Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Korean Pro-Basketball: Waygookin (외국인) on the Court!

Written 3/4/2011

Today, before beginning a 6th grade lesson, one of my students shouts: "You, basketball! You, basketball!" About to burst out laughing, not because of the the incomplete sentence, but because I knew exactly what he was talking about, I say: "Oh my gosh, you were there too?" and him and his giant smile nodded yes.

It was last Friday night and myself and a couple friends were intent on proving our Anyang loyalty at a professional Korean basketball game. Anyang Ginseng Corporation (AGC) was playing Busan Alleh KT Sonicboom. Now there are many differences between the NBA and Korean Basketball League (KBL), but the most obvious are the team names. In the NBA, they symbolize pride, familiarity, and intimidation, but in the KBL, they are merely a representation of the team's sponsoring corporation.

Anyway, back to the story. After hailing a cab and pointing at a memo reading "Anyang Sports Complex" in Korean (안양종합운동장), we arrive at the game. Purchasing tickets was a bit difficult. Ordering food is getting easier, but purchasing tickets required a set of phrases I don't yet know. The young ticket vendor giggled, took our 8,000W and basically did the job of ordering for us. OK, so that wasn't too bad and neither was finding our seats. But then, just minutes after the game starts a couple guys identifying themselves as the event coordinators approach us, the only foreigners in the crowd. They want one of us to dance in a contest during the timeout. Go figure. The guys refused and so I think: "What the heck, I don't know anyone here and it surely is a once in a lifetime opportunity." "OK!" I exclaim hesitantly and I follow them down to court-level.&

They sit me on the bleachers secluded from the crowd and other contestants and I begin asking a million questions regarding what exactly it is I'm doing and finally: "Where are the others that are supposed to be in the contest?" One guy points downward on the bench and I see my three competitors sitting together. "Why on earth am I sitting all alone?" I get up, walk over, and give them each a high five. Two were friendly and laughed and the other looked like he was down for some seriously business. Before we knew it, we were being told to follow the coordinator onto the court.

I still didn't know what exactly the contest was about except that it involved dancing. The coordinators spoke to the crowd, but the only recognizable word was Waygookin (
외국인) or "foreigner." From the center of the court, I found my two friends starring downward and then the crowd became a blur, the music started and I broke out every best dance move I could think of. At some points, a large video camera man stood awkwardly in front of me and I wondered where on earth this footage would end up, or even worse, if it was being shown live. It didn't matter, though, because I was there and there was no turning back. When the music finally stopped, which felt like 5 minutes later, but was actually a measly 30 seconds, I stopped. The coordinators  checked our pedometers (oh, yes, which I forgot to mention were strapped to our heads with headbands).

I didn't win, but I did get free movie tickets! The guy in it to win it took it home, but I have to say that he didn't really dance... Instead, my friends commented that he spastically shook his head. Afterward, his strategy made sense, but at the time, I honestly didn't even know they were pedometers on our head. I thought they were stop watches of some sort. That is how dazed and confused a foreigner gets on the court of Korean basketball game.

After returning to my seat, I ask my friends: "On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most, how much did I just embarrass myself?" They confidently respond that I didn't embarrass myself at all and I then felt pretty dang proud of myself. That is, until we exited afterward (after a brutal loss, I must add), and I suddenly hear my name: "RANA!" "Huh?" I think. I turn around and there are at least 5 of my students and their parents with giant smiles on their faces. I turn bright red and suddenly my pride transformed into embarrassment. Fortunately, it didn't last long as excitement to see me outside of school overpowered anything they saw at timeout. WHEW!

So I did know people at the game, but it was, indeed, a once in a life time opportunity. 

I wasn't the only Waygookin on the court!
They have cheerleaders too. 
It's no Blazer game, but th fans are enthusiastic. 
Fritz and Jacoby


  1. Hi, I just moved to Busan, South Korea and can't read Sonicboom's website yet. I think there's a home game this weekend on Sunday (20th). Can you tell me the time, the location in Busan and approx. how much it is (is it always 8,000 won)? Also, how early do I and my foreign friends have to get there for good seats. Thanks!