I want my Euro-football friends to know I haven’t forgotten about you. I have been writing a little everyday about my wonderful time in Baden – Württemberg . So far I’ve written just over 7,000 words, but am picking up the pace as I’m getting back into my writing rhythm.
I’ve been back in the US a month today, but still miss Germany everyday. Here is an excerpt from the introduction. I hope you like it.
…I’m aware that I’m over my head today, but also of the teams’ expectation of me. This isn’t the time to show doubt in my ability to do this job. We’re beginning the team offensive session; I call plays and correct mistakes as though I’ve been here for years. I’ll check to see what they understand later.
Two days ago I was home in Reno, Nevada. I’d quit teaching three years earlier after becoming frustrated with the red-tape and narrow objectives that have infected American public education. Having no real plans, my mid-life crisis found me fulfilling various bucket-list items. Since my retirement I’d written a book, umpired high school baseball, substitute taught and spent winters as a ski instructor, but I always return to the one indispensible part of my professional life, coaching football.
Looking for a writing project, I stumbled onto the world of football in Europe. I was fascinated with the idea of such an American institution in a foreign setting.
Is there anything more uniquely American than football? I’m not sure. Baseball, while an American invention has been adopted in Latin America and Asia. Basketball has gone worldwide as well. Outside of sports, much American uniqueness has been co-opted by the rest of the world. Hollywood movies and pop music are the standard wherever there is electricity. McDonald’s and KFC’s provide a safe dining option for Americans wherever we travel.
But football with its specific position requirements, its inherent violence, expensive price-tag, ingrained technology, discipline, teamwork and militarism seems quintessentially, 21st century American. Add big-money celebrity and corruption seen at its highest levels and football represents both the best and worst of America. Love or hate it, football is as American as Chevy or apple pie.
The world is getting smaller though, like Hollywood, McDonald’s and rock-and-roll, football is becoming international. The US military built bases, and brought the game to Europe and Japan after World War II. The NFL Europe may have been a failure from a financial standpoint, but it introduced the sport to a generation of Europeans. More recently, the internet’s made the game more accessible than ever.
How is football being affected by contact with the outside world? McDonald’s may be everywhere, but its menus reflect local cultures, for example, serving mayonnaise with French fries in Germany. From discussions with Americans who’ve been involved with the game overseas, I already knew football had been adapted to fit the European culture and lifestyle. Here, nobody could imagine every day, mandatory practices… practices American coaches and players couldn’t imagine doing without.
That is my biggest question as I begin coaching in Southern Germany this winter. Are the things that make football great present after the game has been European-ized? Is this version of football something I can love and respect without the intense commitment and without the life-or-death, most-important-thing-in-the-world attitude that makes football so American? Is Euro-football really football or a superficial approximation? I’m not sure, but in March of 2015, I’m excited to find out…