Kdo neskáče není Čech! (Whoever doesn’t jump, isn’t Czech!)

So, it all starts when I get to the arena for the Czech-Slovak hockey game.

My companion, B, hands me a face painting kit and a girl wearing a ‘skirt’ hands me tiny stickers of the Czech flag. B sticks them on my cheeks before I have time to come up with a dermatological excuse. I stand outside among the Czechs and Slovaks, some of whom are jibing each other with nationalistic epithets and all of whom are drinking beer.

We go inside and I am handed two flags on sticks – one Czech, one Slovak. B informs me with no words that I am not to utilize the Slovak flag. She then tells two people dressed in lion costumes to maul me for a picture, and as their paws grope me to a disturbing pleasure it occurs to me that, while I am against it, I have taken a side in this hockey conflict.

For a heathen, I have lots of daily goals. Eat vegetables after buying them. Stop drinking butter. Use the Internet for informational research and not pornography, music, pornography, Ukrainian dating sites, pornography and adult videos. For the most part, these goals are unattained.

A major goal has been to stave off going native and I have written before about the transformation that occurs in a long time resident of the Czech Republic. And try though I do, it stills happens. A woman fifteen years younger than me is prime dating age and a line at the grocery store is more a ‘suggested order’ than a queue.

I am not resisting Czech culture because I don’t like it; I simply like imbibing Czech society as a somewhat objective observer.

In terms of staving off being Czech, going to the hockey game is a mortal mistake. I swear I saw a sign proclaiming the evening ‘Integrate Stubborn Foreigners into Czech Society’ night.

Our seats are behind goal at just about ice level, a piece of red construction paper is draped over the back of all the seats in our section. I sit in the seat, which is about two inches tighter than a seat in an American arena (clear denial: see butter activity above). I drink my beer and listen to the chants and the drums and the songs.

In what must be a death duel between the shyness of the Czech and their interest in making out in public there is the ‘Kiss Me’ cam, which entails a man and woman (usually) being projected up on the scoreboard above the ice. They are framed in a heart with the words ‘Kiss Me’ written under it. If the couple kisses, they get a thumbs up and loud cheers from the crowd. If not, everyone boos as though someone has hung Jaromír Jágr in effigy.

This cam brings on a whole new level of performance anxiety, since the last thing I need is to be judged by 10,000 Czechs as to whether I am going to undertake this venture. I slump in my seat and hide behind my facial stickers.

As the game begins, I reinforce my observer status by imagining myself in a Denny’s and whisper the mantra ‘cheeseburgers are better than gulaš’ over and over again. But just as it takes hold our section becomes the Czech flag. The people to the right hold blue construction paper above their heads as the people behind us do the same with white paper. We are red. B and I pick up our red paper, hoist it above our heads and I am part of the Czech flag.

After this, it’s sort of like the happy part of drowning. I resign myself to be Czech for the night, sit back and let it happen.

I shout at the Slovak goalie, cheer with genuine excitement when the Czechs score and groan when they get a two-minute penalty for slashing. I chant along to Češi (Czech!) and My chceme gól (we want a goal!).

When the Czech song starts: Kdo neskáče není Čech, hop hop hop. (Whoever doesn’t jump, isn’t Czech, hop hop hop) the arena becomes a stamping herd of questionable hair style choices and white jerseys.

And in that moment, I promise that the following morning I will eat a cheeseburger and read Ernest Hemingway while listening to Miles Davis and watching Patton.

But for the moment, I hop hop hop.

  1. #1 by PJ on April 19, 2012 - 3:04 pm

    Great picture with the lions! I hope you also took part in the intermission gorging of parek a chleb. You’re luckier than I, the last time I went to a national game the Czechs were massacred by the Canadians. There wasn’t so much hopping going on that night.

  2. #2 by Chris on April 19, 2012 - 4:48 pm

    Something tells me if ‘B’ were a MR. B you wouldn’t have hop hop hopped anywhere.

  3. #3 by Veronika on April 19, 2012 - 8:06 pm

    Looking really Czech in that picture. Btw as for hockey games you are more Czech than I am. Probaby hop hopped more that I ever have.. :0)

  4. #4 by greg galeone on April 19, 2012 - 10:42 pm

    what was the final count on how many pivos it took to make you start hop hop hopping.

  5. #5 by Damien Galeone on April 19, 2012 - 10:52 pm

    @Chris – true sir, but we shall never know.
    @V – come on, hop hop hop!
    @Dad – 4

  6. #6 by B on April 26, 2012 - 9:50 am

    Well, maybe he wouldn’t hop that much but he still would as the crowd just makes you to hop even though you don’t want to 😀 But D was such a Czech I just could not help it and not to keep taking pictures of him! 😀

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