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Sunday, June 13, 2010

American, not English

I can count the number of Americans I know on the Costa Blanca on the fingers of one hand and still have enough digits left to pick up a tapa. Nevertheless I know a lot of people from England, Scotland, and Ireland and even a few other countries where the native language is English, and I speak English often. Frequently people who are not native English speakers--especially Spaniards--think I am from England, but most English pick up right away on my accent and guess that I am American, or sometimes Canadian or Australian. For the most part I don't mind that my nationality is sometimes mistaken; I am comfortable living as a "global" citizen.

Until I discovered a few days ago that it was England vs. USA in the second day of the World Cup soccer games last night. I don't get too involved in big-time sports, don't follow particular teams, and rarely watch a match. But I thought it would be fun to see how the U.S. team did in this game that hardly existed in the U.S. that I grew up in, but which is finally approaching the status and interest level that it has long had in the rest of the world.

Even though I don't follow soccer, or football as it is known here, I could hardly have escaped the fact that the competition was coming. Every bar and cafe I know is advertising food and drink specials to lure people in to watch the matches on a big screen. Some have even installed new digital TVs on their outside terraces, the easier to accommodate the crowd in the hot summer days. There are now two local watering holes within walking distance of our house; one is a smaller bistro and the other, older one, is much larger and has a sports bar atmosphere, but both offer a minimum of two TV screens. Friday I noticed that bunting and flags of all the nations had begun to adorn the outside of each establishment. By Saturday morning one of them was sporting a huge two-meter by three-meter flag proclaiming ENGLAND at its front entrance.

And suddenly I realized that I might just not want to watch the England vs. USA game starting at 8:30 on Saturday evening in a crowded bar surrounded by Englishmen.

So began a confusing trip through TV and Internet listings, trying to find who might be televising the game live. Danish TV is carrying all the World Cup games live, but they sent word weeks ago that they were unable to get rights to send it to receivers outside Denmark, so even though we pay the same license fee as viewers in Denmark do, we are not able to get one of the most popular series of programs this year. We checked the Spanish newspapers--no indication that this game was being telecast, and despite two satellite dishes on the top of our house, we don't get many Spanish stations anyway. So commenced my second trip through all the stations on the remote control... I had done this just once before, when we first installed the system.  This time it took the better part of an hour to click through from 001 to something over 300 stations. Early on (019) I found a German station that was doing a lot of pre-game analysis and showed a lot of apparently real-time activity--perhaps they would continue and not cut it off just when the game started? Maybe, but I don't understand much German, so I kept clicking away. And clicking, and clicking... We have an awful lot of German stations, and some Italian, and French, and more German, and lots of erotic stations in all languages, and several showing old American series, dubbed in Spanish and German.

I never came up with a better station than 019, the German one. They did carry the game live. It was an interesting game, even though I lost most of the play-by-play (in German). At half-time I found the Soccernet site on ESPN, which was texting a running commentary (in English), and it's still there now with a "gamecast."

I read today that it had been 60 years since the U.S. and England played in a World Cup soccer match (and we won then), so I don't think I have to worry that we will be playing against England again this year. That means that it should be safe to go to one of the local bars to watch the remaining matches in which USA participates, and Denmark, and Spain. And even England.