It’s every sport junkie’s favorite time of year. The time of season where there is never a shortage of sports broadcasts found on the TV and radio; where the sports section of your daily paper is overflowing with game results and statistics and where good natured team trash talk starts to escalate.
With an exciting conclusion to the MLB season, comes the beginning of college basketball madness. The NBA too is now underway, while NHL teams are just starting to gain momentum. Week to week, every battle on the gridiron is played like it’s the last - as crunch time starts to bear down on NFL and college football teams.
Somewhat of a closet sports junkie myself, it’s hard being on another continent, away from the action of the North American professional sports. Trying to follow basketball, football and even hockey, (Go Canucks Go!) can be a struggle. The chance of catching a college basketball or (American) football game on television is a big zero. They simply don’t broadcast these sports on this side of the Atlantic. Here any kind of futbol is king, as is Euroleague basketball. This is what dominates the local EuroSport television channels. People don’t really know or care about US college sports teams and why should they?
The NBA however, is somewhat familiar to sports enthusiasts abroad. With the continuing trend of European players leaving Europe for the NBA, the league has caught on to an extent. But truth still remains, you have to be a hardcore Lakers/Celtics/Cavs fan, etc to watch the games live; games that often don’t tip off until 3am. Like any competitive athlete, you have to be willing to put in the time and effort to follow your favorite team or sport, which is a dedication I just don’t have time for.
I still read the sports section everyday and religiously check gohuskies.com for game results, but rarely do I take the time to surf the net and break down game results and player statistics. I’ve come to accept that I’m somewhat out of the loop when I’m living my second life in Europe.
My life in Europe is different than the one in North America. The change of scenery and missing comforts of home are replaced with new adventures and experiences, as well as introduction to new sports. Each season I return, I inevitably find myself rooting for a new team in a sport I never knew existed or never had the passion to follow. In Finland and Sweden it was floorball, (wait, let’s clarify…I was never a fan of floorball, but was interested in learning about and watching the game) in Portugal I uncovered my hidden passion for futbol (soccer) and now in Luxembourg I’ve become a dedicated handball fan…
Most Wednesday/Friday nights you’ll find me in a gym cheering for the Differdange Red Boys. This has created some confusion among my teammates and Basket Esch supporters. A few weeks ago the Red Boys came to Esch to play and in their mind, I was clearly rooting for the wrong team. I’m a very loyal person – I think it’s one of my best traits, however, I have no ties to the Esch handball players and therefore dodn’t feel guilty about not rooting for them. The Red Boys however, employ a lot of the guys I hang out with here in Luxembourg - therefore I choose to support people I know and like to see do well. In addition, the captain of the Red Boys happens to be my Belgian teammate’s boyfriend. We often attend games together and yell randomly at the referees. Most of the time I have no idea what is going on and since I shout out in English, most people don’t pay me any attention. I’m pretty sure I’m the least of their worries, as handball games can get pretty rowdy. Fans are intensely supportive of their teams and games are highly attended. Add that to the fact beer is sold throughout the match and you have a dangerous combination of testosterone, alcohol and team allegiance. Last game I attended there was a fight on the court between the two teams and fans started throwing things on the floor. Only in Europe…
From the games I’ve watched so far, I must say I’ve gained a certain amount of respect for the sport. Handball is a brutally physical game. The players are strong, quick and have great hand/eye co-ordination. They sacrifice their bodies on every play and are not afraid to show their emotion. Not only that, their fitness level is very high – you’re not going to see any overweight guys playing this sport. Games are divided into two 30-minute halves, with stoppage of play being rare. The court is larger than a basketball court (40m X 20m) and when the whistle blows, players quickly look to the ref for the call and continue on. It’s an interesting sport. Even though I still don’t fully understand some of the rules and strategy that is involved, it’s entertaining.
Basketball Update: Last week we lost a heartbreaker to Etzella. We should of won, but stupid mistakes in the last 5 minutes determined the result. I have to remind myself that we are a very young team, but it still doesn’t dull the taste of losing. I had a good game, but without the ‘W’ it doesn’t mean much. Sunday we have an important match against Racing – it’s a must win, so we better do just that!
Sidenote: Be sure to click here and check out the great feature on my brother in the weeks Vancouver Province. So proud of him!