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. 

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