I have a confession to make. I am on the email list for the Fanatics.
In public, I say that I hate the Fanatics. For a number of reasons: they are cliched, cringe-worthy, don’t seem particularly interested in what they have paid big bucks to attend, and now even have tours to places like Gallipoli. They are the Contiki of spectator sports.
Of course I am generalising, but I am a sports snob so this is the image I have to present to the outside world.
But there’s something about really good sports fans, that makes me want to throw my Aussie passport in the air just to join them for an afternoon. They’re usually Brazilians, Swedes, Poms and of course the Dutch. It’s all the orange, the singing, the general sense of fun. Even Heineken always joins in, giving away silly hats and creating awesome theme ads and beer glasses. I publicly saw this as what the Fanatics wanted to be, but just looked like idiots trying.
After this weekend, I’m not too sure. Two things happened this weekend: I went to the speed skating world cup in Heerenveen; and Carneval kicked off.
Apart from a German and a couple of nearby Americans, I am quite sure Paul and I were the only ones in Heereveen today not dressed in at least one of the following: clogs, an orange braided wig, orange nail polish, Heineken funny hats, orange cowboy hats (very popular), orange prison uniforms… you get my drift.
But the thing is, unlike the Fanatics, this was everyone. Children, yes, 22-year old drunk hooligans, yes, but then your little old ladies with orange rugs on their orange stockinged knees and everyone in between.
On the TV, it looks fun. Everyone in on it, enjoying themselves. I was clapping along to the orange brass band, cheering on the orange skaters and staying knowingly silent for the black, red and yellow ones. And eating my fries and mayo, of course.
Paul, however, has a different view. He gets quite angry about it, totally embarrassed of their shenanigans and instead dresses in black, clutching his program and pen to mark the times to show that he knows what he is doing here. He has a similar view on Carneval.
I alluded to Carneval in my last post about Limburg. This weekend I was in the opposite corner of the country, Friesland and Groningen, where the residents look at their southerly neighbours’ five days of madness with a touch of curiosity. It’s broadcast on all the television stations, all the same, just hundreds of middle-aged Dutch people singing along to oompah music, getting horribly drunk, and showing off their costumes, many of which are in orange hues.
No matter where they’re broadcasting from, towards the back of the stage there’s always a group of old men, all with Robin Hood style costumes and never without steins in their hands. I want to say they look like Germans but that’s never a popular observation here.
These men are almost like a modern-day Dutch version of the Roman Senate; they are the noblemen of the town (a title earned by drinking copious amounts of Brand beer over three generations) whose sole duty is to choose the town’s Carneval prince. I am completely unaware of their criteria for awarding such a prize, and they don’t seem to take their jobs seriously at all. They usually skull their beers, leer at the women dressed as milkmaids and sloshily introduce the washed up showgirls who, without fail, will then belt out their hits from the 1970s (every year there’s a Carneval song, much like the Brits with their Christmas single).
I keep turning the telly on, bouncing around to the tunes (‘Hallo Hallo’ is a personal favourite) for a few minutes before Paul grabs the remote and turns it off again.
“I know what it is,” I challenged him today. “Deep down, you’re totally jealous, angry that your part of the country sits there with their arms crossed, refusing to participate because it’s a ‘southern’ thing, when all the while you just want to join in!”
He disagreed, of course, and launched into all the reasons why he hates Carneval and anyone who dances around in silly orange costumes.
He’s just like me. He’s got an image to protect. But out of the corner of my eye, he still bounces to the beat of the Carneval songs.