Monday, June 18, 2007

365 Days Later

Ahh, just a year ago we were drinking our days away in Deutschland, cheering on the stars and stripes in what amounted to a disappointing finish to the 2006 World Cup. Looking back on the trip, I am very grateful that I kept this blog as I probably would have lost so many of those memories to the drunken abysses that formed in my brain. All told, I spent just over four weeks on the road in three countries with many of my closest friends in tow. Along the way, we saw familiar faces and made new friends that will be involved in the shenanigans to come.

I know that I promised to update this blog with a reflection of my experience. I apologize for not doing it sooner, but four weeks of heavy drinking will generally leave you with a mean hangover, and I'm pretty sure mine lifted sometime last weekend after I saw the US defeat Panama in the 2007 Gold Cup Quarterfinals. Some might think that looking back on a trip like this would leave me with little worthwhile reflection given all of the tomfoolery that accompanies soccer and beer.

I disagree.

Through the bier-fueled lenses that focused my eyes, I saw the world come together to celebrate the sport that the world loves, during a time in which the world is as divided as it ever has been, at least if you're an American. I conversed with Dutch, Germans, Croatians, Swedes, Iraqis, Iraqi-Swedes, Persians, English, Trinidadi and Tobagoans, Argentinians, Brazilians, Ghanaians, Ukrainians, Ivorians, Irish, Spanish, Polish, Serbians, Czechs, Italians, Icelandicans, French, Aussies, Koreans, Canadians, Mexicans, Ticos, Left Coasters, Southerners, people from Jersey and even some Texans. The only people that I truly argued with were the French, and one thing is clear, the world hates the French more than they hate Americans.

I also came to know Germany. The Deutsche Bahn allowed us to criss-cross our way across the country to visit Dusseldorf, Gelsenkirchen, Berlin, Mainz, Kaiserslautern, Stuttgart, Munich, Nuremburg, Cologne, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Dortmund. One of the highlights of the trip was watching the Mannschaft's performance transform the prevailing German attitude from one of cynicism and unnatural self-loathing into pride and hope. A bitterly divided people united and proudly supported their national team with Germans from all walks of life singing and chanting to help Klinsi's boys to their surprise semifinal finish. The band, Sportfreunde Stiller, dominated the airwaves with their hit: '54, '74, '90, 2006 - which has now been changed to '54, '74, '90, 2010.

In Korea in 2002, the US Supporters section numbered up to 1000 people per match. In Germany, we had at least 5,000 people urging the Red, White and Blue on at each match. While the US bhoys appeared to regress in their capabilities shown in 2002, Sam's Army certainly did not. From the massive rally greeting passengers as they exited the DB station in Gelsenkirchen, to the city-encompassing streetfest in Kaiserslautern, to the march into the stadium in Nurmeburg, my fellow Americans demonstrated that they love soccer, beer and being loud as all hell - in other words, they are just like me.

I would be remiss if I did not spend a second waxing poetic on the actual play of the World Cup. As is typical of any big tournament, we saw brilliant performances (Argentina, Zidane against Brazil, Germany's impressive and youthful run, Luis Figo playing like the Luis Figo of 2001 and the impenetrable Italian defense), complete failures (the USA, Brazil, Zidane against Italy, and the officiating), several amazing goals (starting with Philip Lahm's opener, the crackers from Frings and Rosicky, the looping upper-90s from Joe Cole and Maxi Rodriquez, and the brilliant team goal scored by Cambiasso), the emergence of Lionel Messi, Lukas Podolski and Bastian Schweinsteiger, and who will ever forget Italy's late win over Germany in the semifinal and Zidane's moment of lunacy in the Final.

In all, the highlights of the 2006 World Cup trip for me were:
  • German people and German Bier.

  • Irish Car Bombs. 3 car bombs, no, make that 5 car bombs, i mean 8, fuck it, 15 car bombs - This interchange occurred in Nuremburg, between myself and the bartender at O'Shea's. I looked around and saw more and more friends and realized that we all needed car bombs. Getting to go on a trip like this was pretty special, but getting to do it with my closest friends made it that much more so.

  • Red Hot Chili Peppers in the backwoods of Berlin.

  • Schlemmer Pavillion.

  • Not working. The trip started out with a bang as I left my old firm. What a great feeling to be free from the trappings of reality for four weeks. The complete lack of responsibility let me focus on the two most important things at a World Cup - partying and soccer.
Oh yeah, I also promised pictures. Check them out here:

1 comment:

WalkOn said...

Awesome pics, good to relive all those great memories.

John Clem