Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Are You Ready For Some Futbol?

Remember that scene in Gladiator when they are sitting behind the gates preparing to go out into the arena? How the sound of hundreds of voices created an incoherent roar that seemed to promise some future misfortune? Two weeks ago I found myself in a Paris metro station hearing that exact noise from the street above me. And like the gladiators, I had no choice but to go out into it.

But alas, I was not bound for death or glory. Rather I needed to get to an apartment which happened to be behind a crowd of Irish football hooligans 500 strong beating on anything that passed them by. They were in town to watch a playoff game and decided to start the party 22 hours early. Take note Sunday morning tailgaters- that's real dedication!

However, it's a dedication that I can't comprehend. What possesses an adult to paint their face, wear a leprechaun hat and a flag as a cape, and spend the entire night singing completely out of key at the top of their lungs in the middle of a street littered with broken bottles (besides the obvious answer of alcohol)? Is the act of watching a few people kicking a ball around on the grass worth this much effort?

Apparently in every country but America, it is. Round here, most suburban kids play soccer for about 2 years and then forget the sport exists. Which is why we seem to have a glut of "soccer moms" but few soccer fans beyond a certain age. Most everywhere else though, soccer (or as it is so confusingly called by 98% of the world: "football") is like religion.

And thanks to a pretty boy (who could break my bones like chalk) and his wife, America started to get the spirit as well. But it hasn't quite caught on yet in a major way. We still prefer the "run two feet and fall down" version of the sport. Which is fine seeing as that game has its own overly obsessive brand of face painting, cheer singing, heavy drinking, viking horn/cheese hat wearing, hooligan. And they generally are polite enough to do all that in a parking lot early in the afternoon as opposed to yelling under your window until 5 AM. So that's a plus.

posted by jw