Ber-zil

I just got back from a short walk down Friedrichstr. and the whole area is a sea of yellow and green. Which prompts a question: can these people all be Brazilian?

I’d imagine that a lot of them are, just because I imagine that airlines did cheap charter flights and travel agencies put together flight-hotel-ticket packages, and although there’s plenty of poverty in Brazil, it’s not exactly a Third World country. Proof positive comes from the amount of Portugese being spoken (I think that’s what it is; it’s not a language I’m terribly familiar with, but it sounds kind of like Spanish, which I am familiar with) on the street.

But I’d also imagine that a good number aren’t; they’re German. The reason? Brazil kept Germany from the championship last time.

This was the fulfillment of an awful lot of Germans’ dreams. Two World Cups ago, I cooked hamburgers for a friend who’d invited a number of his friends and their wives over to watch a game and eat dinner afterwards, and I asked him who he was rooting for, naively enough. “Well, nobody in particular,” he said, “although I think what everyone here agrees on is that Germany should lose. It’s just not healthy if they win. The coach is a pretty low-down right-wing type, and so are a lot of the guys on the team. Kohl’s been talking the team up a lot, and you know what I think of him. Winning the WM would just encourage Germany’s worst nationalistic, right-wing tendencies, and there’s enough of that going around here at the moment.”

That was eight years ago, and the coach has changed to a rather New Age-y guy who lives in America, but coincidentally enough, the same political party is back in power, although the faction Frau Merkel represents is far from the reactionary, blockheaded, (aw, go ahead, say it!) Bavarian wing of the party. Furthermore, I think the current nationalisms out there, including the American flavor, have been sufficient to quell all but the most recalcitrant German stirrings — or at least suppress them.

But one way that gets done is by actual Germans being anti-German. And one healthy, sportsmanlike way to express that is to cheer on the team which beat Germany last time. (Oh, and it’s no problem urging anyone on to beat Croatia, where crypto-fascist elements are right up on the surface, with war veterans who fought with the Nazis getting a much higher pension than those who fought with the resistance, and one or two out-of-the-closet fascist parties standing in every election). It’s that German self-loathing, which, I have to say, is at least in part therapeutic and probably commendable to some degree, which is causing people to wear all that yellow and green. Not to mention joining some of the world’s stiffest samba schools and turning caipirinhas into a long-lasting fad.

And boy, are those Brazilians friendly, I thought, as I returned home. Look you straight in the face and smile these big smiles… And it wasn’t until I took my hat off and noticed that it was the one I bought from some weird Japanese artist at the Yokohama Biennale in 2001 that I realized it was…yellow and green.

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WM Gripe of the Day: Attention all Berlin bars, kneipes, restaurants, hotels, dives, temporary spaces, church gardens, outdoor wide-screens, and so on. You do not have WM LIVE, as you advertise. You have it on television. It would be a very good idea for you to remember the distinction between television and LIVE. The only place that has WM LIVE is the stadium, where the little men down on the field are, as they play, living. That’s what LIVE means. Thank you for your prompt attention to this.

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