Sunday, June 11, 2006
Olé, Ola, Allez
In honor of the World Cup, a story about my mother:
Our family has always been into sports. I remember watching tennis when we lived in France. (Aside: when I asked my father about the scoring, in time-honored paternal fashion, he told me to figure it out. I’m sure I wasn’t the first 5 year old to not be able to decipher “love-15-30-40” not to mention deuce, add-in, add-out, tiebreakers, etc. Sometimes, Pops, you should explain what’s going on.) After we moved to the U.S., we watched (American) football and were solid Redskins fans. At some point while I was in college, Mom turned into a raging basketball fan (but that’s a story for another day.)
All the kids in my family started playing soccer at a young age. Saturday morning games were a large part of my childhood. The parents thronging the sidelines reflected one of my favorite aspects of D.C. – it’s cultural and linguistic diversity. Cantonese, Bahasa Indonesia, Hindi, a smattering of West African languages, Portuguese, Spanish, French – I’ve heard it all at youth soccer games. (I remember listening to an Argentinean dad and realizing that he was yelling at his son in a language other than Spanish. When I asked him about he said “Yes, I’m speaking Italian – that’s where our family moved from.” For some reason, this blew my mind – I guess I just assumed, based on our family, that people moved to English speaking countries.)
The year was 1994 – World Cup Fever was sweeping the U.S. (More accurately, it was sweeping a certain segment of the American population.) This coincided with what was probably the nadir of my relationship with my parents. They just didn’t know what to do with me and were trying to clamp down tighter and tighter, and I was reacting (predictably) unfavorably. Thankfully, our family was able to agree on watching soccer games.
We had watched most of the Round of 16, and we were all arrayed in our preferred seats. The final was between Brazil and Italy. I’ve been a Brazilian soccer fan for a long time, so I was perturbed that my mother was supporting Italy. When asked why, she said (try and follow the logic), “Roberto Baggio is a Buddhist, and that’s sort of like being Hindu.” Not surprisingly, I pointed out that the rest of the Italian team was most likely Roman Catholic. She said, “Still – one is better than none. And I’m sure the Brazilian team is all Christian.”
One is better than none, indeed.