Friday, February 5, 2010

Wanderlust interrupted

Divided we fall, united we party in the streets

There's no doubt that we, as Americans, are having difficulty finding a common ground these days. Health care reform, multiple wars in the Middle East, the Twilight phenomenon and the viability of Sarah Palin as a member of the human race—these are all in part responsible for rending apart the fabric of our society.

However, perhaps most indicative of our nation's failure to congeal like cheese on a leftover pizza is sports.

Case in point: This Sunday, the residents of two cities will live and die by each penalty flag, interception and thoroughly overwrought first-down celebration dance (this also applies to hardcore gambles, though in a much more literal sense). The rest of the country will tune in to the Super Bowl because there might be some funny commercials and most will likely root for the redemption of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and because Peyton Manning has about as much charisma as Tiger Woods before he lent a driver to his wife.

But the truth is no one really cares—in a week, the Olympics will have replaced football in the national consciousness, and memories of the Super Bowl will disappear quicker than Phoebe Cates (That Girl from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." What happened to her?).

And, sadly, even the Olympics doesn't have the power to draw us together. Sure, for a couple of weeks we are captured by the stories of our underdog ski jumpers and sports where people use high-tech sleds to go really fast, but how can we be expected to remember who won the biathlon when March Madness is about to begin?

JFK was wrong. In addition to fear itself, I'm also afraid that I'll never get to experience a Miracle on Ice moment. I'm afraid we'll never again witness our country standing unified in celebration after vanquishing an opponent in an event that transcends mere sport.

In 2006, I happened to be in Germany, host to the World Cup of soccer that year. Although I didn't manage to get to any games, that was probably for the best because the games brought the entire country to a standstill. And when the home team won, including a shootout victory over Argentina in the quarterfinals, there was not a person left in a house or office as the streets of every city overflowed with euphoric and spontaneous celebration.

Whereas U.S. cities choose to celebrate important victories with riots and the occasional death, the Germans, well known for their sentimentality and overt expressions of emotion, were satisfied with hugging strangers and dancing to honking car horns.

Now, granted, the U.S. is roughly the size of the entire European continent, which contains as many countries as we have states, so it's unfair to assume that our entire population would become all consumed with a single athletic pursuit.

Yet at the same time, it would be hard to say that an Alaskan ice fisherman has less in common with an octogenarian living on a Florida golf course than a Latvian factory worker does with a club-hopping Spaniard in Ibiza.

So perhaps for the good of the nation during this tumultuous time, we need to dispose of a few sports (Gasp! He must be a Commie!) and take our athletic prowess outside of our boundaries to the international stage.

And what perfect timing with the 2010 World Cup around the corner.

Just imagine LeBron James leaping from midfield to the 18-yard box for a devastating header, Tom Brady coolly setting up a play from midfield without having to worry about a 350-pound tackle trying to rip his head off, or Mike Tyson standing in goal simply scaring waifish Europeans into missing the net.

Heed my advice and We will be The People once more. Besides, it's a great excuse to get out of work.

Jon Duval is a staff writer for the Idaho Mountain Express.

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