About Me

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I am a medievalist and an adjunct college instructor in the humanities at Union College. My research includes medieval theologies of history, text/image relationships in visionary and mystical texts, and the writings of the twelfth-century Doctor of the Church, St. Hildegard of Bingen. I am also a translator of medieval Latin and German texts, especially as relate to my research. My translation of Hildegard's Book of Divine Works is available from Catholic University of America Press here. I completed a Master's in Medieval Studies at the University of Notre Dame in 2010, a Fulbright Fellowship in Germany in 2008, and a B.A. in Classics and German at Boston College in 2007.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Finalé, Whoa Oh Oh Oh!

In their most stress-inducing performance yet, the German national team nevertheless managed to squeak through by the skin of their teeth last night to defeat Turkey 3-2 in the semifinal of the Euro2008 Championship.It would seem I’ve taken up some of my father’s habits for the viewing of sporting events, namely, to stay on my feet during the most critical points of the game, often shaking my head at the smallest mistakes, my hands clenching and unclenching, lambasting “my” team for their amateur, so-obviously avoidable mistakes.Two principal factors, however, distinguish my viewing of the game from my father’s, namely, I’m often more vocal than he is in expressing my displeasure, and I voice my concerns in a mixture of two languages (much to the amusement of both the Americans and the Germans surrounding me in the basement of that particular church last night).

And the German team did not fail to provide me with plenty of material for my querulous outbursts; at the same time, however, they did not fail to provide moments of pure excellence to be rewarded by ecstatic jubilation. You see, the German team has had a penchant during this tournament for playing rather schizophrenically, and last night, they reached heretofore unseen levels of ups and downs. When they were on (as, for example, during the drive that led to Schweinsteiger’s goal in the 26th minute), they were a marvel to behold. When they were off, however, it became exceedingly painful.

Take, for example, Lehmann’s flubbing with the ball during the excruciating milliseconds that led to the first Turkish goal. Yet, just moments later, he would execute a spectacularly on-form save during a Turkish penalty kick. Perhaps we should say this much in his favor: he has been consistently inconsistent throughout the tournament.

Indeed, the German side was almost completely ashambles in terms of organization in the first half; only on account of moments of shining individual excellence did they hold Turkey to just one goal in the first half. While the German came out after the break showing better overall organization, their gains were belied by their often ludicrously poor passing and ball-handling; it seemed that all the Turks had to do was give Germany the ball for a few seconds before they would find it wonderfully back in their own possession on account of the German players’ gross incompetence. All in all, the Germans were completely outmatched and outplayed by the Turks. Nevertheless, it was those individual moments of brilliance that eventually won the day with Lahm’s last minute goal; indeed, the three total goals scored in the last eleven minutes of regulation (two by Germany and one by Turkey) were enough to cause near-exhaustion on the part of their already thoroughly-stressed fans.

There was, however, another external factor that further aggravated the already frayed nerves of the German fans: early in the second half, the satellite feed out of Basel being used by ZDF (Zweite Deutsche Fernsehen), the German broadcaster of the game, was lost. For several minutes, we were simply faced with this screen, announcing that fact and asking for our “patience”. Eventually, they managed to restore the audio, so that the announcers could provide radio-style commentary, which would have worked much better if the ZDF didn’t employ commentators whose ramblings are best described by the German word blöd—I’ve struggled to come up with a good translation, and my best approximation would be “vacuously dim-witted and imbecilic”. Thus, we were all greatly relieved only to have to suffer through several minutes of their vapid drivel before they succeeded in sharing the Swiss television feed; the slight gap, however, between the German announcers’ audio feed and the Swiss visuals led to even more comical notes, and we all were better off on those occasions throughout most of the rest of the game when the audio would cut back out.

After the heart-pounding last few minutes of the game finally played out and Germany did, in fact, pull through to win, it was time to make the now-familiar trek to join the chaos of celebration in Ludgeriplatz. Part of me was slightly anxious as to the possibility of clashes breaking out between the Germans and the Turks in the streets, for the second half of the match had been especially nasty (triggered, one can imagine, by the blatant foul committed against Lahm at the beginning of the second half that was never called by the refs—my complaints in my last post as to the lackluster performance of the officials in this tournament stand), but nothing of the sort materialized. For the most part, the Turks appear to have avoided the celebrations entirely (certainly the most prudent move), but those who did join in (for there are certainly many of the Turks who bear as great a love for Germany as they do for Turkey) were welcomed most warmly by the German fans—a sign, I think, of the continued good-naturedness and goodwill that seemed to take the world slightly by surprise two years ago when they hosted the World Cup.

Rather than try to explain the atmosphere of the revelry (a task at which I failed also in my last post), I will offer instead some video of it (for I did remember my camera this time).

The above video illustrates several “standard” features of these celebrations, including some of the favored chants (e.g. “Super Deutschland” and “Finalé”), as well as this interesting phenomenon of “Hinsetzen!”. When the chant begins to permeate through the crowd (often instigated by one of the apparent “leaders” high atop the statues of Ludgeriplatz), it is an indication for all simply to sit down (= “hinsetzen”) on the ground. Once all are seated (“all” being a relative term), the chant leader will get on his bullhorn and start doing call-and-response with the seated fans. Though not apparent in this particular video, it would seem that cheerleading is another one of those areas of American global cultural hegemony, for one of their favorite call-and-response forms is “Give me a __!” followed, of course, by “__!”. Unfortunately, what exactly that was supposed to spell was never clear to me; I think it fell into that broad category of cultural norms (which included many of the chants last night) that I am simply not aware of as a foreigner, and which are very difficult for me to pick up, especially in such an atmosphere of celebratory fervor. Anyway, the cheerleader would eventually lead the seated assembly into a cheer that results in everybody jumping up and down with their arms in the air.

Other notable features of last night’s celebration included the scaling of lamp posts and street signs by the impetuous; the use of (certainly illegal) fireworks and flares; and the disassembling of the construction barricades. This final act (which will explain certain features of the second video above) requires a bit of explanation. In what is certainly not the first example of poor bureaucratic timing, road crews have this week surrounded large swaths of Ludgeriplatz with barricades, behind which they have proceeded to do a lot of digging. Drunken, exuberant fans will, of course, merely take this opportunity to open up the barricades and let themselves into the excavations, which can be seen in the above video by the fact that a large swath of the crowd is standing at a lower ground level. Finally, as they ought to have been expected to have done, some of the brawnier (and certainly more drunk) young men decided that crowd surfing takes on an additional dimension when executed standing atop one of the barricades. Needless to say, I kept my feet firmly planted on the ground.

I was glad to be able to partake in last night’s festivities (which good-naturedly continued on the bus, though I felt a bit sorry for the Korean who was simply trying to read a book), especially since they are unlikely to be repeated on Sunday night after the final. Germany’s performance last night was quite sub-par, their win more a fluke than the result of good playing. They won’t be able to count on such a fluke in the final match, for both Spain and Russia (the two teams vying in the other semifinal) are too good for it.

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