Maryland is not in Germany | Delta settles on new World Cup slogan, ‘A time to make enemies’

The sickly shade of a “you are here” map at Maryland House, Aberdeen, Maryland, on Jun 28.

“We only travel to come back home,” writes Ludwig Harig, the German master of the football sonnet. These words have never seemed more true following an aborted trip to Deutschland, a trip that ended in tears on Jun 27 on a sweltering curbside outside the Delta Air Lines terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Obviously the disappointment is acute, all the more so as one of the missions of the Global Game since 2003 has been to connect to the wider world. We who desire the influence of the “foreign” were consigned, by an overloaded summertime flight manifest, by unprepared Delta gate and ticketing agents, by the post-9/11 regime of suspicion and fear to navigate the same highways back home that call up only familiar aches, a landscape of loss. Yes, we could not travel by air to where we were going or where we had come from. We had to schlep by rental car.

I won’t recount every woe, as I want to turn back to football, but after facing a two-hour-long queue merely to enter the Delta terminal—a queue marshaled by a presence fellow travelers took to calling the “line Nazi,” who stooped to brow-beating non-English-speakers in a Queens accent with rejoinders such as, “If you take one more step without telling me your destination, lady, I’m calling the Port Authority police”—then the wait indoors to be told my flight to Berlin had departed (yes, I already knew that), then to shuffle with the rest of the flightless to a line of the fuming and weeping, women soccer players crying into their cell phones that they “just wanted to get home,” to confront the aforementioned “line Nazi” after he berated a woman from the Orient, left holding her daughter’s suitcase after her daughter and companion had been escorted to the Delta supervisor’s office, to be told my passport would be seized so Delta might “document my record” in a euphemism befitting a representative of the Burmese junta—all these circumstances colored my thoughts on soccer and memory over the next few days, as the World Cup and its cultural riches continued, far in the distance.

No games today | The fields of youth endure, in the sun, with the perennial berm of pines to witness: Farmland Elementary School, 28 June 2006.

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