My girlfriend and I watched the Super Bowl at a Chinese restaurant in a rather beat down city. It’s my girlfriends favorite so we’ve been there many times. We get there and are quite surprised to be able to get a seat not only at the bar but directly in front of a TV. Sweet.
We order food and, as expected, the bar begins to slowly fill up. My girlfriend is to my left with five empty seats to my right. I’m in a perfect position on the corner. I know I’ll not be so fortunate to have them remain so for the entire game so I can only hope the person or people are not pains in the ass.
I do not get my wish.
Seated to my immediate right is a woman. A talkative woman. A talkative woman who knows nothing about foot ball yet refuses to let that limitation dissuade her for commenting on every play. Then asking her pretty much equally uninformed, bandwagon jumping husband a question he can’t answer so that leaves her to find her answer somewhere else. That somewhere else would be directly into my ear hole. There were countless times I had my right ear hole being over modulated a question into at the exact same time my left ear hole was being over modulated into with a question I knew inevitably my girlfriend would have.
But all that would come later. During the pre-game it was just your average pre-game chatter. By that I mean meaningless and unnecessary. I sit in the middle of this wondering what I have done to allow this to be part of my Super Bowl enjoyment. I was well prepared for any and all of my girlfriends questions, that comes with the territory, but to have a double barrel assault, I don’t remember signing up for that. But, I must have because that’s what’s happening.
A Hispanic guy sits at the furthest chair at the bar. It is the worst chair at the bar if your intention is to actually watch the game because that seat is behind the television. But he doesn’t seem fazed by this. He’s just sitting there ignoring the goings on sipping his beer. He seems happy so I don’t give him another thought.
That is until the national anthem is being sung.
“Oh say can you. . .”
And the Hispanic guy starts balling. I mean wailing. He buries his face in his hands and just sobs. I’m watching him because it overwhelms me. Here is a man, an immigrant with English as a second language, becoming so emotional over the theme song of his adopted nation that he’s moved to tears. At that moment I’m pretty sure he is the most patriotic person in America. His love for his adopted country runs so deeply the first few words of the song associated with it causes a joyous eruption of emotion. And it doesn’t stop when the song finishes. He wipes his eyes and thrusts his moist hands in the air in celebration of the life he’s allowed to lead.
That’s an American regardless of where he was born.
The game begins and, true to his seating position, he doesn’t seem to care much about the game. Maybe because he’s still trying to compose himself. Maybe it’s because he’s already received exactly what he came for. Whatever it is he’s satiated.
I wish I could say the same for the woman to my right. Not only did she talk all the way through the anthem she even talked through every motion of the game. The bar was subdued during the first half because, as things go with sports fans, when the team they’re rooting for isn’t doing well, there’s not a ton to discuss.
Fortunately for me the woman to my right and her husband left at half time. The Senegalese couple to their right moved over to better seats and they were very nice. Every once in a while they would politely ask me a question which I would answer to their overly effusive thanks. As the halftime festivities continued the bar started to fill up. An Asian guy and some friends took over a couple of tables. A Brazilian trio sat behind me. Some black guys stood behind me keeping up running and entertaining chatter as the game progressed.
At first there was a group of Hispanics who were happy and trash talking because, at the time, their team was ahead. Then an amazing thing happened, the tide, as they say, began to turn. Slowly people started to get more excited while the loud people from earlier seemed to lose their elation.
During a commercial break I got up to take a piss. When I came back I noticed an amazing thing. There were only four white people in the room. That never bothers me. I’ve been the only white guy in my own house. But it was just amazing to see people from all over the place enjoying themselves with such abandon. I sat down and thought about the long gone crying Hispanic guy. He’s the one, he started this day.
I won’t bore you with the outcome of the game but I will say that I was high fived and shook hands and was embraced by nary a white hand. It was a truly American moment. I had a hoodrat happily yell in my face while hugging me,
“I told you! I told you to never lose faith!” As an aside, we ran into him the next day and, let me tell you, he was still in a hugging mood.
I had an Asian guy jump up and down in font of me pounding me on the shoulders with a great big American smile on his face. The Senegalese woman kept patting my hand and laughing. Her husband kept high fiving everyone around him. They both kept thanking me.
It was probably the most American moment I’ve had in a very long time.