Watch the World Cup, Join the Army, get a greencard!
There is a lot going on, and a lot to say and write, including about how my talk in Congress went on Friday, and of course, recent happenings in Gaza. I'm going to digress for a moment for a World Cup post. Not to worry, it will weave its way inevitably into our conflict.
A lot of people in the Middle East are up in arms (no, no pun intended) about the fact that ART (Arab Radio and TV Network)bought exclusive rights to broadcast the World Cup for a whopping $300 million for the forseeable future. Angry, I say, partly because ART is a subscription only channel, while most other channels, includes the Aljazeera network (Aljazeera sports, etc.) are on the free-to-air network.
Now, the overwhelming majority of the people could not watch the World Cup unless they had this subscription service which costs $300 for the dish and reciever plus the monthly subscription fees for at least a year (or went to a public viewing area, such as a restaurant). According to this article in the Jordan Times, local Palestinian TV channels are re-broadcasting the games on terrestrial waves with ART's tacit approval (it has assured these broadcasters that they will not be sued...more likely because of the obvious futility of trying to sue us at this point than anything else).
It wasn't until yesterday that we realized we could watch the Mondial on ART America (which you can get on the Dish network). Up till now, we've been viewing it on the Spanish channel (hey, we can't understand a thing, but my sense is that what's to be understood? its football after all! the universal language! and when the commentator says "excellente! magnifique! GOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAL!" that's all I need to hear...). Of course, watching the World Cup in America, and footbal and the U.S., well, that's just another, very sad matter (its almost as though there IS no World Cup at the moment..with the cover of last week's Sports Illustrated about baseball, and this week's about the basketball).
There was one good column in SI about the matter by columnist Steve Rush (World's Right, We're Wrong). An excerpt:
"The average American eats three hamburgers a week, 16 orders of French fries a month, 25 pounds of candy a year ... and is profoundly uninterested in the World Cup. Soccer, it appears, is the only thing we don't want crammed down our throats. What does this attitude toward the World Cup say about the U.S.? It illuminates many of our least flattering qualities as a nation, not least of which is a breathtaking incuriosity about the rest of the world...Subliminally, our aversion may have less to do with red cards and yellow cards than green cards."
He goes on to say that a new Roper poll says two thirds of Americans between 18-24 can't find IRAQ on the map (you know, that country they're at war with)...and half cant' find New York City! That Ronaldinho is a victim of American bias against pony-tailed athletes. That soccer doesn't fit the American self-image of "ass-kickers", not "grass-kickers" (in another column, Rick Reilly comes up with his pick for the U.S. World Cup chant to replace the bland "U.S.A! U.S.A!": We are the Yankees! We are not afraid! You beat us tonight! Thursday, we invade!)
But I digress.
So, back to ART. Excitedly, we flip on the switch, and learn during commerical breaks that "the 2006 World Cup is brought to you buy the U.S. Army and the FBI", and are innundated with commercials telling us (us being Arabs) about the wonderful career opportunities available to us in the Army and FBI; how, if we join the Army, we could bring fresh water to thirsty Iraqi children (let's not mention that bombing part..too ugly for the camera); how we can be "a bridge between two worlds" because we speak two languages; heck, how we can all out "change the world". And-as an added bonus if you act NOW!- $10, 000 and a green card! Hoorah! Now I know what to do with my life!
Ok. Enough of that.
All of that, plus news of the kidnapping today, brought to mind a 1992 Israeli movie starring Palestinian actor Mohammad Bakri, called "Cup Final" (Gmar Gavi'a). Its about an Israeli antique store owner/reservist soldier who is called to duty when Israel invades Lebanon in 1982 just as he is heading to the airport, tickets in hand, to watch the World Cup in Spain.
He is captured by a group of Palestinain fedaiyeen, led by Bakri, trying to make it to the Beirut, using them as bargaining chips. All the while, they both follow the matches closely by radio, sharing their love for soccer, and forming an obscure bond along the way. The Israeli learns a lot about their longing for a homeland, and sympathizes with them. The end is tragic, and leaves many questions open. Anyhow, it is an interesting movie, and it sort of came to mind today, though it is not necessarily. More of an interesting character study than anyting else, but def. worth seeing. And with that, I end my World Cup post.