In Spain, soccer is a wild, no-holds barred contest
January 26, 1989
SEVILLE, Spain (CCIS Program)
When one is in Spain, one must do as the Spaniards do, or so we've been told by the College Consortium of International Studies Center staff when we ask about how to enjoy our free time here.
This applies to everything -- from eating lunch at 2 p.m. and dinner between 9 and 10 p.m. to drinking tall glasses of "cerveza Cruzcampo" (the Spanish Budweiser) with tapas at one of the billions of bars in the city.
And for those of us with a desire to be athletic (even if it's once during a 12-week term), it applies to playing sports.
Because soccer is the national sport here, it was only natural that we, too, would want to catch a little "futbol fever."
Most of the time we watched soccer games on Spanish television, although quite a few of us went to see the Spain-Argentina exhibition game or the Spain-Ireland game, which, of course, was for a spot in the European Cup finals.
Naturally, we wanted to have our own soccer game.
Natural because over here, we see little kids playing on fields (usually hard-packed soil), making moves that would dazzle even Pele. There are also foozball tables or video games with soccer as the "main theme."
But what really got the ball rolling (so to speak) was the pick-up game of sand-soccer at our first out-of-town trip to Mazagon Beach.
There, Juan Dura, director of the CCIS Program, and I were captains of the two teams during a most heavily contested and exhausting match (Ever try playing soccer on a sandy beach?), which my team won.
It could've ended there, but the word rematch spread like wildfire, and for a month all of us were looking forward to the "real" soccer game.
Although I'm not usually athletic, I was one of the most ardent proponents for the second match, having first taken a "general opinion survey" and formally suggesting it to Lisa Dolan, student activities coordinator here.
After all, "my" team had won the "sand soccer" match and I had gotten a taste of the "thrill of victory."
Signs went up on the bulletin board, and two weeks later we had enough players on the sign-up sheet to be able to make arrangements for the Game of the Semester.
"I was looking forward to that game a lot," said Bob Holzweiss, a junior from St. Bonaventure College in New York. "But for some people the timing was bad -- they wanted to go to Morocco that Friday -- so we 'lost' a few good players."
Holzweiss, thinking there would be very few people going to the game, resorted to deception to ensure attendance.
"I was afraid we'd have no game if enough people didn't show up, so I told some people there would be a barbecue afterwards."
Well, whether it was the enthusiasm felt by the group or Bob's barbecue that got at least 20 students to show up at the CCIS Center doesn't matter.
We piled into a bus and headed off to the grandly-named Reina Mercedes Field (Actually, it was one of those dirt fields, with two battered goalboxes at each end.), and at 1 p.m. we were divided into two teams with me on Bob's team.
The game? It was a wild, no-holds barred contest. Most of us had only the basic experience at this (our method being "see the ball, chase it, then kick it."). But what we lacked in skill, we made up for it in determination and enthusiasm.
From a player's point of view, I can say the score seesawed wildly.
And though Dura's effective goalkeeping kept our team from scoring as often as we'd have liked, we still won, 4-3.
It was an exhausting game, too. The field was about 50 meters long, there were no out-of-bounds areas, and we're all sedentary over here. (The few spectators watching the game thought we looked silly.)
But no one cared because we were having too much fun.
And my performance?
I didn't score any goals, nor was I ever close to the goal with the ball. I was too busy chasing after the ball to remember everything I tried to do.
Yes, there were a few injuries, the most serious being a player socked near the eye with a badly aimed soccer ball. Otherwise, just the usual scrapes and bruises.
After the game, we all forgot our rivalry and posed for group photos. I haven't seen any of them yet, but I can tell you this much: Behind our sweaty and dirty sweatshirts, there's a great deal of the camarederie that added a kick to our experience in Spain.
Copyright ©2012 Alex Diaz-Granados. All Rights Reserved.
November 22, 1963 is one of those dates that, like December 7, 1941 or September 11, 2001, has left its mark on the collective memories of Americans who, for good or ill, were alive and at an age to be able to remember exactly what they were doing and where they were when they heard the news that President John F. Kennedy had died an hour after being shot in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza shortly after 12 PM Central Standard Time.
JFK’s assassination has, of course, been one of the most chronicled and hotly-debated crimes in American history; hundreds, perhaps thousands, of non-fiction and fiction books, articles, documentaries and movies have been produced since the mid-1960s, each one with its own spin on how and why the 35th President of the United States was murdered as he rode in a motorcade through downtown Dallas on the last leg of a political trip to Texas.
Along with the many non-fiction books that stick to the “Lee Harvey Oswald-did-it-alone” account, there are many more “conspiracy theory” works that point the finger at various possible suspects – the Mafia, rogue government agencies, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, former President Richard Nixon and even Fidel Castro have been fingered as the authors of Kennedy’s murder.
The Kennedy assassination has also been at the heart of novels, short stories and even TV dramas – some, like Don DeLillo’s Libra, focus on Oswald’s life and personality quirks, while others, such as the 1986 Twilight Zone episode Profile in Silver, are science fiction fantasies that ask “What would happen if someone were to use time travel to prevent the President’s murder?”
(In that episode, Lane Smith plays a distant descendant of the late JFK who, as a historian from the future, uses time travel to save the President’s life, only to have to reverse the good deed when history gets seriously disrupted.)
In Stephen King’s 2011 novel 11-22-63, Profile in Silver’s basic scenario is played out on a truly monumental scale when the “master of horror” takes elements from two different literary genres – science fiction and alternate history – and meshes them into his own body of work.
The novel’s main character – and first-person narrator – is Jake Epping, a likeable high school English teacher from a Maine town called Lisbon Falls. Jake is in his early 30s and recently divorced, and in addition to his regular daytime schedule at Lisbon High School, earns extra income as a night-time GED instructor to adults.
In the prologue, Jake is emotionally affected by an essay written by Harry “Hoptoad” Dunning, the school’s janitor. The theme Jake had assigned is “The Day that Changed My Life,” and Harry’s essay is a chilling account of how his father had murdered his mom and two brothers, battered his sister into a coma and eventual death, leaving Harry himself with a serious injury to his leg (hence the nickname Hoptoad).
As in many Stephen King stories, this event – seemingly trivial in the greater scheme of things – is seminal to the plot of 11/22/63; indeed, Harry’s ensuing graduation from night classes is the catalyst that sets up the main story of the novel.
One of Jake Epping’s friends in Lisbon Falls is diner owner Al Templeton, who inexplicably is stricken by a fatal case of lung cancer seemingly overnight two years after Harry Dunning graduates from night school. Knowing that he is dying, Al summons Jake to his diner and reveals a secret: at the rear of the panty there is a portal that leads to the past – if you enter it, you emerge – every time – on Tuesday, September 9, 1958 at 11:58 AM and – measured in the “present” – come back to find that only two minutes have elapsed no matter how long you stay in the past
Al tells Jake that ever since he discovered – purely by accident – this time slip, he has been trying to change history is both small ways – altering a local resident’s life in a positive way – and significant ones, including living in “past-time” Texas to intercept a Marxist-inspired ex-Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald before he can use a surplus Italian Army bolt-action rifle to shoot JFK from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas on November 22, 1963.
Apparently, though, Al has run into a insurmountable obstacle that prevents him from his self-appointed mission to save Kennedy, so he enlists (a dying man’s request, as he puts it) Jake to carry on, believing that if JFK lives, many of the tragedies that occurred in the ‘60s and after never occur and history will be changed for the better.
One of the lessons Al shares with Jake is that while historically insignificant events are fairly easy to tweak, big ones – such as the events in Dallas on that fatal Friday in 1963 – are “obdurate” and seem to toss up defenses to prevent any tampering. Al’s cancer, for instance, seems to have been caused by history’s obduracy, or so the diner owner thinks.
Despite some misgivings, Jake agrees and takes on the “save JFK” crusade. Arming himself with Al’s stash of “past-time” money (and a few other items that will help a 2011 man live in the Eisenhower-Kennedy years) and creating a new persona with the alias George Amberson, Jake makes several round trips to and from 1958, where he makes a “practice” reset of the present by traveling to the small town of Derry, Maine and attempting to save Hoptoad Harry’s family from bring murdered by Frank Dunning.
If Jake can change his friend Harry’s destiny in a positive way, he thinks, he stands a good chance of being able to crack through history’s “obduracy” and make a cosmically significant change in world events. But as his friend Al found out, causing history to reset has unintended consequences. One mistake – no matter how tiny – can have a plethora of ramificatons……..
My Take: It’s been a very long time since I have read a Stephen King novel, so I was unsure if I would find 11/22/63 to be as good as its rankings in the New York Times’ bestsellers’ list seem to indicate or if it would be the kind of King novel that I’d read for a bit and then put aside (as what happened with Dreamcatcher and The Tommyknockers) and never finish.
Fortunately for me, I happen to be fascinated by stories about either time travel or alternate history. I’m also intrigued by the story of the Kennedy assassination, even though I am not a “conspiracy theory” buff and tend to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, was JFK’s murderer. These two reasons, and not 11/22/63’s current rank in the bestsellers’ list, are why I decided to give Steve-O a chance to chill and thrill me with one of his big, meandering novels again.
Although King has tackled science fiction in a few short stories and novels (Dreamcatcher, for one), I don’t think he has ever written a full-fledged novel which incorporates two SF sub-genres – time travel and alternate history – until now.
Interestingly, King clearly avoids “techie” SF time travel ideas along the lines of futuristic settings; there are no time machines – such as the one used by the protagonist of A Portrait in Silver – or any spaceships doing the Star Trek “slingshot around the sun” effect as seen is The Voyage Home.
In 11/22/63, the “time slip” in Al’s diner simply exists. The novel does delve into its existence and how it affects the various historical possibilities, but the reader will have to discover those neat concepts on his or her own.
However, I will say that despite King’s habit of making his “big novels” a bit longer than absolutely necessary – the story does get a bit “saggy” in the middle part – 11/22/63 is a very interesting attempt to blend elements of Stephen King-style horror, American history - including cultural history – and science fiction.
Not only did King and his researcher – a guy named Russ Dorr – do a lot of homework on the JFK assassination (certain key figures, such as FBI Agent James Hosty, as well as Lee Harvey Oswald and his Russian wife Marina, are supporting characters), but events from the Cold War before Kennedy became President, prices of grocery items, TV Guide listings and all sorts of minute details from the time period appear in the pages of 11/22/63.
Obviously, attention to detail is what sets a good alternate history novel aside from mediocre ones, and 11/22/63 is full of little ones that make the story seem authentic. A newspaper in 1963, for instance, is said to have cost a dime. (In one early chapter, King’s alter ego Jake tells us that a hair cut in 1958 small town Maine costs 40 cents.)
All in all, 11/22/63 is an entertaining and engrossing novel that should have a successful crossover effect. Long-time fans will like how King manages to work in sly – and not so sly – references to some of his other novels (I noticed a few subliminal allusions to Christine and The Dark Tower, and Jake arrives in Derry sometime after the 1958 events depicted in It), while casual readers or alternate history buffs will enjoy the nostalgia-evoking story that seeks to answer one of history’s biggest What If questions.