08 July 2011

Let this Copa pass from my lips

The Copa America tournament started a week ago. I have yet to attend a game, despite supposedly being in the process of making a documentary about its fans.

Why, you ask? Excellent question. For one thing, the Copa America tournament is an enormous deal, especially here in Latin America. However, it has been classically ignored by media within the United States, because Americans, so the narrative goes, do not like football, except the American kind.

I would like to extend an alternative interpretation. Americans love soccer. There are soccer moms and soccer dads and soccer leagues for kids. There are minivans packed full of cones and balls in every suburban and ex-urban neighborhood. Midwesterners, I am told, pack bars to bursting to cheer on Man United or Real Madrid.

However, when two scrappy little independents from the United States show up at Latin America's largest and most famous football tournament, they are placed so far down on the totem pole that they do not receive much, if any, access. So many press from Europe and Latin America showed up that they get priority, and the very few Americans here are only allowed to cover games if there is room left over on the lists. There was no room. No room means no access, and the only American media that made it in was Univision, an excellent network but one with relatively limited appeal in much of the United States.

Instead of bringing the culture of the game to Americans as we had thought we might, we instead spent the first three days of the tournament sitting in restaurants near our little apartment in San Telmo, eating steak, drinking Quilmes and occasionally cursing as we longingly watched the breath of excitable presenters on the bars' televisions steam out into the frosty air.

Now that the hype of the Copa has faded somewhat and reporters are skipping games, we are getting placed on the press lists and can, possibly, if we are lucky, enter the press boxes at the stadiums. Now that we have access, of course we have fallen prey to a nasty virus, a most deadly South American disease cleverly disguised as a nasty head cold. Actually, it really is only a nasty head cold, but it has effectively grounded us.

Either way, today we will watch the games as jealously as we had been earlier this week, but instead of enjoying steak and Argentinian beer at a Buenos Aires bar, tonight we will be in our apartment, sipping at hot lemon tea and cough syrup and gingerly nibbling at pieces of plain bread to quell our rebellious stomachs.

Meanwhile, we will comfort ourselves with the certain knowledge that if we are sick, others will be as well, and once we are recovered enough to return to the Copa games other reporters will have fallen to this virus, leaving room for us on the press lists and taking their turn to watch us jealously on the televisions in their bedrooms as they sip at their honey-and-lemon teas.

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