“USA! USA! USA!” Those chants filled my TV yesterday, as I watched the US team succumb to Belgium in the World Cup round of death. I’ve never been a soccer fan (can’t quite call it football yet), but for some reason, this year, I watched as many of USA’s matches as I could. Maybe it was because of the hilarious commentary from Men in Blazers—a British duo that made me laugh and comprehend and hope for a long Team USA run in this World Cup. They seemed more patriotic about American football than most Americans I know. They made me crave cupcakes, too. (Fortunately, I haven’t caved to that craving yet, as I’m still trying to shed pounds from that cheese-laden trip to Vermont.)
But y’all know by now that soccer isn’t likely to replace my favorite sport: track and field. My husband and I journeyed to Sacramento this past weekend to see the US Track and Field National Championships. This is considered an off year because there are no Olympics or World Championships later in the season. It’s the only year in a four-year cycle that this happens. Nonetheless, we enjoyed attending this championship meet.
Some of the races are harder to cheer for than others. I mean, how do you cheer for one runner when there are three or four you’d love to see win? The men’s 5,000 was like that for me Friday night. If we had stayed for the men’s 1500, that race would have been even harder for me to pick who to cheer for.
We didn’t get to stay for the whole meet, and the men’s 1500 meter final was to be contested while we were on a plane home. As we rode the elevator to the lobby to check out, we stopped to pick up two more passengers: 1500 meter star Lopez Lomong and one of his brothers (I think it was his brother). You may remember from a previous post that I’m a big fan of his, not just because of his amazing running but because of his amazing life and message of hope.
I stopped breathing, and my head was filled with: Is that …? I think … It’s Lopez Lomong! That’s Lopez Lomong! Oh my gosh, Lopez Lomong is standing right here! Say something. No, don’t. You’ll say something stupid. Say something anyway. No! Think of something to say! It’s Lopez Lomong! (My brain isn’t always a pretty place to live.)
This is a typical rundown of what happens in my head when I get star-struck. I don’t always overcome my shyness, but I did manage a smile and then an infusion of bravery that allowed me to ask, “Are you going to win today?” Lomong flashed a smile and then said, “I hope I win.” My husband told him we had been at the meet but had to head home. We wished him a great run. He wished us easy flying. And then the elevator reached the lobby. We caught our plane home. Lomong took third in the 1500.
Sports and patriotism
In his book The Four Loves, CS Lewis writes:
First, there is love of home, of the place we grew up in or the places, perhaps many, which have been our homes; and of all places fairly near these and fairly like them; love of old acquaintances, of familiar sights, sounds and smells … With this love for the place there goes a love for the way of life; for beer and tea and open fires, trains with compartments in them … (23)
Lewis quite easily could have added sports teams and competitors to his list of things we love about home. I don’t know what it is about sports and patriotism, but, with a few exceptions, I find that I cheer most readily for a US competitor or US team.
Elite US runners will compete in a few more international track meets this summer, and I’ll cheer for them. I hope Lomong and other favorites will be among the winners. As for the World Cup, well, I’ll be cheering for Costa Rica and France, for the love of friends (and avid football fans) who hail from those countries.
Love of place
Speaking of Lewis’ love of home and place, there’s a contest for best National Park happening now. Glacier National Park is currently leading over Acadia. As with the men’s 1500 race, I have a hard time picking which competitor to root for. But that hasn’t stopped me from voting for the same park two days in a row now. Maybe I’ll vote differently tomorrow. You can cast a vote every day through July 14. So in honor of all that is lovely and patriotic in our country, I encourage you to vote early and often.
I’d love to hear what (and where) stirs your patriotism the most. Happy 4th of July!