Monday, August 25, 2008

Football From the Eastside

That's one of the phrases of Dresden's American Football Team, the
Dresden Monarchs. I went to check out a game for the first time a couple weeks ago (they had an offer that week where anybody named Alex got into the game for free. I went with a friend of mine, also named Alex), and then again last Saturday (with yet a different Alex by coincidence). I got in free the second time as well as Andy had free tickets because a physicist in his lab is on the team. For real.

It's actually pretty fun. It kind of reminds me of high school football. Mostly because there's a crowd of about 1000, and the skill level is such that there are more mistakes, leading to more big plays, unusual plays, exciting plays. For example, in the two games I've been to I've seen two (successful) fake punts, two blocked field goals, a 70yd TD rush, and about 3 missed PATs.

Dresden is in the 'German Football League' - the top league for American football in Germany. It is comprised of 12 teams in two divisions. The top 8 make the playoffs. Both games I've been to have been actually very exciting and close games. In the most recent Dresden had to win - and win by 6 points - in order to make the playoffs. The were competing with Hamburg, the team they were playing, for the last spot. Dresden was up only 5 late in the game, but in the last minutes managed a field goal to get to the playoffs.

The crowd is, well, strange. I can say for sure that for 1000 people they make alot of noise. You get the feeling that everybody really wants to be there (In fact the last game overlapped with a home game for Dresden's football(soccer) team Dynamo Dresden, and I doubt any of the fans were torn away). But the atmosphere is a little strange. For one, there is a guy walking the sideline, like an announcer with a wireless mic, basically mc'ing the whole game. The WHOLE game. He never shuts up. But in a way he is essential because he often explains what is going on on the field for the crowd. One thing I realized moving to Germany is that American football is an incredibly complicated game. The types of plays, number of players, positions, rules, penalties - they add up and ADD up, and when you're trying to explain the game to somebody while watching it's almost hopeless. Sometimes when a penalty came up the played a prerecorded explanation of the penalty over the loud speakers. So while the crowd knows the basics, the MC kind of helps with the strategy and situations. And he lets them know when to cheer. I found myself jumping out of my seat cheering when the ref signaled for a running into the kicker foul against the away team - all by myself. The crowd waited for the MC to explain......".....erster Versuch für Dresden!" (first down). Similarly, the crowd cheers great offensive plays, but not defensive plays. I also found my self jumping out of my seat on sacks, while the crowd seemed to just be waiting for offense. The guy is also funny because he would essentially be taunting the other team. "And what a terrible punt by the Hamburg kicker!!"

To complete the American atmosphere, they even have cheerleaders in high-school type outfits, they sell actual hamburgers and hot dogs along with the bratwurst, and sell t-shirts that say (in English) "Football is Sex, Baby." Yeah, that last one kinda missed.

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