Tag Archives: Ron Weasley

Sports vs Sport – UK & US Athletics

soccer-vs-football

When people think of me, they think of sports, right?  Ok, no, they don’t. I am the least sporty person in the world.  But after seeing the 300th commercial for the beginning of the English Premier League on American TV, I thought I might dip my feet in the water and see what all of this nonsense is about.  I’ve been exposed to American sports for my entire life, and have been thoroughly bored and annoyed by them for that same length of time.  But I don’t actually know much about British sport, so I may as well give it a small chance, in case football (soccer) really is so fabulous.  Maybe British sport is just better?  Anything is possible. So let’s discuss the differences. But please excuse in advance all the mistakes of vocabulary I am going to make during this post.  I can barely remember the proper terms for American sports, so if I say field when I mean pitch, do not murder me via angry comments. This entire post is written with tongue firmly placed in cheek, so don’t take it too seriously. Be gentle.

Sport vs Sports- Linguistic differences are so strange sometimes.  In the UK, you play sport or you watch sport.  In the US, you play sports or watch sports.  Where did the s go/come from?  I suspect it was taken off sports so that it could be added to maths.  

Another linguistic fun fact: As much as Brits decry us for saying ‘soccer’ instead of ‘football’, soccer was the original term and it was British in origin.  Soccer was called ‘association football’, to distinguish it from other types of ‘football’ that were played at the time (including Rugby–then called Rugger).  Association football was shortened to Assoccer, and then just soccer. So, it’s not an American thing.  Legend has it an Oxford student coined the term in 1863. That being said, football makes more sense for a sport where you are only allowed to use your feet than it does for our US football, where you primarily use your hands.

And to confuse everyone even more, the Brits often shorten football to ‘footy’, but the Australians call Rugby footy.  How anyone has any idea what game they’re playing is beyond me.  But this blog is mostly about the UK, so I’m not going to delve into Aussie sports now.

In the UK, there are two sports that are in the upper-echelons of popularity: Rugby Union and Association Football (soccer). Of those two, Football is the clear favorite, but Rugby is quite popular in certain geographical areas.

Rugby is very similar to American football, with one big big difference:

Rugby padsIt’s crazy dangerous. At least 110 players have been paralyzed during a game.  There are arguments to be made that all the padding US Football players wear adds to the amount of force that comes crashing down on opponents, but I’d still rather have a helmet if it was me.

The time of the games is different as well.  American football games last approximately 500 million hoursbut a big chunk of that is resetting and stopped time.  In Rugby, they don’t stop the clock unless someone’s injured and unresponsive. It’s a lot more fast-paced, and there’s a longer playing time.  That means leaner, meaner, faster guys. Much faster than American defensive players, who generally run 5-10 feet and then bash into someone with all of their weight.  It’s a different skill set.  To be honest, I’m not interested in either sport.

Other sports in the top 5 include Cricket, Tennis, and something Wikipedia refers to as Athletics. I believe this is what we would call Track & Field.  But really, if you’re talking UK Sport, you’re talking about football.  Unless you’re me, then you’re talking about Quidditch.

So let’s talk soccer/football. There are some things that make it recognizably awesome and the pinnacle of athleticism.  I can’t believe some of the crazy kicks and headbutts they do to get the ball headed toward the correct goal.  No American sport has that kind of gymnastics (except maybe gymnastics). And the crazy amount of running?  Your average baseball player barely runs during a game, your average American football player might run a little over a mile during a game. Compare that to the 7-8 miles a soccer player runs during a match, and you see why they all look like Adonis.

On the other hand, there’s a large percentage of games that end with a score of 0-0, and that sounds pretty boring to a spectator. No wonder they get so excited when a goal finally happens.

The UK version of the NFL/NBA/etc. is the Premier League. For the first time (ever), anyone in American watch any match in the season.  They will be airing the big matches on NBC sports, and then live streaming the rest on their website.  Apparently we have better access to the entire league’s games than the Brits do.  Perfect time for a novice like me to get started with footy. They even have several resources to pick your club and charming commercials with Jason Sudeikis. The most important thing about picking your team is that you can never change it. This is a cardinal offense and I believe they still punish you with a day in the stocks in any proper English village.

Remember that scene in Harry Potter when Harry is trying to talk to Cho, and Ron interrupts to inquire (very loudly and bluntly) whether Cho has always been a fan of the Tutshill Tornadoes, or if she just started supporting them since they began winning.  Lucky for Cho, she’d been supporting them since she was six, or she would have been in trouble.  Same principle applies to Premier League clubs. Of course, if you live in the UK, geography determines a lot of who you support, but we don’t have that luxury here.  It’s a big decision, and one I’ve taken quite seriously.

I’ve decided to support West Ham.  It’s the only football club mentioned in Harry Potter, so that was …pretty much my whole decision-making process.  Other things I know about West Ham: Smithy from Gavin and Stacey supports West Ham.  That’s good(ish).  Green Street Hooligans, a terrible Elijah Wood movie, was based on West Ham fans.  That’s really bad!  Their nickname is the Hammers.  I’m Switzerland on that one. West Ham’s celebrity fans include John Cleese and Barack Obama.  Good.  They also include Rod Stewart and Katy Perry.  Not as good.  Yep, that’s all I know about my chosen team.  I am such a sports fan.  Wait, I also know that they’re not that good.  I’m fine with that, since I prefer to support underdogs.  I could never support Man U.  It’s clearly the Yankees of the Premier League. Also, while I’m comparing football to baseball, Arsenal is clearly the Red Sox. Remember that Jimmy Fallon/Drew Barrymore movie, Fever Pitch?

fever_pitch_01About the guy who was obsessed with the Red Sox?  Well, it was originally a British movie (with Colin Firth) about a guy obsessed with Arsenal.  So, if you’re a Red Sox fan, Arsenal is your team.

If you’re more inclined to back a winner than I am, here’s an article about the top 5 most-likely winners (Arsenal included). Pick one of these and you will have a good chance.

If you’re not quite as informed about football as I clearly am, the IT Crowd has taught me how to fake it.  Just visit bluffball.co.uk for your best tips on how to sound like you know something about football.

The most important lessons include: If Arsenal is playing, you can always say ‘the problem with Arsenal is they think they can just walk it in’.  And, start every football conversation with ‘did you see that ludicrous display last night?’  That lets people know that you are an expert.

So, I have a team and some basic vocab for those inevitable water cooler conversations.  What else do I need? Some basic knowledge of the sport?  Well, I’ve seen Bend it Like Beckham.  Done. I know all about the offside rule: The French Mustard has to be between the teriyaki sauce and the sea salt.

If you haven’t seen BiLB, and you need the most basic primer about soccer in the history of the world, here’s a website designed to help grandparents understand this newfangled sport all the suburban kids are playing.

Also, it’s important to know how the league works. The top 20 teams are in the Premier League, but the bottom 3 of that 20 are ‘relegated down’.  Below the premier league are other leagues of middling and lower-level.  We don’t really have anything like that in the US. It would be like if the White Sox did so badly that they were no longer Major League and were ‘relegated down’ to AAA baseball. The good part about this is if your team is not so great, they still have some nail biter matches later in the season, as they might be fighting to keep their place in a specific part of the hierarchy.

The top 4 spots in the Premier League qualify for the European Champions league, so you get a lot of international competition that we also don’t have here.  And then every four years, you have the  World Cup.  I watched the last World Cup, and my only memories of it are drowned out by the sound of vuvuzelas.  God those were awful. Anyway, the next World Cup is next year.  To turn to yet another Harry Potter reference, it’s very similar to the Quidditch World Cup.  Countries compete, so England tends to bring together its best players from professional teams, as does Italy, Spain, etc.

The amazing thing about soccer is that everyone plays it. it’s the main sport in almost every country except America.  So you can have these massive Olympic-like events where the best players in different countries are competing against one another.  I think that’s awesome. Far better than the Super Bowl, for my money.

The Premier League has a really long season.  I mean, I feel like all sports seasons in the US are too long.  NFL Football is starting again soon. Already?  But the Premier League goes from August to May.  That’s crazy long.  No wonder they’re all in such good shape. Anyway, I can’t guarantee I will be a major soccer fan by the end of the season, or that I will still be watching by then.  I’m not a sports person, by nature.  But, I’m giving it a try, and that’s…more than I would normally do. You should too.

If you think this was a terrible post about sports, from a typical ignorant American, then…you’ve got a point. But! I’m not representative of American soccer fans, and it’s not just Americans who don’t know about international sports.  Take, for example, this video of a (brilliant) Irishman commentating Olympic sailing, and then call me uninformed.

Or take heart that I’m just as ignorant about American sports as all other kinds.

A Harry Potter post

In exactly two weeks, I will be visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando.  Yay!  In honor of this momentous, long-awaited event in my young(ish) life, I’ve decided we’ve gone too long on this blog without an entire post devoted to my favorite thing in life (besides my dog, who is not British and I can therefore not post about him).

So, what can I possibly say about the series that hasn’t been said already? Probably nothing.  It’s all been said, argued, debated, and repeated by the millions of fans. The only truly individual, unique thing I can offer is my own story of how I came to love Harry Potter, and how it changed my life.  So, that’s what I’m going to share.  Feel free to skip this if you could care less, but I think it’s really important to look at how art (meaning visual arts, books, movies, music, etc.) changes our lives and ourselves on a grander scale than we realize most of the time. Plus, this blog wouldn’t exist without Harry Potter, as it was really the beginning of my anglophilia.

So, cut to my pre-HP life.  I was living in Minneapolis, and was incredibly miserable.  I had dropped out of university partially because of family reasons, and partially because of chronic depression. I was living with a boyfriend who cheated on me more than once, working two jobs and still not making enough to support myself (though I must admit that a lot of this was just bad money management on my part).  Life was bleak.  I had always been a reader when I was living at home, but once college started I only read for my assignments.  After I left school, I didn’t read at all. I don’t know what I did for fun; it’s hard to remember.  We didn’t have a computer; I can’t remember if we had a TV.  I don’t think I even had books in the apartment.  These are facts that are pretty scary to look back at, as they are so dissimilar to my life now.

So, I heard about Harry Potter for the first time on a morning show, when they were actually discussing the upcoming release of the first movie.  Yes, I was that late to the party.  The movies were starting to come out already. The first four books had already been released. So this would have been the fall of 2001, right after 9/11, and not a particularly pleasant time for the country or for me.  I knew a couple of girls at work that had read the books, and I remember asking them ‘aren’t they kids books?’ Curious about all the hype, I dragged my (then) boyfriend to see the movie, just one day after it came out in theaters. I had no idea what it was about.  In fact, I didn’t know Harry was a wizard until he found out himself.  I think from that moment, when I realized that this was about a life and a world with fate and magic and fantastic elements, that I was absolutely enthralled. Needless to say, I loved the movie. From that moment, it was like my depression lifted, and I had something to love again. I could be excited again.

Unfortunately, 4 hardcover books were completely out of my budget at that time.  They were really expensive.  I worked at the Mall of America for one of my jobs, so every day during lunch, I skipped eating and went down to the Barnes & Noble children’s section to read them. I was too impatient to read the first book; I wanted to know what happened next! I started reading the Chamber of Secrets.

I didn’t get very far doing that, but it kept me going until Christmas when those four books were the only thing on my Christmas list.  My grandma asked me if I wouldn’t rather wait until they came out in paperback as they were so big.  No!!!  So I got the books for Christmas and I think I finished them by about the first week of January. Then I read them again.  And again.

I think there are a few reasons why Harry Potter was so meaningful for me.

1-There are certain elements of his life that mirror my own.  My mother died when I was 15. My parents were divorced and I wasn’t very close to my dad, so I sort of thought of myself as an orphan. My mom didn’t really trust my dad that much, for whatever reason, so my official guardians were my aunt and uncle.  And they were, from my perspective at least, absolutely awful to me.  I never lived in the same house as them, so it isn’t exactly the same, but they made me feel the same.  Useless and pointless and like a bad person who will just ruin things if given the chance.  I’m not sure how much of this was them and how much of it was my sensitivity/mourning/depression, but I can definitely relate to the whole Dursley situation.  I even spent some time off at boarding school.  Sadly, no magic at my school, but the idea of escape from a family you weren’t really meant to be with is very familiar to me.

2-The idea of fate and magic.  When my mom died–when anyone dies, really–the overwhelming feeling is one of pointlessness.  At least, for me it was.  The idea that the world could have meaning or that there might be some reason why things happen the way they do, abandoned me.  With Harry Potter, it sort of allowed me to see a world where that could be true, and death could still have meaning, even if deep down I knew that it was only true in books. I’ve heard/read that depression makes you see the world more accurately, but that this isn’t necessarily a good thing.  Being a little bit in denial about the pointlessness/randomness of life is necessary to our well-being.  So, Harry Potter may have made me a little less in touch with reality for a while, in the sense that I would rather spend my time in a make-believe world than in my own, but it helped me survive better in the real world as well.

3-It got me reading again.  I was about 20 when I started reading Harry Potter.  Pretty old to get into children’s books, but very young in terms of my reading life.  I had stopped reading at that point, as I’ve said.  But after I had reread the series about 10 times, I wanted to read other things.  I found something to be happy about in books again, something to be enthusiastic about.  Here is a very short list of the books that have changed my life since then, that I don’t think I would have read without Harry Potter coming along:  Pride and Prejudice, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Jane Eyre, Fahrenheit 451, Slaughterhouse 5, The Sense of an Ending, The Book Thief, On Beauty, Atonement, Lolita, The Bell Jar, Flowers for Algernon, the list could go on and on.  But those books all changed my life, made little ripples in my consciousness that can never be un-rippled. Not that I would want them to.  Except maybe Atonement, which fucked me up as it is very depressing. But I digress. I also know that without HP, I never would have gone back to school as an English major, never would have planned to go into publishing.  I decided publishing was the career for me specifically because it would give me the opportunity to influence the world the way that HP had influenced my life.

4-Nerds!  I think before Harry Potter, I was trying to be ‘a normal’ too much.  I wasn’t indulging in anything that makes me me.  And, let’s be honest, I am not a normal, everyday person with normal, everyday interests.  And no wonder I wasn’t happy hanging out with people who didn’t share any of those interests.  Not only did Harry Potter help me embrace my own individuality and learn to say fuck everyone else’s opinion, but it helped me meet other nerds and fans, who became my good friends.  I still, 10 years later, use it as a gauge for future friends.  Don’t like HP? Won’t read it because it’s for kids?  We probably wouldn’t get along.

So, to make a loooong story short, it totally changed my life, introduced me to new ideas, new places, etc., lead me to go back to university and finish my degree, break up with my stupid boyfriend and get a better one, move to England (briefly, so far), start writing again, start reading again, the list goes on.  Most importantly, it just let me be happy again.  And the books still have that quality.  When I am depressed, when life sucks or I’ve had a terrible day, I can still pick up a HP book, or put on an audiobook and life is just better after a few minutes immersed in that world.

So, enough of my own story, here’s a list!

Top 5 most devastating moments in the HP series:

5. The moment  you finish the 7th book and you know that there isn’t any more to read. Ever.

4.

No explanation necessary.

3.

Dobby’s death and the ensuing scene with Harry digging his grave by hand.  That shit will fuck up your life.

2.

Fred was so much better than George.  Injustice!

1. It seemed to take Sirius an age to fall. His body curved in a graceful arc as he sank backward through the ragged veil hanging from the arch….
And Harry saw the look of mingled fear and surprise on his godfather’s wasted, once-handsome face as he fell through the ancient doorway and disappeared behind the veil, which fluttered for a moment as though a high wind and then fell back into place.

Can I even describe how much this destroyed my life?  Sirius was my favorite character, and I saw his struggle against his past and against the dementors as analogous to my struggle with depression.  I had a little mini depression after reading the fifth book, all because of this shit.  I am starting to accept it, but it pretty much killed me at the time.