Monday, November 9, 2009

Bundesliga-Basketball in Göttingen

[ National League Basketball in Göttingen ]

Living in Göttingen for almost a month now there are still many aspects of the city, as well as the school and family life that I am still taking time to become aquainted with. The other day my host family myself and a friend of Moritz, Hans- who was invited for us to meet each other- all went out together to watch a sport that Göttingen is well known for in Germany - Basketball.

It is interesting, since with other sports such as Soccer, car racing, tennis and even handball dominating sport-airtime on TV in Germany, you don't really hear too much at all about Golf, American Football, or in this case - Basketball.

Even so, I learned the other day that there is most definitely, albeit a small, but competitive National Basketball league in Germany, and Göttingen has one of the best teams.

Entering an old railway repair warehouse, now remodeled as a Basketball stadium, the fans were filing into their seats. It wasn't huge, but at the same time, even for being a smaller sized Basketball stadium, I was very surprised to see a full house, and many fans clad in the purple color of the Göttingen team.

Based on their logo, I think the team had the mascot of fire or heat, and the other team from Tübingen, another leading university town in southern Germany warmed up in their white uniforms, and their Tiger mascot.

Team mascots are something I take for granted I guess, until I realized the other day when talking to a German guy about American football and basketball teams and the origins of their team names - which I guess I can understand what is so unique and facinating about that, since for sports in Germany, like soccer for instance, the team is represented solely by their city/nation/sponsoring insignia and possibly by a color, but not nearly as commercial and symbolic as an American team mascot.

This is what I found unique in the Göttingen stadium hearing American hip hop blasting around as the players warmed up, and the TVs showing the logos, mascots and cheers in German - the experience was very different, yet also very much trying to capture the Americaness of basketball - [ for that matter, most of the players were American as well - the German players were kind of like celebrities since there were so few of them].

During the game, the student section got the fans excited with some loud cheers

GöT- TIN - GEN!!!!!

GöT - TIN - GEN!!!!!

GöT - TIN - GEN!!!!!

And the game was pretty much sealed within the first few minutes, with Göttingen holding a 10 point lead or higher over Tübingen the entire match. Even so, the match was very exciting, it was cool to experience a bit of Göttingen life and cheer for the team, and I also became much more appreciative of the animated cheers and impressive stunts of American cheerleaders after seeing the attempt of their German counterparts trying to do their best just to hold their flyer... who didn't really fly.

The Göttingen team began to have some fun at the end of the match - clearly a win - and began making some big slam dunks to get the crowed cheering some more. The event was another nice evening with my host family, and also an evening where I realized that even something as American as basketball can have its quirks and differences in another country - or more interesting, seeing how another country tries to do something the American way.

Die Kanzlerin Kommt [ nach Amerika ]

[ The Chancellor is coming! - This time to America! ]

In the beginning of November, just days before the anniversary of the "Fall of the Wall" in Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, made a landmark address to a joint meeting of Congress in Washington DC.

The last time that a chancellor has been bestowed with this honor was in 1957, when Konrad Adenauer addressed the House of Representatives and Senate separately. This is one of the main reasons that makes Merkel's address so important, since she is the first German Chancellor in over 50 years - in addition, the first female Chancellor - to address a joint session in Congress. In her address Merkel highlighted and reminded listeners about the deep connections between the US, Germany, and the rest of Europe over the past decades.

Merkel began her address with a background over the past decades of German and US relations, and how this history has impacted her life, and how it has led her to become a German politician with the landmark accomplishment of serving as the first female Chancellor of Germany newly reelected for her second term. It was a neat experience to read about the event in the German news - translating the article side-by-side with a dictionary, excited by the fact that I was able to see the Chancellor speak live just weeks ago.

Merkel spoke fondly of her fascination with the United States as a young girl, striving to research about the land in the highly regulated, communistic former Eastern Germany - the GDR, German Democratic Republic.

[ The US was ] The land of unlimited opportunity - for a long time it was impossible for me to reach. The Wall, barbed wire and the order to shoot those who tried to leave limited my access to the free world.

Her words emphasized how freedom was so important to her as a young adult, and how that has impacted the politician that she has become in present day.

I was passionate about the American dream - the opportunity for everyone to be successful, to make it in life through their own personal effort.

When she mentioned the historic anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, occurring only a few days later in Germany, the members of the US joint Congress all jumped to a standing ovation, recognizing just how much this event impacted the world and sparked modern international relations. Merkel used this opportunity, using herself to represent the voice of an entire unified Germany, to say a warm thank you to the Americans - since, as she mentioned, as many German's know, without the assistance of America during the trying times after the war, through the nation's divide, through to Regan's pivotal address to Gorbachev to "tear down this wall!", there is so much that the nation of Germany must thank the Americans for.

Ladies and gentlemen, to sum it up in one sentence: I know, we Germans know, how much we owe to you, our American friends. We as a nation, and I personally, will never forget that.

Merkel moved her speech to the close alliance of the US, Germany and the rest of Europe in the past decades, but she recognized that the times did not pass without challenges, struggles and missunderstandings -

This is why the ability to show tolerance is so important. While, for us, our way of life is the best possible way, others do not necessarily feel that way. There are different ways to create peaceful coexistence. Tolerance means showing respect for other people's history, traditions, religion and cultural identity.

Addressing the arguments that divide our nation's politics into disagreements, Merkel concentrated on other pressing issues that are impacting modern world politics. She spoke of her ambitions for a more unified plan for Global Warming at the world climate conference in Copenhagen in the near future. She also addressed the globalization of our world, and how this has created new opportunities, new challenges, and also new fears in many. Using this in accordance to the financial crisis of last year, Merkel stressed the importance of a new world order and cooperation to protect ourselves from greater problems in the future -

"A globalized economy needs a global order ... a global framework of rules,"

"Without global rules and transparency and supervision, we will not gain more freedom, but rather risk the abuse of freedom and thus risk instability."

Using the very appropriate theme of tearing down walls that divide us, Merkel addressed the modern "walls" that must be realized in oder to successfully promote proactive international relationships in our modern, global age.

I am convinced that, just as we found the strength in the 20th century to tear down a wall made of barbed wire and concrete, today we have the strength to overcome the walls of the 21st century, walls in our minds, walls of short-sighted self-interest, walls between the present and the future.

Merkel's address was moving and powerful in reminding America, Germany and the entire world just how important the connection between America and German has been and still is, and why this connection must be appreciated and respected so that the nations can work together still as great allies in the future.

Merkel also met with President Obama to address many topics ranging from enviroment, to Afghanistan, to the economic crisis.

The address to Congress given by Merkel on November 3rd was very captivating, and truly represents many of the unique opinons, topics in history, and political debates that I am witnessing and partaking in everyday as a student living and working abroad in Germany. I will be posting the links to the YouTube videos of the address, as well as a transcript of the speech at the bottom of this post.

Merkel concluded her historically important address by focusing on the liberty bell in Berlin, a gift from America since 1950, an exact copy of the bell in Philadelphia, and the history and symbolism that it represents.

The Freedom Bell in Berlin is, like the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, a symbol which reminds us that freedom does not come about of itself. It must be struggled for and then defended anew every day of our lives. In this endeavor Germany and Europe will also in future remain strong and dependable partners for America.

That I promise you.

Links -

Address Transcript