We needed color back in our lives. We needed blood rushing through our shouting lungs. Finally, it was just me, the diplomat, and of course his translator. “Good morning, Mr. Krznykev,” I said as he clambered into the car; I’m sure to have mispronounced his name, but I try my best. All the bland coffee and beige back and forth in windowless rooms had left us all drained. After entire week of dry, forgettable diplomatic meetings starved of wit by the translation barrier, I confess: I was truly excited to get to show the representative from Rorzhakistan a game of real, live American football.
As we rode smoothly in the armored car to the stadium, I tried not to get carried away. But even still, I could tell it was reaching my cheeks. Reaching my speech, in the quavers of emotion I’m sure the diplomat could hear well before his translator distilled the drips of words quietly in his ear. Hell, the excitement seemed to be reaching the world out of the tinted windows, where the sky was bluer than dreams.
“Just look at that big blue sky,” I said with a grin, rubbing my hands together. “I really think you are going to enjoy this, today.”
Mr. Krznykev looked annoyed, listening to the translator. Then he turned to her and said something quietly. I patiently waited, letting the colors sink back into me. “I still do not understand. Is it really… necessary that we attend this ceremony?” she said at last, not meeting my gaze. He said something sharp, pointedly looking between me and the world outside the windows. “We have much work to do,” she said.
“Yes, I know. But this will be good, to take our mind off that work for a while. A break.” I paused. “Plus, it may help your understanding of our American culture to see how we have fun!”
He nodded while she translated in hushed tones. There was a resigned look on his face. I could see it hang across his brow. But I was going to break through to him, somehow! And here we were. The vast concrete cavern loomed over us, welcoming all to the spectacle.
We hustled and bustled through the VIP gate. The translator was clearly gawping at all the strangely costumed fans in their red and orange, the few rabid visiting folks standing out as the enemy in blue and gold. Our security detail whisked us through the crowds to our box seats at the top of the stadium. “Ahh, living in style!” I smiled and gestured for them to take a seat in the comfortable chairs. “I will get any food or beverages you need. Please let me know!”
I bowed to the translator slightly, and deeper to Mr. Krznykev. She covered her mouth and curtsied back. The diplomat just looked at me and nodded. Then he turned, took his coat off, and plonked himself down in a seat, arms crossed.
We all surveyed the field for a time, and sipped flavored waters. For the life of me I could not get them to try the local delicacy of deep-fried mushrooms wrapped in bacon. Finally, the translator got through to me that Mr. Krznykev did not eat bacon.
“What about you?” I winked at her, holding one out, knowing Mr. Krznykev was not paying attention.
She got an angry look in her eyes and shook her head quite vigorously. “No, thank you,” she said, but it was like a parrying stab. In retrospect, I should have assumed that Rorzhakistanis might not appreciate the finer tastes of American living.
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry.” I glanced down at the field. “Look, the game is about to begin!”
The home team rushed out onto the field, blasting their way through a large plastic banner to a bombastic song, blaring through the stadium.. They waved their bright red helmets in the air. Everyone in the stadium was electric.
Two men ran at each other on the field, sprinting headlong. A red helmet crunched into a gold one, clanging with a force the entire crowd could feel. They bounced off each other like rag dolls, only to be piled on by two more roaring teammates, and then two more, all trying to push the pile of people toward their end zone.
The red and orange tide was carrying the mass toward victory, slowly. I must admit, my excitement got the better of me as I let out a loud “WHOOOOP!” along with the roaring crowd. The stadium shook with the bellowing fans.
Suddenly I noticed the translator waving gently at me, trying to get my attention. She pointed at Mr. Krznykev, who covered his face. “What is going on here?” she yelled. “I thought football had a ball!”
I shake my head. “It used to,” I yelled back. The diplomat turned to me with a look of shock on his face, pained and red. Knowing they probably couldn’t even hear me over the surging roars of the crowd, I smiled wide in their faces and raised a fist. “This is the politician drafting league!” I shouted. “This is politics, baby!”
The crowd roared as the home team pushed one of the blue and gold visitors into the end zone. “For shame,” I thought. The enemy is making this far too easy.