« Tahrir Redux: Poignant Shots from the Anniversary | Main | Screaming Babies in a Coffeeshop: A Poem in Three Parts »

A Super Bowl in Costa Rica

February 5th, 2012
Atenas, Costa Rica 

After spending much of the day reading about the Costa Rican culture of non-confrontational si pero no ("yes but no") and writing an essay of sweeping generalizations about a country I had just entered, I encountered the loudest, crudest, and most obnoxious Patriots fan I've ever seen.

On the heels of a packed week of travel and study, we gringos were more than ready to see the Super Bowl, even with Spanish commercials. Being in a small town of old men who sit shirtless on porches in the sun, expatriates in their summer homes, and chihuahuas in pink collars that consider themselves intimidating, our viewing options were limited to a place simply called "Sportsbar." Owned by a Canadian and filled with oddly friendly waiters, unrequested entrée additions, and extremely cheap alcohol, it was our haven.

Picking around the pork in my would-be vegetarian quesadilla, I looked back and forth between a variety of screens, each about ten seconds apart, and tried to discern which was the closest to the sound coming from the speakers. Once settled on the one closest to my face, the flash of a yellow shirt drew my attention to a man named Señor Patriots scratching his huevos.

"Costa Ricans are a non-committal, on the fence people more concerned with courtesy than taking a position," said my reading. "¿Que` paso, putas?" ("What's up, bitches?") said Señor, presumably to the Patriots, who might have actually heard him, considering the volume. This the first of many such shenanigans, I quickly realized that he would prove better entertainment than the game. He did. And boy did he love Madonna, as evidenced by his shushing the entire bar immediately upon her appearance.

At one point, Señor Patriots, for whom "The Northeast" would have meant Guatemala, wandered behind the bar and was greeted with a "¿Que paso?"—as in "Can I help you?"—as in "What are you doing?"—as in "Stop doing it." ("Ticos rarely say what they mean, often beating around the bush for the sake of politeness," says my reading.) Señor Patriots merely wandered back to his spot in front of (one of) the screens, at which point the waitress and I made eye contact and shrugged at the same time. Ah, bonding with the locals.

I left before the Giants won (Go Giants!) and thus can only imagine the ensuing fit thrown, but I'm sure it was one for the ages. My brother thinks football might be doomed. I think that as long as people have no problem forsaking their nationality in favor of a team based a world (technically two worlds) away, the sport has little about which to worry.

Melanie Berk