Thursday, October 28, 2010

Now on Tap: German Fußball

photo by Ivan Cvia PhotoRee

Managed to watch yet another Bundesliga game on GolTV the other night. Don't worry, I know what you're thinking: this is sliding dangerously toward an addiction. You're right. My name is farlieonfootie and I've got a problem.  On top of my first love, the EPL, I've already acknowledged a Spanish mistress in the form of La Liga. I don't know where to fit the Germans, but I may have to figure that out sooner rather than later.

Several thoughts are in order, though, before total madness is declared and I'm carted off to the sanitorium. First off, the game the other night was surprisingly good, Mainz versus Bayern Leverkusen, with Mainz coming out on top of a tense 1-nil scoreline to retake their place at the top of the German league table.  Those Germans really know how to play footie, and the crowds are pretty damn enthusiastic, too, flag waving and all.  No flares, though.  From what I can tell those are condoned -- encouraged even -- only in Italy and the Second Division of Spain.

Secondly, GolTV is feeding my addiction, making Bundesliga available as a regular viewing option here in the US. In a throwback to the wonderful PBS series of old, Soccer Made in Germany,  it's fun to watch, and it's giving me new players and even teams to learn. Sure I know Michael Ballack, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Edin Dzeko, Michael Bradley, and other assorted stars and semi-famous American players who ply their trade in the Bundesliga, but I don't generally know the other 10 guys on their team. Or where Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach are even located (or, how to pronounce them, for that matter).

Watching the Bundesliga is a rare opportunituy to watch the game just for the beauty of it all, without a need to have strong feelings one way or the other, as I've not yet established a "favorite' German team. I used to be under the impression that I liked Bayern Munich, as their home town is definitely one of my favorite cities in all of Europe, and they are probably the only German team I could have named when I first started watching footie sixteen years ago, but watching Arjen Robben complain one too many times, and seeing Bayern unjustly knock my Red Devils out of the Champions League last year totally and completely cured me of that delusion.

I may try Mainz on for size this year. From what I've seen they play attractive, surprisingly good counter-attacking footie, and from what I understand, they were competing as an amateur team only a short while ago. So they have that whole underdog story going for them, something us Americans are suckers for.... Plus, they have that neat little carnival song I've written about previously that their fans sing every time they score, so you gotta like that, too.

It's not only the quality of football they're serving up that's good, but the guys who run the Bundesliga are smart, too. As  ESPN's Leander Schaerlaeckens points out in a piece that's definitely worth a read, their league is financially sound (now that's a novelty, with team after team in England forming a queue in the Administration line), and ticket prices are much cheaper than in the other leagues in Europe, meaning the average fan can still afford to attend a game or two (plus have some beer money left over; if they changed that I think the whole league would  fail).

In addition, a true genius in the Bundesliga marketing department noticed that there was an opening in the footie calendar on Friday nights -- Mondays being taken up by EPL's Monday Night Football, Tuesdays and Wednesdays occupied by Champions League or the domestic cup competitions, and Thursdays showcasing Europa League matches-- and claimed it for the Bundesliga. So the only night that formerly had nothing to watch is now solely occupied by the Germans. That's smart, and good business. Plus it means I never have a hole that I can't plug in my column....!

So if you've never watched a game, take a tip from me: pour yourself a good German bier, and tune into GolTV's broadcast of the Bundesliga. They may not have Ray Hudson and Phil Schoen calling the games like they do for La Liga, but it's eminently watchable, the quality of play is excellent, and you might even learn a thing or two about the game we all love. 

Prost! From farlieonfootie for October 29.

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