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Jun 10, 2006

Deciphering German customs

Friends,

I'm writing to you much sooner than I normally would. But due to the magnitude of the once-every-four-years occasion I'm participating in (the World Cup), I feel compelled to increase my output from once a month to once every few days. Of course with this intensified pressure to produce more words per month times the length of U.S. Soccer's tournament run, I can't promise that the eloquence you have come to accept as truth from my previous outings will be up to its usual standards.

My editors/advisors/people of interest want me to take a few minutes every day and share some insight with fans back home.

"Nothing fancy," the E/A/PI say, "Just write about your experiences, like a diary. Don't worry about flow or telling a story."

"That's not my normal modus operandi," I state, "but if you think it will work."

"We're looking out for your best interests," asserts the E/A/PI, "Of course it will work."

My Diary (the audition)

June 1 - Today we leave for Germany and the prospect of being behind the curtain for a World Cup, the preparation, the games, and the pressure, is very exciting. But first a checklist of things to do before I board the plane in the afternoon:

1. Go on Good Morning America and score a goal between the legs (a nutmeg for the soccer inclined) of the poor weatherman on national television. Do a celebration dance to really rub it in.

2. Do a radio interview with Fox Sports and pump up the World Cup and the effect Major League Soccer has had on the development of our national team. (Fun fact of the day: 19 of the 23 players on the roster have MLS experience.) To boot, I will most likely have to defend the sport in general and discuss why it hasn't taken off in America. Possible answers:

"Since the game never stops moving and there are no timeouts or breaks or countless instant replays to force-feed the highlight junkies, one might actually need to use their brain to fully appreciate and understand the game."

OR

"That's a great question. I think the reason that soccer hasn't caught on in America is because most people don't think they can be good at it. Secretly, men think they could have been a professional athlete in the big three sports in the U.S. (baseball, football, and basketball), if only they ... didn't get hurt in college, were taller, studied harder for the SATs, whatever. Based on my instincts, which are male, I get very irritated at something I can't do and then have a tendency to bad mouth the object of my frustration, like golf. What a waste of time."

OR

"I believe Americans take a lot of pride in creating their own sports and crowning the champion as the best in the world. Take the World Series, the Super Bowl, the NBA finals, each winner is named the WORLD CHAMPION (I know, it makes perfect sense). Ah America, play by her rules or she's going to take her ball and go home."

OR

"The sport of soccer will take off in America ... be patient. The other leagues have a seventy-year head start."

3. Be a guest on Fox and Friends to convince the conservative right that soccer has a fair and balanced place in the political universe.

June 2 - A quick note about June 1st, the radio announcers didn't ask me about soccer taking off in the States. I'm very disappointed since it's clear I put a lot of thought into a how to tackle the issue. Sigh.

We just got back from our first training in Hamburg and I'm not sure what time it is. Lack of sleep, a time change, and the constant gray glow from cloud cover keeps me off balance. I want to say it is mid-afternoon (it's 7:32 p.m.) and in my very brief stint within German borders I have learned a few local customs which I would like to translate for you, which will be especially important if you plan on coming over for the tournament. If a German citizen:

Shakes their head at your bus with the huge motorcade = A general acknowledgement that Americans need a parade for every occasion and you're wasting their hard-earned tax dollars on look-at-me extravagance.

Waves a middle finger and shouts = "You're No.1"

Points to their head while spitting on the ground = A strong indication that they (usually the older generation) think you're a bunch of delusional, crazy idiots who have no right to be in their presence (My personal favorite and another fun fact of the day).

Gestures a peace sign = A mistake. They must think we're Brazil.

June 3 - After re-reading the previous entries, I think I might get a little cranky when I'm tired. If I offended anyone, then please I beg you, stay away from me when it's clear I need some rest.

June 4 - DO NOT DISTURB.

June 5 - How is everyone doing? It's great to be writing to you today. I feel ... rested, rejuvenated, revived, resurrected, renewed, and revitalized. Energy is oozing out of my pores. I can't wait to get on the field and run around, lift some weights, hit the sauna and ice bath, and walk around town.

(Later)

Unfortunately, my extracurricular activities are going to have to wait until tomorrow because I realize I have to write to you, my dear readers.

I love you all.

Jimmy Conrad is a defender for the U.S. national team and Major League Soccer's Kansas City Wizards. He contributes regularly to ESPN.com.