Ageism: 60 Mundial years (a day, and a World Cup trophy fridge magnet handed to me at the Berlin Fan Mile)
Pallor: Rested (relatively speaking)
Forecast: 35C outside (36C in hotel room)
A lot of things have happened in the shadow of the Brandenburg Gate. Kennedy gave his famous speech. The wall came tumbling down. And yesterday, two Canadians defended national honour and a well-fortified lifestyle at World Cup Karaoke.
This all went down after I’d walked the Berlin Fan Mile, the street that splits the Tiergarten between the Gate and the Victory Column with big-screen TVs and a bewildering array of activities and souvenir and food and beer concessions. There are sand sculptures and a white-sand beach for volleyball. A ferris wheel. Kick a ball into a hole and win a car. A rest area run by an evangelical Christian group, next to a young women getting the Portuguese flag painted on her bare breasts. The usual stuff.
|More history going down at Brandenburg Gate.|
“Toronto? What are you doing here?” asked the emcee.
“We just got in last night,” said one of the Canadians, and he turned to the crowd. “We’ve only been here one day, BUT IT’S THE BEST DAY OF OUR LIVES! YEAH!”
The emcee looked like he was about to burst. He looked like Monty Hall next to some guy from Houston who’s wetting his pants with excitement in a chicken drumstick suit.
“Vive la FRANCE!” yelled one of the Canadian.
“For-ca Port-u-GAL!” yelled the other, making sure to exhibit the proper Canadian inclusivess.
Then it was time for the competition. The Hamburgers did something I didn’t recognize, or if I did it was so mangled I couldn’t tell. The Berliners, the main one wrapped in the Germany flag, did 54 74 90 2006 and although they were kinda standstill they were not bad at that (it's really a gimme putt, that one). The Frankfurters stumbled YMCA, the Canadians doing the Egyptian dance around them. Then it was Canada’s turn: Of course, it was Eye of the Tiger. They slayed ‘em, a karaoke Mick ‘n Keith prancing around and preening. By this time, at around 7 pm, two hours before kickoff, the place was beginning to fill up, too.
“Let’s hear it for Canada!” screamed the emcee, and they were giving it to them. Then he turned to them. “Just in case you need it, guys, I’m going to invite you for a beer.”
It was time to vote, and of course the Canadians got the loudest cheer. The prize was two official World Cup soccer balls – but wait, the Berliner guy with the flag didn’t hear the difference in cheers! He’s not leaving the stage until they have a cheer-off! The emcee shakes his head but the crewcutted guy is adamant and one of his partners, wearing a bandana and an eye patch with a diamond stud in his ear so big I can see it from 20 metres away, looking like Yohoho and a bottle of Pils, is leaning in over his shoulder, nodding and backing him up. So the emcee relents. It’s a cheer-off.
“SCHEISS!” yells Sonia, a goth-pallored Berliner leaning over the railing at the front of the stage. “All is Scheiss! The Canadians won! Fair and square!”
She turns to me. She’s on rollerblades – I’d interviewed her earlier for today’s petroleum-based contribution – and she is tall and thin with a silver stud in her nose and jet black hair. “They are cheating your Canadians. You are a reporter. You should do something!”
I just nod my head, take my pencil out, and write something down, anything. What else can I do? It’s not like there’s karaoke police or anything.
At the cheer-off, of course the Germans win. They have noisemakers and horns. I have no voice left – literally, I lost it three days ago – but I try and squeak out something to add for the Maple Leaf forever. Just to say I tried.
The emcee intervenes! It’s a tie! One ball to each, and a bag of official sponsor swag! An international incident averted. "It's still scheiss," says Sonia.
I catch up with the Canadians at the security entrance to the stage: Andrei Gropper, from Bathurst and Eglinton, a business student at Western, and Raphi Aronowicz, from Yonge and York Mills, economics at McGill. Both 20 years old, backpacking around Europe, having landed in England on July 1. Just got into Berlin last night, and watched Italy-Germany at a bar near where they’re staying.
“My mom’s from Italy, and I go down to St. Clair since ’94 for every Italy game during the World Cup,” says Andrei. “I was cheering pretty hard for them. I was the only guy in the place for Italy.”
Yesterday they came down to the Brandenburg Gate just to see the place, wandered into the Fanfest and some guy asked them if they wanted to do this – perhaps the matching T-shirts that say “Euro 2006 – Shift it into Sixth Gear” tipped them off.
“We had some nerves,” explained Raphi. “I’ve never seen so many people in one spot. We knew we’d blow away the competition because we had so much alcohol in our system.”
“It wasn’t that much,” says Andrei. “We only had a couple beers. Maybe four or five.”
“Yeah, but remember before we got here.”
“Oh yeah, right.”
As I’m talking to them, the German guys come out clutching their soccer ball. “It’s good fun,” says Yohoho, shaking the Canadians’ hands.
They walk away. “That’s our ball,” says Andrei, pointing.