Not quite the real thing: How I went home again for a while on a Saturday

September 27, 2013

in An American in Europe,Living abroad

Stockholm American football in Stockholm.


The whistles were what I noticed. They sounded exactly like the referee whistles at an American football–not soccer–game.  Hearing them sent me back to countless high school and university football games, being outside in the autumn air with crunchy leaves on the ground, hanging out with my friends, watching but not watching the game.

But it couldn’t be the sound of a football game that I was hearing, because I was in Stockholm and that just was not likely. It was probably field hockey or a bandy game or a track meet. I’ve been fooled so many times before, smelling what must be Cincinnati’s Skyline Chili or perfect southern fried chicken, for instance. And of course, those weren’t really the things that I was smelling, but rather some Swedish variation and it was just my memory kicking into overdrive and drawing me back to the US.

I kept hearing the whistles though, so I finally began to think that maybe I was not making the football up in some twisted sort of homesickness. Robert and I walked over to the stadium. And indeed it was an American-style football game with helmets and padding and plays being called. So we watched from the sidelines for a while.

“Does it make you feel like home?” asked Robert.

“Sort of, I said. But something’s missing.”

Beyond the fact that the plays were being called in Swedish and the announcer made comments in Swedish, something was not right.

“It’s too quiet,” I replied at last. “If we were at a game in the US, there would be a marching band filling in the breaks between plays. There would be cheerleaders doing their thing on the sidelines. There would be applause and people cheering along.”

And just like that, I felt very far from home. Funny how that can happen.

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