Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Visca La Penya!

The basketball junkies we here at Das Bloggy Blog, few things hit us as hard as when TNT became no longer free on Time Warner. Gone were the carefree musings of EJ, drunk Charles, and the Jet -- our only outlet for non-exploitative professional basketball would be ABC. Yeah, that ABC ... the channel that seems to show samey Celtics, Lakers, or Cavs games every week. So when we had the opportunity to see ├╝ber-prodigy Ricky Rubio in an ACB Spanish League game, we were more than willing to navigate Catalan websites and wander aimlessly in suburban malls in order to figure out how exactly to make it happen.

DKV Joventut (or simply La Penya) does not play in Barcelona but in nearby Badalona. They play at the old Olympic gym located near the Gorg Metro stop, on the L2(purple) line. It's hard to picture a top D-1 team, let alone the original Dream Team, playing at this grafittied, corragated steel canister. Getting tickets (25-30 € each) is as simple as showing up 1-2 hours before gametime and waiting in line at the ticket counter. The ticket counter, which accepts cash, is to the right of the main entrance. The windows to the left of the main entrance seem to be for will call tickets purchased online.

We saw the Dec. 28th game against Baloncesto Fuenlabrada, featuring Alaskan Brad Oleson and a still invisible Nicholas Tskitishvili. Entering the stadium, it becomes difficult not to keel over and writhe on the floor in pain at the greatest cultural difference between a game in Spain and the US: no alcohol is served. The club seems to be more than happy to make its money from the relatively hefty admission -- merch and food sales are really at a minimum. So after picking up a popcorn and a San Miguel 0,0 we took our seats and watched the game. And yes, there is a dance team.Bon Nadal, indeed. The game itself has a few notable differences than what we're used to:
  • The dusty court leaves the players sliding around like they are in a rec-center in June. We think there are may be more people cleaning the sidewalks outside than a court in which millions of invested €'s compete.
  • For all the talk of the 'Euro two-step', the crowd is quick to stand and call for a traveling violation when the ref neglects to. Meanwhile, in the NBA, LeBron can calmly explain why he should be allowed to take three steps.
  • La Penya's answer to Thundersticks are nasal sounding plastic horns favored by fans young and old. If you are a sensitive soul bring earplugs and aspirin -- you are going to find out what it is like to spend 2 hours inside a bagpipe.
  • Besides having the beverage menu written with the former(!) President in mind, hooliganophobia also manifests itself at the end of halves. A shielded tunnel wheels onto the court while the players are escorted off by police in riot gear.
La Penya fell way behind at the beginning of the second half, playing a trapping zone whose mystery was easily solved by passing to a wide open corner 3. The star of the team, Rubio, and its most dominating player, Jerome Moiso, didn't start; although its best player, Louisianian Demond Mallet did. In crunch time, all three took the court -- their best play being to simply loft a pass inside to Moiso. Their furious comeback was instigated by a press that created turnovers and contested shots. The play of the game was definitely a lackadaisical 1 on 1 break in which the DKV player dove to floor with minimal contact; scooping the ball towards the basket was merely an afterthought. That the 'shot' actually went in meant nothing -- he just wanted the foul call! La Penya, 86-84.

Unfortunately, Rubio was never even given the opportunity to create fast break magic -- he was intentionally fouled every time he received a quick outlet pass. In the half court he was able to get assists and layups often, and when ably defended showed a Ginobili-esque knack to jerk his head back quickly -- this delighted the referee's whistle like nothing else. When he and LeBron are playing for D'Antoni in 2010, the Knicks will be quite the unstoppable force. "Hi, I'm Mike Tirico, and this is the only team that ABC will ever be showing!"


Lin Leo Yu said...

Well done. The thought of Bron Bron and Shiny Rubio (yes, you heard it first here) running the New York Knickerbockers gives me chills. Can't wait to throw away 100 bucks for a seat at the Garden that's a mile away from the court!

Jessica said...

perfect! i can here the ringing in my ears by just reading this!