As I write this, the Euro 2012 tournament is going on in Poland and Ukraine. Today France will take on reigning World and European champions Spain for the right to face Portugal in the Semi-Final Round. Next month we’ll get the Olympics and, in two years, Brazil will host arguably the sexiest World Cup ever.
I don’t know how odd I am at doing this, but for some reason, these kind of tournaments serve as great markers in the long road of life. I can always look back on a particular tournament and know where I was, what I was doing and what was going on. The weird thing is that I do this exclusively with World Cup tournaments – with the Euros only recently thrown on the side. I’m sure some people do the same for the Olympics or the Ryder Cup or any other long-term tournament/event that catches their attention. So, let me give you a quick tour:
2010 was the South Africa World Cup. It worked out well for me in that I was just starting school towards my Masters and had enough free time to enjoy the bulk of the tournament. My favorite memory of this tourney will be racing back after a Sociology class to catch the end of the USA v Algeria game and the famous Landon Donovan goal that sent America into shouts of joy.
2008 was the first Euros that I can remember watching and that’s because it was the first Euros that wasn’t a pain in the ass to find. Beforehand, you had to go to a place like Finn McCool’s or another bar that had paid the rights to show it. I was working in Houston and I remember following the tournament like crazy on the old World Soccer Daily show – back when that was on Sirius! My brother and I even went to see the final at a pub that was full of Spaniards and Germans. Like I said, it was a nice way to waste time in a summer when I was trying to find my feet away from home.
2006 had the World Cup in Germany and it was nice to enjoy the games in the mid-afternoon. I mostly remember it for following the games on radio and working for a small, fly-by-night firm that had thought to take advantage of the post-K situation. (Within a year, they were gone and I landed at one of my favorite jobs ever). In any case, the 2006 World Cup gave us one of those seminal sports moments ever – the infamous Zinedine Zidane headbutt of Marco Materassi at the Final.
For 2002, the idea of following the World Cup was a major-league pain. The games in Korea and Japan occurred at the crack of dawn in America – early game was at 12:45 AM, late game at 3:45 AM. I remember driving to work every morning while hearing Andres Cantor on the radio calling the end of games. That was back when I had gotten my first “real” job at the DA’s office in New Orleans. So I’d get up, get ready and get to work all in the auspices of the World Cup.
I don’t quite remember most of 1998 but that was because that summer I was in school trying to finish my Bachelor’s degree by taking my Organic Chemistry I and II classes back-to-back. I do remember the big hoopla over Ronaldo’s potential absence from the Brazil XI in the Final. I think back to that Final game and my upstairs neighbors – foreign-exchange students – all going nuts when France went ahead and at the final whistle.
The 1994 World Cup caught me taking a summer Geology trip to the Rockies and to Utah that was sponsored by UNO. I remember the nights when we would stay at a hotel as that gave me the best chance to catch a game or two. It was also a nice way to avoid the weird kid who was really into Vampire: The Masquerade. I also remember that we spend the last night of the trip in East Houston when the Rockets won their first title and the “celebrations” kicked off. In terms of major memorable events, this World Cup gave us one of the biggest tragedies: the own goal by Colombia’s Andres Escobar, which led to him being killed outside a night club when he returned home.
I have zero recollection of 1990 World Cup in Italy. But that’s because we had just moved to the US and didn’t have cable. Not that it mattered, there was no way to view the World Cup in the States as far as I know. Maybe the Final was broadcast or maybe it was on Pay-per-View. It wouldn’t have mattered.
I have plenty of memories and some fond ones of 1986. That summer we went to the beach a lot and we’d sit back afterwards and catch the games from Mexico. For the final games, everyone crowded around the old tube TV. That’s where we saw Maradona’s infamous “Hand of God” goal against England. One good thing about communist regimes is that they love to give their people plenty of circus to hide the fact they’re stealing away all the bread. As for 1982, I know I saw it – I have glimpses of a game between the Soviet Union and Spain in the back of my memory banks – but don’t remember much of it. I was just a little tyke then.
So I wonder what I’ll remember back from Euro 2012 and on and on. Maybe just how hot the summer’s been? It is always interesting to notice what gets lodged in the back of the noggin and how it’s so easy to think back on what happened in one event and how to correlate it with a moment in time or a stage in life.