September 19

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Any Given Sunday

That American football doesn’t permeate the lives of Colombians – or anyone outside the US, for that matter – is a tautology. Here in Bogota, as in all of Latin America, futbol dominates. A fun fact: on major game days, when prominent Colombian clubs face off against one another, no alcohol is served. It’s the law.

We’ve got passionate fans here.

I don’t miss the North American version, congesting TV stations for the better part of every weekend. At my high school, there was no dance team; private, Christian, dancing leads to pregnancy which leads to blah, blah, blah. I’d invested lots of time and my parents’ money in classical ballet, and outside of academics, it really was my only talent. Default thus led me to cheerleading, an activity so ill-suited to my personality that I remain shocked the two of us ever crossed paths, much less survived a three-year, love-hate (mostly hate) relationship.

Saturday was game day. Back then, the school didn’t have field lights, so we played on weekend afternoons. Though kickoff didn’t happen until noon, the cheer squad arrived early – stupidly early – for reasons I now no longer (thank G-d) recall.

What I remember with HD precision is staring at the clock – big, electric, red light-bright numbers – as it warped time into glacial pace. Every timeout – the clock stopped. Every turnover – the clock stopped. Every real or imagined injury – the clock stopped. Every time the panicked quarterback tossed the ball out of bounds – the clock stopped.

It was bad enough that these so-called “plays” lasted all of three-ten seconds. Then a whistle, rehuddle, trudge to the line, kneel down, wait for the whistle, sprint into each other, move a few feet, repeat. I think football might be an actual cause of ADD, teaching people they need only pay attention for 1/10th of one minute at a time. The monotony and scheduled interruptions filled me with an overwhelming desire to scream. Instead, I smiled – the lockjawed smile of a real lunatic – and jumped up into the air, coaxing a skeptical (sometimes sneering) crowd to cheer along, help the team to victory.

Between all the clock stops, quarter breaks, halftime siesta, pre-game warmups and post-game cooldowns, my entire Saturday was gone. Surviving – just lasting – through the whole ordeal gave me a sense of what the word perseverance really meant. That boredom is a formidable foe, but it can be conquered by counting the tiny indentations of asphalt surrounding one’s peppy right sneaker, or imagining an alternate universe where judging spectators are forced to put up stunts – liberties, basket tosses – at their own peril. No safety mats, no helpful tips.

Thankfully, high school and cheerleading ended. And I grew up (a little bit, at least). And I managed to marry a man who doesn’t care at all for televised sports. And now we live in Bogota, where there is no reason whatsoever to be coerced into watching the Cowboys play the Raiders, or whatever.

Instead, we take advantage of Bogota’s commitment to fitness through its weekly gift of several major carreras to bikers, runners, walkers, skaters. Thousands of Bogotanos fill the Septima every Sunday, and I usually run with the little one. It’s my favorite way to see the city – on roads otherwise packed with cars and buses – Image

and it reminds me a little bit of Austin’s constant lane closures for bike races and marathons. A whiff of home.