Bad Soccer Fan
How badly am I cheering for Spain to win the World Cup tonight?
I don’t mean that I want it a whole heckuva lot, though I do. I mean I cheer badly. I’m a terrible, neophyte soccer fan. When I see what looks like an obvious foul, I reach for an imaginary flag and throw it violently, much to the curiosity of my Spanish friends. Unfamiliar with soccer’s vocabulary, I substitute hockey’s.
“Nice centering pass!”
“We gotta get the ball into the attack zone!”
“Their neutral zone trap is killing us!”
I’m pretty sure there is no neutral zone in soccer, or, indeed, any where other than hockey and the Federation/Romulan border.
Nevertheless, I give it my best despite my ignorance. My brother, Vagabond Prime, was in Rome during Italy’s World Cup run in 206, and has told me stories, oh such enticing stories, of the bacchanalia that followed. I can only hope Madrid proves to be one-tenth as debauched.
I watch the Spain/Germany game at my favorite bar, which is much les crowded then I had expected, and realize almost everyone is probably watching the game at home, with the windows closed, hands clasped in prayer, on a 57” flat screen TV with perfect surround sound. Still, there’s a smattering of Madrilenos, not merely flying the exuberant colors of “La Passion Roja” but actually wearing face paint.
“Have you ever seen sports fans wear face paint to watch a game in a bar?” my new American friend asks me. I confess that I don’t think I have. Making friends with fellow English speakers is about as easy as getting ripped off by a Budapest cab driver. Everyone’s so desperate to talk to someone in their own language you only need to ask them where they’re from and the conversation naturally takes off from there.
I run into my old friend Fran, who shows up only after Spain’s thrilling victory, and I’m surprised he remembers me from the year before. But he does, and I introduce to him to the two Americans and Finn I’ve been talking to. Fran, in turn, introduces me to two pretty girls, and I suddenly remember with alacrity that Fran is the Best Human Being in the World. Sadly, after an inejoyable two hours discussing the benefits of Las Vegas, the defects of Israeli drivers, and the beauty of Greek beaches, I actually find myself saying the sentence “Sorry ladies, but I’ve still got work to do tonight,” at which point my libido screams at me in disgust, threatening to leave and never come back.
Anyway. It’s Sunday night, and I’m about to go out to the bar. True, I’ve got classes in the morning and work in the afternoon, and staying up drinking until 3am to party in the streets with Madrilenos is probably the last thing I should be contemplating right now. But if Spain wins, it’s a risk I’m willing to take. God willing they will, and I’ll be up until 4am partying, at which point I’ll likely score so badly on my Spanish placement test they’ll throw me in with the kindergarteners (or perhaps, in my hungover state, I’ll become insanely fluent) and my client will fire me. But I doubt I’ll ever look back on either of those possible outcomes with nearly as much regret. This is Madrid, and it has a certain corrosive effect on my work ethic, while having a fantastic effect on my “Live an Excellent Life” ethic.