By David O. Williams
No Rox fever in Europe
November 17, 2007 —
It was tough watching the Rox fold like the French in World War II, but reading the local European papers last month, you would have never known that the Rox or the Sox or anyone else was playing the “World” Series.
Baseball isn’t even a blip on the radar screen over here.
In fact, no American sport has truly taken grip on the continent that still looks on the United States with a mix of horror and fascination or simply as an experiment gone horribly wrong.
The NFL’s efforts to create a European league flopped famously and the final six teams quietly folded in 2007 without anyone really noticing. Such American standards as baseball, hockey and college football all seem oddly peculiar to the Euro sport geeks, while NASCAR must sound like some EU-created agency to protect endangered black storks.
Basketball is the only U.S.-bred and born sport that’s making any serious inroads. The European leagues produce fine talent and there are no less than two dozen Euro players in the NBA for the 2007-08 season.
In Europe, there’s only one sport that truly ranks, and it doesn’t involve bats, plates or mounds.
Known as futbol, calcio, footie and le fut, or simply soccer to us gringos.
Three things matter to any good Italian or Spaniard: God, family and soccer, and I’m not sure in what order.
Imagine baseball, the NFL, NBA and the NHL all bound up into one event and you start to come close to the passion and fury of what soccer means to your average European fan.
The big clubs are huge money-making machines with rich histories like the New York Yankees but with lots of more cheese.
Real Madrid, Ajax, Manchester United, Barcelona, Chelsea, Juventus and Liverpool, which is co-owned by former Vail Associates magnate George Gillett, are just a few of these monoliths that attract one-named stars like Ronaldo, Raúl, Beckham and Zindane.
Fans lose all sense of their Euro civility during the major showdowns between these big clubs.
They clap, they sing, they chant, they wave flags, they burn flares. They throw insults, bottles, coins, batteries and stadium seats at each other. Sometimes they even kill each other. In 2000, fans of a rival club murdered two Leeds followers before a big match. Talk about passion.
Despite efforts to get into futbol over here in Spain, it just doesn’t tickle my synapses like an autumn battle between the Buffs and the Huskers.
For a gringo watching from the sidelines, it’s hard to get too excited about a sport where a 0-0 tie can be called great. Gimme a chili dog, a scorecard and a bag of peanuts any day.
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