(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.