(What is valuable/what matters)
Allez les Bleus, and all that jazz
Yesterday saw the finals of the 2013 Men’s Junior World Championships in Handball. I had never seen handball before, and for those of you who haven’t seen it yet, it is a super exciting sport. You should check it out sometime.
But what made this tournament all the more precious was the fans. All the athletes in the competition were either 20 or 21 years old, so their parents (with brothers and sisters…and in some cases grandparents…in tow) made up the bulk of their fan base. (At least, this was true for all the teams except Bosnia, whose fans had the shortest distance to travel. Anybody could go cheer them on. Even random American university students.)
The Dutch probably had the most interesting fan base. 22 people strong, and every single one of them wearing an all-too-bright shade of orange. Like they were warning you about nearby construction. One even had a bright orange sequined cowboy hat. Hee haw! These fans were my favorite just based on their total enthusiasm for the team, even when the Netherlands was already ousted from the tournament and playing mere placement games. They brought airhorns and whistles and sirens…and did not take one moment’s rest from using them. When other people in the stands, the press, and even the boys who mopped up the sweat on the court asked the Dutch to be less loud (particularly with the airhorns), the Dutch refused, because they would not stop cheering for their team. That may seem rude, but in their defense, they did bring a bag of cottonballs to pass out to people so they could stuff them in their ears. I think, though, that just gave the Dutch the permission they needed to be even louder. They were fabulous. And you could tell at the end of the game that their boys loved them for it.
The Swedes and the Spaniards, who both had a fair distance to travel, showed up in even greater numbers for the final match. They each had chants and cheers, flags and…fans (because dang was it hot). Every goal and every save was greeted with wild applause. When one particular team was ahead, and the other team called a timeout, the first team’s entire section would stand up and clap for the duration. And if the ref made a…we’ll say “questionable”…call, the fans were all over it. I heard a lot of Swedish that was peppered with more than one English “fuck you.” The game itself was intense…definitely the most intense game of the tournament. The fans, in response, were also intense. But once it was all over, both fans were ecstatic. The Swedes because they had won, and the Spaniards because they had almost won. Spain may have lost, but you could not tell that by their fans. Their fans continued to chant and jump and generally let them know that the boys had not let them down. Their fans still supported them.
The fan base that I came into closest contact with was the French, thanks to Camille. France played in the bronze-medal game, but they were one of the last teams to qualify, and therefore one of the last teams expected to medal. They only had four fans with them. So Camille, Katie, and I literally almost doubled their fan base. That kind of made it better…like we were somehow closer to them. I learned how to shout “Allez les Bleus!” and “De-fense!” (with a French accent). I cheered after every single goal. They were so grateful, that one man shook each of our hands afterwards and said, “Merci.” The team was so happy after their victory that the tried to get the security guard to allow the (clearly) team mom onto the court to join them in the team victory pictures. When security refused, the team jumped over the boards to get their picture taken in the stands with her. Aww…you always gotta love a team mom and her never-ending support.
Because that is what is important…the never-ending support of your family and friends. My family and friends have always been there for me, and I know I would not have made it through this little Bosnian adventure without them. I miss them a lot, and I can’t wait to get back to them.
p.s. In the same vein as this post, I’m attaching the link to my favorite Superbowl commercial ever. Enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0qZYqdsYAg