Sunday, September 05, 2010

On being a Wolverine

I would be lying if I said I only learned about American Football rules after I moved to the US. For sure, I didn't know all the intricate details or what a Sam and a Will are (these are Offensive Line Backer positions) but I learned the basics by playing a Sega Genesis game that had Joe Montana in its cover. So I knew about touchdown and passes and downs and field goals. I also learned from that game that fake punts always work, which is almost never true.

In any case, when I first moved to the US, football was the game in which you kick the ball with your feet. That all started changing when I went to a bar to spend my Sunday afternoon watching a local Philadelphia Eagles game. In that 2007 season, McNabb got injured and Jeff Garcia was the starter. I remember mentioning that Garcia was having a better performance than Donovan - I was drunk enough to spout out my opinions - and I faced the ire of the Eagles fans. Which, as I found out later, are among the more vicious fanbases in the country. That time I spent in Philly made me attached to the city's teams, but there was a special place for the Eagles in my heart along with the Philly Union, a place that the 76ers (I'm a Lakers fan), the Phillies (baseball is boring) or the Flyers (Red Wings get my allegiance, since Detroit is actually cold) can't have. This is a place that was exclusive to the Brazilian soccer team and my home town team (São José EC), but the first only plays once every two years and the second has been sucking since before I can remember.

When I moved to Ann Arbor, I was told that there was this very good Michigan team and that I should buy season tickets. I had no interest since, while I can enjoy the NFL, College Football seemed a bit too silly for me to pay $170 for 6 games. But then it grew on me. It started on the School of Engineering's Pierpont Commons TV screen. I learned The Victors and I saw Lloyd Carr's last season and I saw Chad Henne and Mike Hart and then I went to a Michigan x Penn State game, which ended up as a Wolverine victory. I remember seeing that sea of maize (not yellow or gold), that punched the air in a visual unison whenever the word 'Hail' was spoken. It was deeper than the the wave. It was beautiful. All those 100,000+ people there knew the Victors to the point they knew when to clap and when to 'Hail'. I still have a picture of that scene in my cell phone. Not because it was a particularly pretty picture, but because it reminds me of a place where, while it certainly isn't anything like home, it is a place where I feel I belong. Because I know when to punch the air and when to clap. It became a part of me.

Which brings me to today. Michigan x UConn was on the open channel ABC. Which is OK, except that I don't have a working TV at home. So I went to a bar. It is interesting, because in normal conditions, I wouldn't really want to go to a bar, but I felt I should, because that was the only way I could see the Wolverines. Funny enough, that bar seemed to be the Michigan Alum bar of choice. And while I wasn't actually singing 'The Victors', just hearing it coming from the end of the bar made me smile. The same warm fuzzy feeling that I get whenever I hear "Ouviram do Ipiranga as margens plácidas...".

I've heard several people saying that sports are the people's opiate, the circus in "panis et circensis". But I think this simplifies everything. Being a fan gives me the feeling that I am a part of a bigger thing which makes sense. Even when we lose. Because WE lose, not I.

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