Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Sports and Politics
I often travel overseas alone. This predilection started when I was in college and my Dad worked for Pan Am. I used to schedule all of my classes on Tues/Thurs so that I could take long weekend trips on our family's employee pass. Since this was just before airline deregulation in 1978, very few people flew anywhere as prices were high, so I almost always traveled alone.
I became very spoiled in the sense that I now prefer to travel alone and do what I want to do when I want to do it. Not many of my friends ever wanted to follow me to Yorkshire to visit the Bronte shrine in Haworth or out to Sussex to see Charleston Farmhouse, not to mention spend time in Venice visiting the Fortuny house. I am very lucky now to be married to someone who is happy to go wherever I want to go, so I still get the joy of planning and navigating all to myself with the pleasure of an amenable travel companion!
But the first trips were difficult for me. I used to be pathologically shy around strangers and only overwhelming curiosity (and hunger) got me interacting on my first trips to France and Italy. But I discovered early on that there are two things that almost everyone is interested in no matter where you travel: sports and politics. By learning a little bit about both, I found an easy entree into conversations with classmates, hotel maids, waiters, bus drivers, and the man on the street.
Outside the United States, soccer (futbol)is the sport that almost everyone has an opinion about whether they hate it or love it. Unlike the US -- where intellectuals often consider sports fanatacism beneath them -- undying love of the local soccer team crosses social, educational and economic boundaries in other countries. I can't think of a country I've visited that isn't crazy about soccer.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, beisbol is the second most popular sport, and in some countries -- Puerto Rico, Cuba and DR, for example -- it's more popular than soccer. Mexico in particular has Triple AAA affiliated teams sponsored by Major League Baseball (MLB) here in the US.
In Oaxaca, the AAA team is the Guerreros. In the early '90's, the Venezualan player Oscar Azocar played in Oaxaca before being called up by the Yankees and the Padres. Sadly, if you check the standings, Oaxaca is almost dead last in their division this year after being in first place in 2008. That could be a good thing if you want tickets, though, and their schedule shows them playing many home games in Eduardo Vasconcelos Stadium in July. I'm hoping that some of my NEH colleagues will be interested in attending a couple of these games!
For their Spanish language site, check out the Guerreros home page.