Emmet Ryan hopped on a train to experience what Freak City was like when it was in the mood to become Sweep City. This is how BallinEurope experienced Bamberg on the weekend of Game 1 of the Bundesliga finals
Right off the train there was no doubting what the big show in town was this weekend. Posters with Bamore adorned pillars across the road from the station and there were plenty more of them around the town. The hoops could wait however as there was drinking to be done.
The evening began with a trip to Mahr’s, which does a lovely unfiltered lager known as U, before heading back to a familiar haunt in the form of Zum Sternla, a 500 year old bar where I was first introduced to Spezial, a rauchbier without the bacony flavour of Schlenkerla. From there it was on to a spot on Am Leinritt to meet Thomas Meyer and a tech company he works with for a beer. Favendo do a lot with beacons and look poised to be a big success story out of this city. Sadly I couldn’t hang about as there was work to be done in the form of four bars beside each other. Schlenkerla, Ambräusianum, Alt-Ringlein, and Kachelofen. It was just the seven haunts on night one, I didn’t want to peak too soon.
This is a walking city and then some. A solid 40 minutes door to door from my AirBnB was the beautiful Michaelsberg. Normally it’s easier to get somewhere more central but with a meagre 7 or so places on AirBnB in town and the first five out of commission, my options were limited. Once you hit one of the big sights however you are near the lot. Inside the grounds of Michaelsberg was the brewery museum which was fine although the biggest thing I appreciated was the air conditioning which was a necessity on a blazing hot day. Neue Residenz, the big time palace in the city, was way cooler and is well worth a look and the Dom is just across from it. The route finished with Altes-Rathaus, which again wasn’t really up to much on the inside but beautiful on the outside. As a general rule, most of the sights here are way better to just look at and admire than both with the tours. This city is gorgeous.
And this is where the whole, do your prep thing, comes home to roost. I foolishly assumed Brauerei Spezial was open all evening but it’s actually daytime only so that end of town saw me just take in Fässla and Bamberger Weissbeerhaus, the former does a nice tidy lager while the latter serves a good weiss albeit from Bayreuth not Bamberg. With options limited and the crowd out this part of town already a bit messy by 8pm, the beer part of this adventure returned to Alt-Ringlein. That’s where the ultimate shock came, the bars in the main drinking area in town shut at 11pm and they mean it. It took some fierce Googling and the help of a buddy with a better web connection in the UK to get me to a pub still serving. Crisis averted.
After two days of thorough research it was finally game day and despite the warning of thunder storms for later, it was a blisteringly warm day in Bamberg. The heat wasn’t bothering the fans in Playoffs, the American style sports bar beside the arena, with plenty gathering there almost two hours before tip too get some lubrication for their lungs.
Ahead of tip off I took a stroll around the arena. The expansion is fascinating in terms of the modern build-out, going from a 4,500 seat arena 15 years ago, some creative architecture has expanded the capacity to nearer 7,000 and left room for more if needed. The addition of luxury boxes and premier dining suites also ensures vital sources of revenue in a relatively small city. While not a fully in the round arena, and the design doesn’t really allow for it, the finished product is a tight barn that feels far more cosy than the capacity it has.
It’s that tight feel that makes this arena so intimidating for visitors. Everybody knows its loud, you can tell that just by watching a broadcast, but the fairly low roof. Then there’s the small matter of the fire. Around 30 seconds ahead of time you can smell the sulphur, then thee flaming intros for the players make an already warm arena into an oven for the first 10 minutes of action. For a road team it’s almost a literal cauldron.
Smoke hung over the floor as the game got under way with the drums belting on and on. The common consensus was this was the first step in a sweep. Ratiopharm Ulm had the better of the early exchanges n the scoreboard but Brose Baskets Bamberg had come out with a plan to stop the hot pace the visitors had rode all the way to the final. That speed had taken down Oldenburg and Frankfurt but the reigning champions knew they had the depth to force a game that would tire out Ulm.
An alley-oop from Patrick Heckmann to Daniel Theis emphasised the spring in Bamberg’s step late in the first but Ulm were starting to get more influence on the tempo of the game with Per Günther and Raymar Morgan finding opportunities to hurt the home side. Still, the home side looked all so fresh and a Darius Miller three on the buzzer gave them a 23-22 lead at the end of the first.
All throughout one young woman was furiously spreading the message across every platform. Katharina Förtsch has a job that sounds like fun but is ferocious work when you understand the nitty gritty. As the social media manager for Brose Baskets, she needs to understand the different type of audiences engaging with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. This website’s average reader is between 25 and 34 and expects to be kept busy for at least 5 minutes, it’s easy enoough for me to guess what they want. She’s dealing with far more diverse demographics who expect really different kinds of content.
The 40 year old on Facebook and the 13 year old on Snapchat expect different things and it’s Förtsch’s job to keep both and more up to speed throughout. When Miller hit that buzzer beater she had a bunch of audiences that all expect a reaction from the Brose Baskets accounts right there and then. Oh and like the journalists, she had to keep her focus while right in front of the loudest section of fans in one of Europe’s loudest arenas.
On the floor thee gulf in class began to become apparent early in the second as the visitors threw up some tired looking shots. Bamberg getting some good breaks didn’t help their cause, Janis Strielniks stumbled badly while about to shoot but recovered and nailed a three to give the home side the first double digit lead of the game, another deep one from Lucca Staiger, a luxury on the bench, stretched it out to 9 points and then Bundesliga MVP Brad Wanamaker hit another to make it 42-30. Ulm were in deep and the game wasn’t 16 minutes old.
Miller nailed another three to bring up the half ton and now it was Bamberg pushing the pace. Having been made to work in the first quarter, Bamberg were well on top at the half 54-39.
The thunderstorm had well and truly hit by the half outside as fans seeking relief from the heat inside got more than they bargained for. That’s the Bavarian summer, a lot like the Irish summer just with more theatrics when it gets wet.
Having gone 7 of 10 from deep in the first half, the air raid game of the home side showed no signs of abating as Nikos Zisis nailed another to open his side’s account in the third quarter. On a rare missed three from Wanamaker, Daniel Theis snaked his body through two defenders to make a lay-up with his back to the basket. It was a level of energy that even after the half-time rest Ulm were going to struggle with.
Overall however Bamberg hadn’t put the hammmer down in this frame, instead they were happy to paw away at Ulm while maintaining their comfortable advantage. It led to some scrappy basketball and an abundance of whistles. With 10 minutes to play, Bamberg were comfortably on top 76-58.
Ulm finally showed some urgeny as the finaly quarter got under way, making the deficit more manageable by forcing a fast pasce but once more the deeper ball of Bamberg hurt them as Miller went deep once more. With the Bamberg defence waking up after taking a few minutes off, they quickly started to force Ulm into using more of the clock. Augustine Rubit was puffing heavily as he strolled up the court for a pair of free throws. Out on their feet, Ulm were ready to be put out of their misery and Miller pushed the lead past 20 to send them on their way.
He made another before finally exiting the game to a thunderous ovation. Ulm had been comfortably put to the sword and the road to yet another Bundesliga title remained clear. Brose Baskets win 101-82.
Not that Andrea Trinchieri was remotely satisfied. He had watched his side demolish and opponent but their issues getting to the line, the 16 offensive rebounds grabbed by Ulm, the scrappy nature of the second half, and a fourth complaint he said would remain a mystery to the press were all grating at him. The funny thing with the Italian is this isn’t an act, or if it is the man belongs in bleak BBC dramas, and he really felt this down after a comprehensive triumph. There was a game to win in Ulm and he was focused solely on ensuring the mistakes didn’t happen again.
Trinchieri did at least make sure to praise Darius Miller a player he said the team is trying to convince he is as good as he looked in this game. Miller likewise said it’s hard to please Trinchieri but that the coach has his head and heart in the right place. He just wants this team to get better.
The plan for the evening was to return to Mahr’s and try out Keesman across the road only this time Google lied to me. Both were shut, so I had to take one more jaunt to Sandstrasse.