Nations tend to go ape upon winning the World Cup (soccer/football variety), so one can forgive Germans for leaving their shells to celebrate the recent event in Rio de Janeiro. Such emotion is usually displayed only at Fasching, when all inhibitions are legally cast aside.
Hundreds of thousands flocked to Berlin to welcome the team, which arrived on a specially painted Lufthansa 747 and then progressed in a foot-faced procession—atop a specially designed Mercedes truck—to the Brandenburg Gate, where the crowd had been waiting as long as 8 hours to ensure a good spot. That merely see—from a distance—some young men that are able to kick a ball better than most. The rest of the nation remained glued to a television, despite the two hour delay in arrival. (A baggage cart collided with the plane at Rio airport, perhaps as revenge for the Brazil-Germany debacle.) Football/soccer unites nations, unlike the divisions caused by football/baseball/basketball in the United States, which do not have national teams.
For years—decades even—Germans feared showing too much exuberance and never displayed the flag outside official buildings. Lately, the (ugly) red/black/gold are seen everywhere, including being worn as a cape. Everything American was copied, except public-display-of-affection for the national flag: that has soccer/football to thank for its growth.
Winning is great and adulation is gratifying, but now the pressure is on to perform equally well at the upcoming (2016) European Championship and the next World Cup competition (2018). And, all these guys start playing for their respective professional clubs soon, where no one cares about nationality. There is never any rest for the weary in the world of top level football/soccer.
Everyone--except American baseball fanatics--understands the absurdity and arrogance of calling a national championship involving only teams from the United States the World Series.
Not to be outdone, he English have equally stupid titles. The top football/soccer league is called the Premier League or Premiership (with appended sponsor’s name). What would be called Second Division in sensible countries is called The Championship. It cannot be called the Champions League, because that a name belonging to the European Football Association (UEFA) and is battled out between the top five clubs of all member nations. Of course, an English team must be in the premier league, not the championship, to be eligible of the champion’s league. Go figure...
One aspect of the Olympic Games that I find admirable is the opportunity for young people to display their talent and to excel. Stars of the Sochi Games have been a young Russian figure skater or a Swiss hockey player or an American skier.
I always root for the young ones, because they challenge experience and prove that talent is all you need. They are the ultimate underdogs. Regardless of how well the others did, I wanted the young Russian girl to win a medal and was saddened when she fell.
I want to re-visit two statements that I have made in the past. First, most are aware that only a stupid person never changes his or her mind. Of course, stupid people do not understand or are not aware of this wisdom. Second, I have pointed out that women should not play ice hockey.
I am not admitting to either stupidity or changing my mind, but I do want to say something positive about women’s hockey. I still believe that this is not a sport for “girls”, but I have been impressed by the skating and stick-handling skills of the players I’ve seen at the Sochi Games. I enjoy watching the games, because they remind me of good college hockey of my youth. I do not like the overly physical state of the game at the professional level, so the more technical style of the women’s game, where body checking is not allowed, is far more pleasing. This is not unlike my opinion about women’s soccer.
The Canada-USA game was excellent hockey. Either team could have won. This was a preview of the (expected) final match-up.
One does not often hear or utter the word curling, when it is not spelled differently and referring to a procedure for women’s hair. The few times one does hear the word are usually in or around the Olympic Games. Most comments are disparaging. The sport receives little attention, although I did read an article stating that this sport was the easiest path to Olympic participation.
I wish to go against popular sentiment. I think curling is a challenging sport. The fact that all ages can participate adds to the appeal. Curling is more difficult than bowling, which is a very popular past time. I do not know the history of curling, but I would guess that it was a winter alternative to lawn bowling so popular in the British Empire. I would also guess that the game was invented in Canada, which had the needed ingredients: ice and stones. At some point, someone--perhaps a chemistry student--figured out that rubbing the ice made the stones slide faster.
As I said, curling takes more skill than bowling. And, people must be able to stand on one foot, while sliding on the other. Bowling also has teams, but the players never help one another. All members of a curling team must pitch in--or rub--with every toss...or is it a slide? A bowling ball is hurled down the lane, only to crash against the end wall. In contrast, a curling stone must be aimed on a slippery surface and must stop at a particular spot. One must deal with the other team’s stones and their attempts to knock yours out of play. Bowlers merely sit and watch competitors hurl balls down the lane without having any role in aiding or hindering the effort.
In conclusion, I suggest that all nay-sayers give curling a chance. This sport requires much, much more skill than luge. Duh!
As a contrast to the flood of media picking on Sochi and the Russians, I try to be positive. Staging the Olympic Games is not easy. Any city can be criticized, if one looks at the back streets. Atlanta was the pits, in my opinion, but I do not recall much nitpicking.
Anyways, I must be negative, not about the Olympic Games, but rather about one “sport”. Or, in my opinion, not a sport. I do not think doing something I did as a child, but within walls, can be classed a sport. Sitting on a sled and riding down a chute does not take the talent required for, say, mogul skiing or figure skating or hockey. Compare luge to ice hockey. It doesn’t hold water. It’s not a sport.
At the fitness studio, I thought about what I was doing: lifting weights. I do this regularly to stay in shape, something I have been doing since my first attempts at sport. Because I can no longer find 19 other guys to play lacrosse or 11 to play hockey, not that this is possible where I live, I am reduced to individual exercise. That’s better than nothing.
Today, I wondered what someone from the past, who labored all day, every day to survive, would think of humans exercising muscles for fun or health or to keep busy or for whatever reason. A visit to a fitness studio would astound the visitor, although the scantily clad women would surely appeal to his baser instincts.
The basic animal activity of muscle movement has evolved a long way...
I miss the old days. There was a time when carefully casted men--or, especially, women--did not stick a microphone in the face of an athlete or coach, who has just endured a competition, and ask inane questions. Always the same stupid questions. I do not know how those facing the inquisition refrain from belting the questioner. It must be the amount of money they make and the hours of PR training they receive. Of course, few are articulate, so the response are usually as lame as the questions. Sport is best enjoyed, if one must watch, with volume muted and the television shut off at the closing whistle.
For new visitors, occasional visitors that missed appropriate comments, and frequent visitors that do not have a firm grasp of the obvious, I confess to not having much interest in watching other people compete at sport. I have been active at various forms of sport--changing as I became older, mostly because I could not find ice or 11 other interested parties or twenty needed to make up opposing teams--for most of my life and never been much of a spectator, either in a stadium or in front of a television.
As young boy, I often fell asleep listening to baseball on the radio. That habit caused my mother to buy my first clock radio, because she quickly tired of climbing the stairs each night to switch off the bloody thing. I recall listening occasionally to football games, when I was at boarding school. Television first entered the equation in my sophomore year of college, when I joined a fraternity. At my college, fraternities were the preferred alternative for men’s dining and not joined for the “Greek” experience. The fraternity house had a television in the main room, which attracted most members on Saturday and Sunday afternoons for sports programs. I preferred to study, read, or explore the countryside. I competed in three team sports at boarding school and college, which did not foster a desire to watch others compete. I gain no vicarious pleasure from watching others do what I cannot or do not wish to do (none of my favorite sports were televised in those days).
These thoughts passed through my mind as I watched the final game of the European soccer/football competition for women, played by Germany and Norway. I occasionally watch women’s soccer/football, because I find it a purer form of the game, played at about the tempo of the game of my day. The men’s game has become too intense and often to physical. As so often in the past (ie. the last eight competitions!) the German women won. Despite this unequaled record (as far as I know) in sport, the German women’s soccer/football team gets no respect...from few besides me.
I am not interested in basketball. I dislike it and find the game silly.
This is a game designed over hundred years ago, when the average height was less than today and a game designed for children. That game is “played” today by men over seven feet, with giants cramming a ball through a hoop designed to be thrown at by smaller men and children.
That said, I do not understand the excitement about teams of professional players enrolled in colleges competing for bragging rights for excelling at something designed for children.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.