June 9, 2006

It Has Begun

This is lunch.

This is lunch with my husband.

Unless you live under a rock (or maybe in the United States) you are probably well aware that The World Cup began today. Mind you now, the above picture was taken months ago, and it wasn't even a major game -- it might not even have been a Brazilian team playing. Actually it might not have even been a game at all, and only a recap of the goals. But none the less, I ate lunch in silence looking at the back of C's head, as I do anytime there is a TV in any proximity because every TV at any hour of the day here somehow manages to be showing football (soccer to us gringos).

So you can only imagine what the atmosphere is like here. Every store, house, street, lamp pole, bus, car, baby stroller and dog is decked out in the yellow and green colors of the Brazilian flag in such an extreme display of patriotic pride that it makes the United States’ post 9/11 flag touting activities look quite tepid. The whole country will pretty much shut down till the madness is over. The days that Brazil plays are de facto national holidays – schools and business close and the only thing that stays open are the bars that have TV’s (bars that don’t have TV’s close and the owners will go down the street to watch the game at their competitors bar.)

In honor of the World Cup C got our house wired with cable TV for the first time since we’ve been married. (Wow! 54 channels of nonsense that I’ve been sorely lacking in all these years – I can hardly take my eyes off of it! There is even one channel that every time I’ve turned it on is showing a re-run of the Gilmore Girls dubbed in Portuguese!)

And now that the games have begun C is complaining:

C: You are not going to believe what the FIFA officials have done this time.

Me: What? Rigged it so Germany will win?

C: No! They’ve scheduled all the games so that there aren’t ever going to be two games overlapping. That way they can broadcast them all in real time.

Me: And that’s bad because…?

C: Because I’m going to have to watch them all now! I’m not going to get anything done all month! I can’t believe it.

By the way, he just came into the apartment from running Geraldina to the bus stop didn’t even say hello and went straight upstairs to the TV. Today during lunch with his aunt he left the TV on and every time he heard a goal he lept up the stairs two at a time to see what happened (it was Germany and Costa Rica playing.)

But in a way Brazilians really do have the right to go and get all crazy excited. They do dominate the game, and dominate it beautifully. It’s really hard to hate Brazil when it comes to football (unlike England or Germany) because they play it (and watch it) with such unadulterated joy. There was a really
great article in the NY Times last weekend about Ronaldinho, the grinning, fleet-footed crown prince of Brazilian football. The article described the brilliance of the Brazilian style as being attributed to their “magic of invention”. The sheer strength and skill that teams like England and Germany have isn’t all that different than Brazil. But there is something very fresh, warm and explosively heartfelt about the way Brazil plays that makes the sullen faced Europeans look like someone shoved a brick of ice down their pants before sending them out on to the field.

Even I, who could care less about nearly any sport, have to admit that the Brazilian game is a beautiful thing to watch. With all their fancy ballet meets samba footwork, and their happy go lucky “we’re not playing this for victory, just for the fun of it” attitudes, it usually ends up looking like they piss their competitors off just by having such a good time. And the happiness that the game (especially in this upcoming month) gives to millions of hard working people here in this struggling, suffering country, is well deserved. So, if there’s an excitement in the air, and every one on the street is buzzing about looking like they might break out it some samba steps, soccer cheers or smother you with a big bear hug at any moment, well, I guess I can understand it. And maybe even get into it (a little...)

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