29 July 2013

Where is my Vuvuzuela?

Sports… As long as there have been males, competitions, and bragging rights, there have always been sports. From simple games to fully fledged events that involve the world (and ladies in many of these events), sports have a place in history. Let me just say that I am NOT a huge sports fan. I prefer eating some Oreos with milk in a library on a rainy day to football. To those who do enjoy playing, have a team or three, and wear someone’s jersey, more power to you. This is not a debate about which is the far superior thing. They both are necessary. In fact they are the Ying and the Yang of the mind/body. Make no mistake about it; every period of history had its jocks and geeks, whatever form they ended up taking. Regardless of which side you take, people worldwide have come together at such great moments, by something we played as children.

Jocks or Geeks: choose wisely...
 I have to take a moment and give partial credit to my dad, who inspired this post. As a Latino who grew up in a Mexican home, with frequent contact with family in Mexico, Futbol (soccer) is a huge thing. Watching Mexican clubs or the National team play in big events was fun, as well as having TONS of carne asada.

Sorry, food made me get off track here, back to the origin…

So I was at home, watching a match between two Latin countries, before Mexico played Trinidad and Tobago. I’ve been seeing more of these matches as the championship goes on, and I was reminded again of how the game brings many people together. I’m not just limiting this to football (not the American kind, which is only played in the US, lol) but sports like baseball, cycling, running…championship arm-wrestling. Sports in some way, though not always, bring the world together. How many times have we been glued to a game TV or listened to the radio (for those old school people), watching the colors, the smiles, the opening ceremonies, medal being awarded, and the upsets of whatever game is on? Have you almost lost a finger biting your nails, as you watch the two contenders’ race neck-to-neck on the home stretch? Admit it, you’ve about had a heart attack or pulled your hair out waiting for the referee’s call on a play, when it was too close to call. We’re all guilty…

I had to add this when I said "arm-wrestling" 

So what are some of those great moments? Depictions of wrestling and running throughout Europe, Asia, and MENA (Middle East and North Africa) are some examples. The Japanese gave us Sumo wrestling, (mmm sushi). The Greeks developed the original form of the Olympic Games, which today we have somewhat preserved. Egyptians had some of these games in their culture, and I believe, some sort of basketball-type game. My people didn’t fall too far behind either, with their own hoops game. The Aztecs would sacrifice the entire losing team to the gods, in a game called Ullamaliztli ("VoVatia"). It was rumored that the "balls" they used, were their enemy's heads... As humanity progressed (thankfully) of the years, the games and competitions did too. The French (they had something good going on), created the Tour de France in 1903, an odd result from the infamous Dreyfus Affair (see link below) in 1894. The modern Olympic Games started in 1896, after several restart attempts, going back to the 1600s. My favorite of all international games is the World Cup, created in 1930 and now one of the most greatly anticipated games every four years. I’ve had the pleasure to sit in the stadium where the FIRST World Cup championship game was played. The home team Uruguay, beat Argentina 4-2, thus they were the first world champions. (Queen was unavailable to play “We are the Champions” sadly.) There have been more games that have involved international players/teams, and in more diverse sports, but none have caught our attention as these.

However, there have been moments in which these games have been marred by human sinfulness. Many of the modern events mentioned above, where interrupted by both World Wars. Hate towards other competitors openly expressed such as that of the Nazis against American runner Jesse Owens in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The sad tragedy of the 1972 Munich games, with the death of all the Israeli athletes at the hands of Palestinian terrorists. The Atlanta bombing at the 1996 Summer Games caused some panic. Most recently, the Boston Marathon bombing, has now cemented a fear permanent for all sorts of large events.

Despite these events, there have been so many moments where the human spirit to overcome adversity has shone through. How sad it would’ve been if all of these competitions had not continued after the Great War. The confidence of Jesse Owens to play showed the world that silly propaganda, the likes of which Herr Hitler tried to spread, could be proven false with his CUATRO (four) gold medals. Jackie Robinson, who we all know was the first black man to play in the MLB, persevered in such tremendous trial because of his character. (Shameless plug for “Stepping Up: A call to courageous manhood” by Dennis Rainey. There is a great chapter about him in there.) 
One of my favorite moments is from the 1968 Mexico Games, also known as “The greatest last-place finish ever,” by Tanzanian Joseph Stephen Akwhari (see video for his great response, sorry about the cheesy music). The list goes on: the 2000 Sydney Games, where both Korea’s marched into the stadium, under a single flag and a roaring crowd; the incredible performance of Romanian Nadia Comaneci in the ‘76 Montreal games, by being the first to achieve a perfect 10 in gymnastics; the father and son moment between Derek Redmond and his father, after his injury in the 400 meters in Barcelona. He earned his mug that Father’s day. I could go on and on about moments like these that show us the greatness in humanity. These achievements boggle our mind, at how the human body (which is wonderfully created) can be pushed/punished to superhuman levels. Sometimes they take our breath away, leave us in tears, shouting for joy, or pounding at a pillow in frustration, but they unite us in ways that are impossible otherwise. So the next time you find yourself at a stadium, join in the Wave, the Ol’ Chop, or pound your hands and feet to the beat of “We Will Rock You.” 

 "It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Gets Sacrificed." VoVatia. WordPress.com, 06 FEB 2011. 

10 July 2013

You are the Oracle...

The study of history is rather simple in its explanation. Research, investigate, analyze, discover, catalog, and teach about people, places, and events. Whether it deals with periods that predate the wheel to the most recent iPhone, history is like a 7-11. It happens anywhere, to anyone, and in the most incredible ways. Of course you’ve met a person who didn’t have at least one fascinating, incredible, sad, or funny story. A grandfather who tearfully shares his combat experiences. The Chinese shopkeeper who fled his homeland 40 years ago, because of persecution. A doctor who performed surgery on a President, after an assassination attempt. The child, who is now an old man, recounting how he watched man step on the moon. Walking history books are all around us, and you are one volume more. 

All I need now is a cheeseburger hotdog...
Have you ever stopped to think, that YOU will be that grandfather or grandmother, who tells stories about your time on this earth? Stop and think about all that is occurring around you, all in such quick fashion. As of last week, Egypt is without a president, as he was given bad report card by the people. Days before that, we heard of the brave firemen lost in Arizona. These are just events that have occurred on a grand scale. There are several manners in which we are part of history, we are present at the actual event, watch it unfold on TV, newspaper, or radio, or you are the center or key player in that event. Take for example (something happy), the 1980 Olympics, AKA “Miracle on Ice” (at least for the US). In the height of the Cold War, the US and CCCP hockey teams are duking it out, and we win against the Soviet hockey machine. You have the fans at the rink, those glued to a TV somewhere watching, and the respective teams. At any given time and situation, history is being made and you are a part of the action somewhere.

As I stop to think about last month, it happened to me as well. Three weeks ago, one of my uncles passed away. As I think about his death, it reminded me in the context of this post, that this was another entry in my personal history book. For many of you, this is the same, whether it’s a good or bad event. It may be the birth of your child, graduating college, watching your favorite team win a championship, etc. These events are yours. As well as having to experience family death, an accident, or having to make the hard choice of going on a bacon-free diet *shudder*. Needless to say, these events are inescapable. 

No bacon in the universe?!? KHANNNNNNN!!!!!

Whether the event is personal in nature or it involves, literally, the whole country, we add another page to History’s records. It is sad to think that we find ourselves taking these moments for granted, with the entire world being a blur around us. I have tried to stop and savor the moment, realizing how important it will be to someone. There have been countless of moments in my life, which have stayed with me, and I hope that I won’t forget anytime soon. When I was young, it was the first memory of the Challenger exploding in 89, the Rodney King riots in LA, my grandfather’s death. As I grew older, it was signing my enlistment contract on 27AUG2001 and two weeks later, 9-11 unfolded. A year after boot camp, I’m flying over Montana on a C-9 and listening to President Bush address the nation on Operation Iraqi Freedom, about the start of the campaign. As I hear him over the speakers, I think to myself “I’m in a war…” The next month was incredible to say the least. There are many more events that you could either relate or top, but you get the point about living through history.

What I would like to encourage you folks and those in your lives, especially the younglings, is to be more aware of it. It’s one thing to rely on the video camera, internet, books, etc. another is for YOU to become these devices. Do you play music? Write a song about it. Are you a writer? A poem, book, or daily journal will do. Do you paint, draw, or take pictures? Capture it, for only you can give it life and share that moment with others who see it. I hope to one day have an ample library, with a whole wall dedicated to journals I’ve written, but I have to write. Use your imagination, be candid, and use a dictionary if necessary. Write every detail, take a picture at all angles, those moments won’t repeat themselves. (On a personal note: learn to write in cursive, using a fountain pen, it’s just beautiful. Again, it’s just me saying).  

Now to add the mining equipment...
Just think of all the means that we have available to study history or save it for future generations, something not possible in the past. There are countless people who have understood the urgency of individuals, WWII veterans for example, whose stories have not been recorded. The Veteran’s History Project is one effort by the Library of Congress to save these “pages” of history, and that’s just in this country. Many of us, including me, have relatives in foreign countries whose memories of their area’s history are important. To be able to save those tales, with any related artifacts is just precious. I’m aware that there are limitations, or in the grand scheme of things, this world will pass and all that is in it. I have come to learn, however, that history has been a unique tool in showing me that there is design and sovereignty in our brief existence.