While I’m not typically one for sports, televised or otherwise, I can’t help but get into the World Cup here.

I first saw the magnificent spectacle that is International football (soccer for you Americans) championships two years ago, during the UEFA European Football Championship.  When I wrote about that series, I had just seen a Holland match while in Holland, and the Orange was everywhere.

I also noticed then, as now, that the Championships are the one time that you really see German patriotism.  Championships are the time that German flags go onto people’s cars and get displayed on houses.  From what my German friends tell me, this only started around the 2006 championships- before that it was almost unheard of to have this level of patriotism in Germany, ever since that whole World War II incident back in the 1940s.

I’ve been really enjoying the games this year; especially this week’s massive 7-1 victory over Brazil’s team.

If you didn’t see the Brazil-Germany match, this animation pretty much sums up the game.

With that victory, Germany is going to the final match of the World Cup.  On Sunday night, they’ll be playing Argentina for the whole enchilada.  I was really hoping it would be the Netherlands…

I’m pretty stoked about the whole thing, and so are my countrymen-  after Germany’s last victory, the Empire State Building in New York City  looked like this:


Have you been watching the World Cup?  Who do you root for?


Special Friday Bonus Post: Eurovision 2014

It’s Eurovision time again!!!

The first Eurovision was held in Lugano, Switzerland in May of 1956 and it included just seven countries- Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and Switzerland.  This year is the 59th year of the Eurovision contest, and 37 nations are competing.  Last night was the last semi-final, and the final competition is on Saturday, the 10th of May.

My first exposure to Eurovision was in the 2012 Eurovision song competition., the year of the Singing Grannies and Jedward.   The spectacle is quite amazing, and I was hooked. In 2013, I missed all the singing parts and only managed to catch the very last section where they do all the vote counting.  That bit was dull as toast points.

This year, the competition has been mildly interesting.  A lot of very similar sounding solo vocalists, with a handful of standout acts.  Here’s some of my favorites from the competition so far, and I haven’t even seen the five that were pre-qualified for Saturday’s final.

Sweden – Sanna Nielsen – Undo – Good song, polished singer, and catchy enough to get lots of radio play.

Russia – Tolmachevy Sisters – Shine – There were a lot of audience boos for these two, not because they were bad – they weren’t.  They were quite good, but the Russia-Crimea-Ukraine politics bled into the mood of the audience.

Ukraine – Mariya Yaremchuk – Tick – Tock – The running man was a neat visual.

Belgium – Axel Hirsoux – Mother – This guy has a decent voice, but he’s not “pop” enough to win this competition. (He didn’t make it to the finals.)

The Netherlands – The Common Linnets – Calm After The Storm – I like the sound of this band, actually.  This song has a little bit of “Every Breath You Take” in it, I think.

Belarus – Teo – Cheesecake – A Belarusian boy band!

Ireland – Can-Linn (featuring Kasey Smith) – Hearbeat – I liked this, but I’m predisposed to enjoy anything with a good fiddle in the background. They didn’t make it to the finals, though.

Poland – Donatan & Cleo – We Are Slavic (My Slowianie) – Poland’s answer to the Spice Girls?

Austria – Conchita Wurst  – Rise Like A Phoenix – Austrian drag queen with a killer voice.

Iceland – Pollapönk – No Prejudice – These dudes are totally my favorites to win, even if they do dress like the Wiggles.  Plus I dig their dance moves at 1:42.

Will you watch the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 finals tomorrow night?

Competitive Europeans, Part 2

After seeing how much the locals get into the Eurovision song competition, I thought I understood how the locals responded to competition. That was before the UEFA European Football Championship started.

UEFA, or the Union of European Football Associations, is an organization that coordinates the national football associations throughout Europe. Much like Eurovision, UEFA was founded in Switzerland in the 1950s.

A brief digression to translate for my American friends: Whenever I say football in this blog, I’m talking about the game that Americans know as soccer. If I’m talking about the big crashy game with the helmets and the pigskin, I’ll refer to that as “American Football,” or “Big Guys Running Into Each Other Really Fast In Between Beer Commercials.”   Here’s John Cleese to explain the differences further:

Just before Euro 2012 started, people began to decorate their cars, and in some cases, their homes with national colors.  Here’s two examples in Germany to give you a sense of this.   Even the lei hanging from the rear-view mirror is in German colors.

When your team wins, the celebrations are boisterous and jubilant.  Germany won their match the other night, and there was honking horns and celebrations for hours afterward throughout the city, much of it audible from my apartment.

The opening rounds of Euro 2012 started when I was in Amsterdam a few weekends ago. I was in Holland when their team was playing, and I was not prepared for just how invested people are into their national teams.    The Dutch fans went all out.   Buildings were decked out in the team colors, and some had giant inflatable balls:

People wore amazingly orange costumes throughout the city-  I saw full orange business suits, orange wigs, orange cowboy hats, orange wooden-clog-shaped shoes, and more.  I’m not even sure what to call this outfit:

The team spirit is so inclusive that even the furry folk get dressed up in their team colors:

Unfortunately for the Dutch fans, Holland has not done well this year.  I think that’s why this pup looks so sad!

We’re in the quarter-finals now, with Germany facing Greece tonight.  If Germany makes it into the semi-finals, then they’ll be playing either England or Italy next.  I’m hopeful they’ll make it into the finals, but all the remaining teams are very good so it should be an entertaining next few days.

As a temporary German, I feel obligated to show team spirit by wearing their colors on my lanyard at work.

Competitive Europeans, Part 1

American Idol and similar vocal performance shows are all the rage back in the US, but I didn’t know until last month that they all have roots you can trace back to Europe. I first started to hear mentions of Eurovision during trivia quiz night at the pub, but I had no idea just how big it was until the competition aired last month.  That’s when all the blog posts started-  I follow a lot of blogs from other folks who live in Germany, and after the finals were aired, there were lots of wrap up posts.

I wasn’t going to write about this, because so many other people have, but then I started to read up on the history of the contest, and I started to listen to the music.

It started in 1956. After Europe started to rebuild itself following World War 2, the European Broadcasting Union based in Switzerland tried to come up with ways of bringing together their member nations. They came up with Eurovision, an experiment in live broadcasting of a music contest that was based on an existing music festival from Italy. I say experiment because a multinational live television broadcast in 1956 was kind of a big deal.

The first Eurovision was held in Lugano, Switzerland in May of 1956 and it included just seven countries- Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and Switzerland. 2012 was the 57th year of the Eurovision contest, and 42 nations competed.

The format is simple- each competing nation presents a live song, often with elaborate choreography, and the winner is decided by vote. The winning country typically hosts the following year’s competition.

Sometimes, the competition launches careers. ABBA won the contest for Sweden in 1974 with “Waterloo.” Celine Dion won the contest for Switzerland in 1988, so blame them for her continued presence.

Speaking of Celine Dion, the winner this year sounded a bit like her. Loreen, representing Sweden, performed “Euphoria.” With her jumpy choreography, it’s kind of like watching Celine Dion having seizures.

Buncha video embeds behind this ‘more’ tag.