Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving in Spain: trout on the menu

Grandpa Fred Breiner, with ever-present cigar. Richie, Danny, Mickey, and cousin Bobby Marcus. Maybe 1949.
PAMPLONA, Spain -- I do miss Thanksgiving. It is the best American holiday with the best memories for me. This year is the ninth that I have been outside the country. Again it is a work day -- department meeting, then coffee with a colleague who specializes in German philosophy and collects news clips about Bridget for me. Then grading 18 final projects from 75 students. Cindy has plans for trout for dinner.

Thanksgiving 1961, Bart Starr and Packers vs. Lions, Press-Gazette Archive
On Thanksgiving Day in 2006 I gave a lecture at the public university in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and walked out into the tropical heat and humidity, feeling really homesick. Along one of the main roads, the lame Santa Claus displays set against an inappropriate cultural background poisoned any warm feelings of nostalgia. Depressing, really, especially there, where the poor are really poor and the middle class lives in walled communities.

What I really needed to pick me up was a dose of the Lions vs. the Packers. For some reason, no one in Santa Cruz cares about that game. No TV, no John Madden, no family. If I had been at the Kuhns' in Columbus, we would have gone over to the neighbors' yard and played some pickup hoops in the driveway. Or in Cleveland, maybe a Turkey Trot or some hoops.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Spanish soccer game is 6 times bigger than the Super Bowl

Luis Suarez scores for Barcelona in Saturday night's clásico. ESPN photo
Cindy and I went to the closest neighborhood bar on Saturday night to do what most of the rest of Spain was doing, which was watching the two best soccer teams in Spain duke it out.

Barcelona whomped Real Madrid, 4-0, in what was supposed to be a close match, but that was almost beside the point.

Ronaldo and Real Madrid had a rough night. Getty Images via BBC
Barcelona and Real Madrid were playing a regular season game--they play twice, home and home--so it was not a playoff or final or anything special.

But their matches--which have so much history and drama that they are referred to as clásicos--regularly draw hundreds of millions of TV viewers.

First, the teams are rich and successful. Forbes ranks Barcelona and Real Madrid as the two most valuable sports franchises in the world. The BBC last year recounted the history of the 200-plus clásicos, and gave a sense of why they deserve the designation as classics. Similar to the Patriots-Giants or Red Sox-Yankees rivalries, but bigger.