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Breaking Borders by Adhering to Them

For anyone watching any of the Euro 2008 Cup, I don’t need to explain how exciting some of the games have been. From Turkey’s monumental upset over the Czechs, Croatia’s win over Germany, or the Russian ouster of the Dutch in the quarterfinals, the tournament has been compelling. I really don’t know what it is about international football (referred to as ‘soccer’ from here on out. Sorry, old habits…), but I love it. I have great memories of watching World Cup play since Maradona’s Hand of God, but this particular Euro Cup has been amazing, despite England’s embarrassing absence. With no team to root for outright, I’ve been able to just sit back and watch, celebrating good play and pulling for the underdog.

Photo courtesy of IgoUgo member onesundaymorning

Americans are great sports fans. We’re rabid and loyal, though also demanding and, at the risk of sounding contradictory, fickle at times. Those expectations are often raised by exorbitant salaries for underperforming players. After all, who wants to pay eight bucks for bad beer to watch star players strike out, miss the net, or ride the bench? That is not to say that European soccer stars aren’t overpaid or spoiled. In fact, one of my major qualms with soccer is the preponderance of flops, dives, and anguished faces that I hope I wouldn’t make if I were shot, let alone kicked in the shin. I digress wildly.

What is so fascinating about international play, and Euro Cup play in particular, is the vehemence with which fans support their sides, and how crestfallen they appear when things go badly. I love to see the fans in the stands, decked out in flags and colors, faces painted, arms linked, voices raised in unison. It is something that is simply not done here. Well, in particularly tense situations during football season, my brothers and I will link hands or arms before a big play and, if the Giants had lost Superbowl XLII—which they didn’t, they beat the then-undefeated Patriots—I probably would have stayed indoors for days.

The point—there’s a point!?—is that while our state and city rivalries are intense, we have trouble appreciating the vast cultural differences that exist within Europe. Sure, Boston and New York are big rivalries, but the history is a bit different. I was in a pub watching the Poland-Germany game when I realized what was at stake for the folks at the bar, in their scarves of red and white or red, yellow, and black, who were screaming at every crossing pass. I’d hate to think that Americans have no national pride, and I suppose it could be shown in ways other than spectator sports, but it is amazing to see countries galvanize with something as simple as a 90-minute game.

Since not everything in the world is as neat as the manicured fields on which the matches are being played, it’s nice to know that an entire people can be excited and happy about something. And for those of us not directly affected, it’s still pretty fun to watch.

charlie_davidson

My name: Charlie Davidson

How I earn my keep: Writing and editing for IgoUgo.com.

First thing I do in a new place: Lace up the shoes, go for a run or a long walk, and find out what the best local beer is.

Best meal I've had while traveling: I was in Basel, Switzerland, with my family and we drove to Germany one night for their famous white asparagus. It cut like meat, but was tender and sweet. Accompanied by homemade condiments and some German lager, it's an easy way to eat your veggies.

Greatest travel lesson learned: Keep your eyes and mind open, avoid the beaten path, and when in doubt, smile.

When I'm not traveling, I'm: Playing any sport I can.

Travel ambitions: To visit all 7 continents in one continuous trip.

Who I am: An obsessed athlete. I'll try any sport there is. I picked up hockey at age 8, lacrosse at 13, squash at 18, Aussie Rules Football at 20, and marathon running at 23. Now, I do them all. I've also played cricket and rugby, football and baseball, and even some sport called soccer. No sport is too obscure. However, I don't think I'd cut it as a jockey.

Favorite way to get around: Either walking or running is the best way to see the sights, especially the ones you weren't necessarily looking for.

Fondest travel memory: All of them!

Favorite place on earth: Home is a big town on a small island. No matter what ends of the Earth I reach, I always come back to New York.

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