10 June 2006

la mundial

in order to do surgery you have to have sterile equipment. my hospital does that with big autoclaves. but in order to run those you need steam. on friday our steam was turned off for maintenance purposes, which would mean we'd have a hard time keeping up with lots of surgeries. fortunately for us there were only three scheduled. if you've got your calendar out and you noticed that the world cup started on friday as well AND that ecuador played their first game that day, you might be wondering if that was a coincidence. well, it wasn't.

as if intentionally not scheduling surgeries on the day (and scheduling maintenance to make lots of surgeries an impossibility) doesn't fully capture the extent of world cup fever in the rest of the world, let's cut to the picture above, which is operating room D converted into one of the TWO rooms that were showing the game in the OR. or cut with me in your minds to the day before, when i watched the three afternoon anesthesiologists write "no" on two pieces of paper and "sí" on one and then draw them out of an intern's hand to see who would be stuck with the afternoon turn the day of the game (which started at 2pm).

and as if those preparatory measures didn't demonstrate the enthusiasm and passion for the game, let me tell you that every time anything happened or even ALMOST happened in the game, the noise and echoes of people screaming in that tile-covered room was easily as loud as most rock shows i've ever been to. but more to the point, you should have seen the faces of these people when ecuador scored their first goal. they were frozen in ecstasy, their hands unconsciously covering their slightly gaped mouths, their eyes on the verge of tears. they looked for all the world like it was their son that had just scored the goal, or even like their son had just been born.

i've drafted and then trashed several attempts to explain to my american (non-soccer loving) blog readers the significance of the world cup. i have several times attempted to describe by way of analogy to US sports the hugeness of the event, but have ultimately decided that anything that starts with "it's kind of like..." is already wrong because it truly is not like anything else, in american or world sport.

soccer is, more than any other sport, the world's game. no other sport is played as widely or followed as intensely as each nation's beloved fútbol. this is important for one thing because that means when you say "world championship" you're talking about a competition that truly every country plays and tries to excel at (unlike, say, basketball, which until recently the US dominated simply because nobody cared about it as much as we do, and now only a small percentage of the world plays seriously). but more than the scope of the competition, the international popularity of soccer makes it one of the world's most international languages--i would go so far as to say right up there with music and the visual arts. that everyone knows and understands soccer means that it's an avenue of cultural expression and identity--thus, brazilians play in a manner that is distinctly brazilian: care-free, vibrant, flashy, always high on style and entertainment. the germans are historically a team known for their strict discipline, tenacious defense, and ultra (über)-pragmatic approach to the game. similar statements can be made about the dutch, english, and italian teams, and so on.

so if you're someone who's heard some report of soccer fanaticism and thought "all that for a SPORT? i'm glad i don't care about it at all!", it's not just a sport. when ecuador played poland on friday as clear underdogs and managed an upset (2-0), it wasn't just the team that had earned international respect and left the pitch enraptured--it was an entire nation. it was the doctors, nurses, maintenance people, and patients in the hospital that day, and the people on the street as i walked home--they all walked with their chests and heads in the manner of someone who had accomplished something great that day. ecuadoreans who don't care much about football were on the edge of their seats for the game, screaming their hearts out at the TV because it was ECUADOR playing. it was their country--it was them.

the world cup only comes around every four years, so even if you don't care about soccer at all, i highly recommend watching a game or two, if nothing else to see the world convening to peacefully celebrate sport, competition, and each other. there really is nothing else like it on earth.


Kansas City Star said...

Yeah -- Peaceful convening I like...

aaron said...

GO IVORY COAST. it's so amazing that the national team's qualification can cause a cease fire and stall the civil war. here's to the didier's & co. hanging in there and getting past the argentines. i'm bummed that i just realized i'll be not watching spain's first match because i'll be on the train to stuttgart. england needs to get better. holland should have scored more today. going to watch mexico here in a few minutes. peace!

mhat said...

yay! i'm trying to get into the futbol thing, but i still have more fun playing foosball.

aaron said...

i went through my first few days in berlin thinking there was the world cup of foosball happening too because the germans spell football like "fussball". it was really confusing and i felt stupid when someone told me.

jnuh said...

Thanks for the congrats, Jere-me-my. And be sure to pass mine on to Janae!