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Friday, March 16, 2012

That ol' fightin' spirit

In the spirit of March Madness (Way. To. Go. Wichita State...), I thought I'd take this post to share my recent brush with sports here in Norway.

So yes... I went to a Women's volleyball match.

Background:  In my Norwegian language/culture courses, I have people from various places and, one of them, is a professional, female volleyball player from Poland.

Now, if you're like me (probably not), you're thinking "Wait, they have professional volleyball?".


They just don't have it.  There's a six-tier, professional league system here (similar to the international, promotion-relegation system of soccer... sorry, "football") in Norway.  My fellow student starred for the club Oslo Volley, the reigning Scandinavian and Norwegian Open Tournament Champions.

However, they were tied in first place for the Norwegian Elite Series (Look, I know its confusing... Here.  To be "Scandinavian Champions" they won a tournament, March Madness-style, against EVERY team in Scandinavia (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland... why they'd fly Iceland in is anyone's guess).  Norwegian Open Tournament consisted of every team in the six-tier, professional system in Norway and now, they were going for the championship of just their individual league, the elite series.  The top league in Norway... sorry, confusing, I know)against the titans of Stod Valley.


Now... I won't get into the various reasons, but due to the very nature (both teams had walked through their competition in the Elite Series to the tune of 13-1, having split their two previous meetings, and had met in the championship or final stages of the Scandinavian and Norwegian Open tournaments), there was a little "bad blood".  Wouldn't you know it, but the game that I was treated to was the epic, end-of-the-season, winner-take-all, rubber match between the two in Oslo.

How was it?

For starters, I got there late.  To get to the "venue" (Fyrstikkalléen skole... While it is a school, the campus and facility was better than a lot of colleges in the States) I had to take two different buses and walk four blocks through neighborhoods (reminded me of going to RFK!). So... I got there at the onset of the first set, which was all Stod.

Before arriving, I didn't know much about Stod. Like, I couldn't even find it on a map. However, I soon came to realize that they go hammer for their volleyball. The crowd was very pro-Stod. I would say that of the 200 or so people in attendance, 140 were for Stod (yes, I had never seen that many people at a Volleyball event, either). They were very vocal... they had chants and claps and scarfs and noise makers that drowned out the blaring hip-hop music (a very, underrated, unintentional comedy element of the event... they had like eight songs that they rotated throughout the game. Why only eight and why such poignant ballads as "Stereo Heart" by Gym Class Heroes, "Remember the Name" by Fort Minor, and the immortal "Butterfly" by Crazy Town? Man may never know).

As for the teams, it was almost like Space Jam. Stod was every part the Monstars... They were bigger (save for my classmate), faster, stronger (like, when they hit the ball... it made a different sound!), and more athletic. They seemed to be one step ahead of Oslo at every turn... plus, they had a different, type of swagger.

Now, some of the people in the crowd, both demurely and very vocally, attributed this to the "foreign" aspect of the team. As I had a program from the game, it was kinda obvious that certain players on Stod weren't from Stod or anywhere else in Norway (Let's just say there weren't too many "Line"'s or "Thea"'s... I'm not complaining. The object is to win so you should have the best players to do so and I'm all about foreigner solidarity). In fact, they had two players from America.

Which two were from America? Ha... let's just say it wasn't hard to tell.

In addition to being the two tallest, most athletic, and best players.

They were also the loudest.

They berated the officials when they blew a call (there were many opportunities for this). They berated their teammates when they made a poor play (also, many opportunities). They berated their coach when he went berserk (this may be a surprise, but there were many opportunities for this, too!). They taunted the Oslo players when they hammered spikes upon them or stuffed their shots. They taunted the crowd, the few Oslo fans who dared to be vocal, when they also took the second set with relative ease (What made it even better is that they did all of it in English... they didn't even bother to at least meet their target halfway by yelling in Norwegian!).

As a impartial observer, I was horrified... As an American, I was "Hell yeah! That's how we do!" (I can't help myself... I won't get into all of this now. That's for another blog).

Anyway, Oslo was able to rally back, partially to spirited play and fatigue (Oslo did have the numbers advantage as they were able to rotate in about four, solid players to Stod having one, viable sub). The match was tied at 2-2 and it seemed it was anyone's match.

In the end, Oslo couldn't get out of their own way (two, crucial serve faults down the stretch) and lost the deciding set and the match and, for all intents and purposes, the season. Stod paraded around, both demonstratively and emphatically, and Oslo players sulked off the court.

It was a pretty memorable experience and a good lesson in something... I'm not sure what, but it was.

Good times. Remember to "Like" on Facebook ( and email any questions and I will try to address them in future blog entries or with a personal response!

Alt for Norge.

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