Perhaps I should start with a few details about myself. For starters: I do not like large, raucous crowds. (Especially large, raucous crowds that have been drinking copiously.) I do not like getting very cold, a state that results when one spends long lengths of time outdoors in late November. I do not like excessive displays of macho meathead masculinity.
And yet, in spite of all this, I found myself at a Hertha BSC football game on a recent weekend. And I even liked it! Let’s just chalk it up to one of those I-would-never-do-this-back-home-but-here-it’s-a-cultural-experience experiences. Like all good expats should, I will gladly step far outside of my comfort zone for a good “cultural experience.” Or at least a good anecdote.
To counterbalance the whinging sentiments expressed above, let me move on to things I do like:
I like buildings with a lot of history; bonus points for interesting architecture. Olympia Stadion, home stadium to Berlin’s own Hertha BSC football team, most definitely fits the bill: built by Hitler, site of the famed Jesse Owens sprinting victory in the 1936 Olympics, and immortalized in the famed Leni Riefenstahl film “Olympia.” Click here for more details and photos about the stadium’s part in the giant Nazi propaganda exercise that was the 1936 Berlin Olympics. You can also watch Riefenstahl’s film, in its Aryan-worshipping entirety, on YouTube here.
Secondly, I greatly appreciate kitsch, the kind that is fully un-ironic. Case in point: the most excellent outfits of the hardcore Hertha fans. These gents (and also some ladies, but mostly gents) are decked out in head-to-toe blue and white, plus all sorts of pins, patches, scarves, hats, face paint, and other doodads of fandom. I appreciate their willingness to walk around looking like fools for the sake of their passion. Sadly, no photos, because I was too shy to ask.
Thirdly, despite the residual scars of a religious upbringing, I kind of enjoy ritual, at least when I’m on the outside, observing. And football games are basically like attending Catholic mass, but with beer. The call-and-answer songs and chants are like a form of prayer. The entire stadium responds en masse to some unspoken cue to break out into their fan anthems, complete with hand actions. They raise their Hertha scarves to the heavens like talismans of faith. Whether or not the game itself is interesting, the spectacle is definitely entertaining.
Oh, and I nearly forgot about the game: Hertha lost. 1-0.