I never ever thought that it would come to this. Spending a weekend with no basketball. I mean how often does that happen to me during a regular basketball season? It hasn’t happened often. I mean when it does, I will go back to Boston for 10 days to visit my mother and check out the NBA while still working on Basketball in Germany while in the States. One weekend tops per season where I will have a free basketball weekend, but never more than one. I cover so much basketball that I will be usually in Frankfurt for a BBL, Pro B or NBBL game and if that by chance isn’t happening that weekend, I still have other fine options like Giessen, Bonn, Langen Koblenz or other places. Heck I’ll even go to Berlin even if it’s a 6 hour drive. I just love basketball too much. But now I have a serious problem. It’s mid March and I have actually another free basketball weekend and it will go on and on for months. Usually my basketball season with calling games and covering games ends in June, but this season it ended on March 10 in Bonn. Thanks to the Corona virus. Now there will be no more games until next season. But wait it could go even longer. The speculation is really massive with some very confident people saying that in Germany the virus may pass in 4-8 weeks while other say that it will go into next season and disrupt the new season. Where in heck will this corona virus take us. I’m very very disappointed about no more basketball, but at the end of the day, the most important thing is our health. So many people have perished in Italy and many more in other countries. It is only right that the world is trying to do all it can to slow down the virus as best as possible so countries can get back to normalcy. How long that will take, nobody can pinpoint at the moment. All we can be is aware of our surroundings, act with intelligence and try to avoid contact as best possible with other people. It was only logical that big sports events had to be cancelled. There is no way around it. I will really miss basketball, but that’s life. People’s lives are what at stake and what is most important. A week ago despite the corona virus spreading, the basketball world looked a lot different and few really had any ideas that everything would get cancelled. It went from having fans at games to having no fans at games to having no more games. We have to accept the corona virus and believe that basketball Germany will survive.
On the weekend of March 7-8, I was in action calling two games in Frankfurt with Pro B action on Saturday with the Fraport Skyliners Juniors vs Orange Academy and on Sunday NBBL (U-19) play between Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners vs The Nurnberg Falcons. I remember after both games hearing when the next games would be with the Pro B Skyliners having to battle in the playdowns against FC Bayern Munich 2 last night and in NBBL play against Giessen next week. I love the post season and last Monday I already prepared for my Sunday game not knowing that it would never come. The week before I had asked for a press pass for the Basketball Champions League game in Bonn against Greek side AEK Athens. I wasn’t feeling too good on Monday night and I was seriously contemplating not going to the game on Tuesday. But I’m so glad now that I did go. If I hadn’t gone to that game, I would have regretted it. The big draw for me attending was the amazing AEK Athens smorgasbord of players like ex Miami Heat and 2 time NBA champion Mario Chalmers, or top European player Keith Langford or ex Real Madrid beast Marcus Slaugther or guys like Americans Jerai Grant and Kendall Ray. On Tuesday I decided to go. I mean you live only once and if there are great players like the ones I just mentioned all assembled on one court, then a slight cold won’t stop me from driving an hour to see them play the game they love. When I arrived at the Telekom Dome at 5.40 in the afternoon, I quickly learned that the game would be played, but without spectators. I wasn’t surprised since there had been talk since days of teams having to go that route. I wasn’t sure if the press would be allowed, but luckily they were. I had come so early for an 8.00pm game because I wanted to get photos with all these great players before the game so I wouldn’t have to deal with the stress after the game. I’m glad I did this, because I got photos with all the players I wanted.
As I entered the Telekom Dome for the first time, it was empty, because it was two hours before the game. But as game time was slowly approaching and the arena was still as good as empty except for the players, press and team employees, it slowly dawned on me that I would actually experience a Geister spiel (ghost game) as they say in Germany. Two teams battling against each other, but in a relatively quiet arena without the usual great atmosphere that is transported by the effort of the fans. What was really bitter wasn’t only that the Telekom Baskets Bonn would be missing to give vital fan support, but also the Greeks had their fans that had made the trip, a group of about 30-40 that couldn’t watch the game. After AEK Athens won the game, about 30 minutes after, the faithful Greeks were celebrating at the team bus and no one would have noticed that they had never been in the arena. I had seen many team practices and scrimmages in my life and even exhibition games behind closed doors to the fans, but those games were all in a small practice facility gym. Now I was in the 5000 plus modern Telekom Dome and could have yelled across the court to the Bonn bench and asked when Alec Brown would come in again to display his lethal trey and head coach Will Voigt would of most definitely heard me and been able to answer back. With no fans and hardly any noise, you could pick up a lot better how the teams communicated on defense and the plays that were called. You also could hear the harsh interactions between player and referee. There was a situation where one could easily follow the conversation between player and referee. Jerai Grant was continuing to dominate in the paint, but had to contend with extra Bonn bodies and made a massive dunk, but was called for traveling. Grant exploded with ‘I didn’t move’, but the referee just blurted out ‘too many steps’. It was a game played at a high intensity, but it just didn’t seem the same without that amazing fan atmosphere. In the end it was the better experience of AEK with Kevin Langford and Marcus Slaughter who combined have 71 years of age, 29 seasons of professional experience and 292 Euroleague games as they showed their true colors and class on the court helping the Greek side to the 90-86 victory. Even if the contest lacked fans, basketball is basketball and I did see great basketball and many great plays. The only thing missing was that amazing fan atmosphere which would have been that extra frosting on the plays.
On Wednesday came the second game in Germany without fan participation as medi Bayreuth played a Fiba Europe cup home contest against Romanian side U- banca-transilvania-cluj-napoca. After an unsatisfactory first half, medi Bayreuth stepped it up in the second half to win to advance to the next round in the playoffs. The only bitter reality for the club is that they won’t play for a title with so much being cancelled. The best example of that not only won’t medi Bayreuth play for this title or in the easyCredit BBL again this season was the departure of ex Gonzaga stand out Reid Travis (203-F-95, college: Kentucky) With Americans players in Germany and other countries leaving right and left in fear of the Corona Virus and wanting to be home with their families, playing for that title becomes secondary. Everything becomes secondary even finishing a season as so many leagues have announced the end in the last days. On Wednesday I was slowly having to accept that I wouldn’t only not be seeing the Fraport Skyliners-Rasta Vechta on Saturday but possibly no more games. Telekom Baskets Bonn president Wolfgang Wiedlich stated in a Bonn paper on Wednesday that he couldn’t see the BBL season continuing with ghost games as it would ruin teams financially. Last weekend the Pro A games in Germany were cancelled and that had an effect on all teams. One team that shall remain unnamed lost 80,000 Euro on one home game. On Thursday the EasyCredit BBL announced that they would postpone the league for 2 weeks and then see how the status would be. I was always hoping that at least other leagues would remain. There was talk that contests with less than 1000 spectators could be played. But no league had the guts to try this. In Germany the NBBL and Regionalliga’s also followed the easyCredit BBL and cancelled their seasons while the Barmer Second Bundesliga will meet today to talk about trying to find a resolution. But in my mind just a waste of time and keeping the imports longer in Germany. Americans will have much more of a difficult time getting home the longer they wait, while Donald Trump closes up the United States. The Heidelberg imports Stephon Jelks, Davonte Lacy, Adam Eberhard and Grant Teichmann didn’t waste anytime and already took off last Friday to get home to their loved ones. The Barmer second Bundesliga will have to cancel their season as the lower the league gets the more difficult teams will have of surviving.
As the weekend approached, I was still waiting for some miracle, but nothing happened. I spent my early Saturday night doing my running instead of being in the Fraport arena and on Sunday I was writing this article when in reality I would rather have been in the BCM in Frankfurt calling a playdown game between Frankfurt and FC Bayern Munich 2. Now a new week is here and there will continue to be no basketball. It is tough for the players and the fans and really just everyone who is involved with the game. It is extremely bitter for those teams that are having very good seasons. This may have been the year where possibly the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg could of made a run for the BBL title with the extreme unmotivated FC Bayern Munich team not playing their best basketball or possibly Alba Berlin winning their first league title since 2008. If the easyCredit BBL doesn’t return then Alba Berlin will have the only title with the cup something that they will be able to live with. Anytime you win more titles than a FC Bayern Munich in a season, it’s a massive victory. For me writing about basketball has been something I have done for 17-18 years now. Of course it helps when a season is running, but even when there is a break like there is in the summers, I have always continued doing interviews and doing player portraits. That won’t change now. I will continue to do that. All you have to do is be motivated and innovative and you can come up with interesting pieces. It won’t be any different with me. I will continue to be active and deliver frequently during the basketball free time like I always have. For some basketball fans accepting this long basketball free time will be easier than for others, but in the end no matter how much you love the game and miss it, you have to be aware of the importance of getting this world crisis resolved. The only way one can do that is to stop the spreading of the virus and that can only be done by avoiding places where many people are. Not only in sports, but the entertainment world also will be affected like so many other areas in life. The world has never seen anything like this before and nobody knows what the future holds. It is a time where we all have to stick together and especially with basketball in Germany try to help as much as possible so the sport will survive. There are corona developments each day and all we can do is be patient and smart in what we do. Working from home and just generally staying at home is the best. This is a good time to spend more time with your loved ones and just realize how serious the corona virus is. I loved nerf basketball as a kid and these are times where I can spend more time with my three year old playing mini basketball in his room. It might not be the easyCredit BBL or Euroleague, but I can get just as much joy playing with my son as I can watching a Donald Sloan hit a crazy three pointer with the Telekom Baskets Bonn. Basketball is basketball and you can enjoy it in so many ways. Sometimes in tough times, you just have to make priorities. We will see basketball again. We just have to stick and fight together in keeping the sport alive in Germany.