Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tonight is forever

There are friendlies against the Argentinas and Englands of the world. Then there are Gold Cup matches. Then the Gold Cup final. Then maybe tune-up matches right before a World Cup.

After that, the only real matches more important than US-Mexico at home would be World Cup matches hosted by the US.

Columbus Crew Stadium, capacity 22,555, will likely never have that honor, making this once-every-four-years competitive World Cup qualifier between the top two nations in the region the most important match it will host.

In a country still looking for national tradition in the sport, the US hosting Mexico at Crew Stadium is one of those up and coming traditions we Americans look forward to. Perfect record against the Mexicans at this venue, undefeated against all opponents in the history of the stadium (perhaps the old Foxboro Stadium can rival Crew Stadium's track record as an American safe haven), and witness to some of the most important events in American soccer. That tradition continues tonight.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

I felt like a real live human being today

So, I was bicycling to the train station to catch the first express train to Osaka this morning, long before first light. A rather disheveled old man crosses my path, and we exchange a few words as I speed by:

"Ohayo gozaimasu!" (Good morning!) he says.
"Ohayo gozaimasu," I reply.
"Samui desu ne." (It's cold [today], isn't it?)
"So desu ne." (Yes, it is.)

And the five seconds we were exchanging words was the best five seconds of my day. In that moment, I wasn't some different-looking foreigner that needed to be separated from the rest of everyday life. I wasn't some know-all source of English with whom to dangle friendship in exchange for English conversation. Most importantly, I wasn't some monkey expected to sing and dance and laugh at the small things in the small worlds of certain people.

No, in that moment, I was a regular human being who got some empathy and of course was happy to give empathy because, hey, it was cold this morning.

Don't get me wrong. I love Japan and I'm here for the long haul. But just like at home, some things (ask me in three weeks and three days what they are) just plain suck. That bicycle ride this morning wasn't one of them.