... we thought we had met the President of the Republic.

As we walked towards the stadium, we inflated our giant Bernardina shark. The smiles slowly started to appear on the natives. Positive comments and thumbs up followed. Maybe that guy was just a drunk with some other drunks. Maybe he represented nothing but a band of alcoholics. So, we now had mixed feelings. We were disappointed that we had not actually met the President but actually pleased that we may actually still be in Korea.

Time passed as we prepared for the game but so did many NC Fans and Masan locals. Every single one of them was polite, friendly and enthusiastic about the Jokbal campaign. It actually seemed to be the most welcoming stop on our tour to date. Even the Police starting talking to us and helping us. In a short space of time, our diplomatic visit to the Republic of Hate had turned into a fan festival.
Team jokbal had a very successful day too. Former World Series pitcher Jeff Manship had managed to secure us treasure chest of goods for our charity auction. Top man!

The inflatable shark was signed by Roger Bernardina too. We will be showing it off around all the stadia this season as we plan to auction it too at the end of the season.

So, all in all a very good day! Love beat hate and Busan is seemingly alone in The Republic of Hate.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Your Questions Answered

So the JoKBOL show has been away for a while. My blog has been out of action for nearly 2 months. I have traveled, moved home and changed job. However, the show and blog are making a mid season comeback for 1 week only. It will return full time in August after trips to the Netherlands, England, France, Luxembourg and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Anyway, the one-off return is about explaining some issues that readers have had. So here, the answers to questions about me and the JoKBOL blog that you didn't even need answering.

1. Why don't you give more factual information about teams?
I don't care. That was never the point of the blog or the show or the campaign. Other people will do a better job of that. I have better things to do. Such as drink beer and eat pig.

2. Who films the JoKBOL show?
There are missing members of the team that you haven't seen on camera yet. Andrew Dunham has even adorned himself with a Team Jokbal jersey but the episodes have mostly been filmed by Mark or Marcus.

3. Do you really think that communism is rife in Nexen Heroes?
Yes. If you go, you will see what I mean. I think the stadium manager worships Kim Jong Un. I am glad nobody goes there.

4. Is Hanbat Park really a waste of time? 
If you like walking in urine and sitting on a bench and paying 210% more for food and beverages then it might be ok.

5. Why don't you cut some teams some slack? People seem happy there.
Nobody is happy in the Dome.
Hanhwa has the self proclaimed highest paid player in the KBO. They can cut their fans some slack. Fuck them.

6. Do you accept that you are ripping off the Spanish fans who gave pork to Sergio Ramos?
Totally. We have never hidden from the fact that those Spanish guys inspired us.
We were talking about players liking jokbal before that but yes... we are shamelessly copying.

7. Are you guys really going to sell the jerseys for charity?
Yes. We are not con men. We have already spoken to Han Jae Gwon of Doosan Bears about selling our jerseys at the end of season charity event.

8. Why don't you give directions to stadiums?
Four reasons!
A. Some are right next to subway stations bearing the stadium names. You would have to be pretty stupid to miss Jamsil for instance.
B. We are still working on the best way to some stadiums. Suwon kt Wizz Park and Champions Field in Gwangju seem to have no good way to get to them. We are still experimenting.
C. Some stadia should not be visited. The Dome and Hanbat fall into this category.
D. Use google maps! We did! Stadiums are pretty big. You should be able to spot them easily.

9. How do regular people react to you guys looking like drunken retards?
Well, I am not going to lie, a lot of people are confused. However, we seem to make a lot of people smile. There are some hostile people but they are hostile to their own mother. So many people ask for pictures or try to talk to us. Now that our mission is becoming clear to many, we actually seem to have gained our own supporters who will chant for us in random subway stations. 

10. Do you have plans to expand?
The Team Jokbal tent is a big one. One we would like to expand. We would like at least 1 rep for each team in the league. We will also try to get our own design of jerseys made for next season which we will wear and also auction for charity. If you wish to join, then you just need to have a love for pig feet, a willingness to travel and not be an uptight vegan. Skill in drinking beer and creativity in designing attention grabbing costumes are also an asset. Feel free to ask us about joining or helping us collect goods for the charity auction. 

I hope that clears up some of the most pressing issues for literally a few people. 

I look forward to your reading this and returning for the second season of Kojengi's Sporting Adventures and the JoKBOL show coming in September!

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!

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.