So George and I decided to hit the table topping series between KIA and NC. A trip I greeted with trepidation it has to be said.
Firstly, my exchanges with NC fans hadn't been positive in the past. Once I got asked to leave their fan zone, even though I was cheering for their team, because I was a foreigner. The week before this trip, Team Jokbal had been told by some NC fans that they "didn't want us to speak English while [they] ate their dinner."
Secondly, a previous trip to Masan to sit amongst the NC home fans had been uncomfortable. Lots of seats with restricted views, expensive concessions, lots of over-priced table seats and some rude fans. It is fair to say that I wasn't in a hurry to return!
So I had dubbed Masan as the capital city of the Republic of Hate. When we got out of the station, with a green wig and and a shark finned sombrero on our heads, we got the usual stares. But different. The stares usually give way to grins and giggles and often cheers or selfie requests. The ajussis of Masan offered deep scouls. It really did feel like we had arrived in The Republic of Hate. There was one guy chugging a bottle of soju while leading the others... we thought we had met the President of the Republic.
As we walked towards the stadium, we inflated our giant Bernadina shark. I was also modelling the short lived shark finned Team Jokbal sombrero. George, as usual, had his green wig (strange how that is now normal compared to our other antics). The smiles slowly started to appear on the natives. Positive comments and thumbs up followed. Maybe that guy was just a drunk with some other drunks. Maybe he represented nothing but a band of alcoholics. So, we now had mixed feelings. We were disappointed that we had not actually met the President but actually pleased that we may actually still be in Korea.
Time passed as we prepared for the game but so did many NC Fans and Masan locals. Every single one of them was polite, friendly and enthusiastic about the Jokbal campaign. It actually seemed to be the most welcoming stop on our tour to date. Even the Police starting talking to us and helping us. In a short space of time, our diplomatic visit to the Republic of Hate had turned into a fan festival.
Team jokbal had a very successful day too. Former World Series pitcher Jeff Manship had managed to secure us treasure chest of goods for our charity auction. Top man! He even seemed to be happy with the jokbal!
The inflatable shark was signed by Roger Bernardina too. We will be showing it off around all the stadia this season as we plan to auction it too at the end of the season.
So, all in all a very good day! Love beat hate and Busan is seemingly alone in The Republic of Hate. Hopefully, we will bring smiles to that city too, one day!
A group of guys enjoying the KBO and raising money for orphanages.