Sunday, July 11, 2010

Que Viva Espana!!!

(Sorry about that.)

Today, for the first time ever, I watched a game on TV. Having spent my first American years in the state of Alabama, I attended three or four live football games--but always as somebody's date, never as an informed, let alone passionate, spectator. Since then, however, I never once watched football, hockey, basketball, baseball, tennis, golf or ping-pong matches. I just didn't care, and couldn't imagine why anyone would.

But today was different. Today MY country--where I haven't resided since I was ten--was up for the World Cup. Usually, I think of myself as a global nomad--I feel European when I'm in America, American when I am in Europe. Growing up in Barcelona I felt more Catalan than Spanish. During my years in Ecuador I was, for better and for worse, a Spaniard. After a difficult high school experience in the U.S., I concluded that people care less about where you come from than about your ability to share in their daily concerns. So I stopped talking about where I was from, and started focusing on where I was. Ever since, I have kept my bi-cultural dilemmas pretty much to myself.

But today, I can't explain what came over me. I don't know beans about soccer. I certainly know nothing about soccer in Spain, other than that the fierce rivalry between Barcelona and Madrid echoes a bloody cultural and political rivalry dating from the 15th century.

Yet today, there they were, my guys, several of whom looked like they could have been my cousins. They were Spain's team, but not for a moment did I forget that many of them came from the Barcelona team--Pique, Puyol, Xavi, Busquets (all nice Catalan names)...and the short but fast little guy responsible for the winning goal, Iniesta.

I could have hugged them all, and was proud to see that OUR queen, Sofia, gave every one of those sweaty men a hug. Would Queen Elizabeth, I wondered, have hugged the English players if they had won the Cup? Not a chance, I told myself. Democracy truly has come to Spain.

Speaking of politics, I was interested to hear the sports commentators state that the joining of the best players from Barcelona and Madrid in Spain's World Cup team had done more for Spanish unity than centuries'-long efforts by soldiers and politicians. I was surprised that no one alluded to Spain's domination of the Netherlands during the 16th and 17th centuries, but I guess the commentators decided to let bygones be bygones.

I am, of course, happy that Spain won. The afternoon's experience, however, revived my suspicions of patriotic, regional, and other affiliative enthusiasms--in myself and in everyone else. And I won't be watching any more sports on TV. It takes too much out of me--my heart was actually beating fast during certain points of the game, and I don't let it do that except for very special reasons.

8 comments :

  1. Wow. Thank God I didn't follow through on Tom's whimsical idea of having you and our Dutch neighbor over to watch the game (actually she was still away)- obviously it couldda gotten ugly;)

    Apparently not everybody has forgotten the history between Spain and the Netherlands...http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/11/the-revenge-of-felipe-ii/

    Congratulations!

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  2. "I concluded that people care less about where you come from than about your ability to share in their daily concerns"

    This is very, very astute. It took me a long time to figure this out.

    And, I suppose, congratulations!

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  3. Elizabeth, what a relief to learn from the link you gave that somebody else thought about the historical meaning of all that orange.

    Bridgett, it took me a long time, too. But it made my life much easier once I did.

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  4. Hmm, I was pulling for Holland to win simply because someone on my twitter and facebook friends lists is from the Netherlands -- and because she sent me some mustard. I'd forgotten you were from Spain. Dang -- I could have been cheering for the winning team!

    Congratulations to your team.

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  5. Although you and Bridget are completely right about the basis of human rapport (put me in the category of still learning that one with "what you do" in the place of "where you are from")I must add that I find where you are from quite fascinating: A large part of what makes your blog - and indeed your company- so compelling is the way in which you weave the scents, music, taste and smell of the Old World into the fabric of the present.

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  6. I have a 19-year-old friend who noted Spain's domination of the Netherlands.

    Oh, what a lovely, multileveled, multicultural post!

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  7. Dona, if I had known, I would have sent you olives.

    Elizabeth, I suspect that "foreignness" is more palatable in writing. And some people--obviously those with livelier minds--can tolerate it better than others.

    Indigo, isn't it great that somebody still takes Western Civ in college? (I assume that's where your cultured friend got the information.)

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  8. It was a great game and I actually wanted both teams to win which they did in a way of course. Spain did outplay NL and they are very good: they remind me of little fast terriers.

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