The Day Eastern Europe Adopted Me


At the Salt Lake City games in 2002, my family went to the Russia vs. Belarus hockey game. I’d never been to either country, but I was about to get a lot closer to each.

As we were cheering about the latest face-smashed-on-glass move, I heard chanting to our right. It sounded like children’s voices. I turned to see three boys, probably about 10 years old, proudly bare-chested with “Bel,” “A,” “Rus” painted across their stomachs in bright red. They clapped and screamed for their team with reckless abandon like the game was the greatest triumph of their young lives.

I have no idea if they lived in the States or somehow flew in for the game, but standing near a trio of kids with ties to half-way around the world put a huge grin on my face! I couldn’t help but get caught up and shout a cheer for Belarus myself.

Later, I turned a few rows behind us and discovered a woman with a Russian flag wrapped ‘round her shoulders. Turns out, she was a journalist in Russia and, since I was studying journalism at the time, we struck up a conversation as fellow writers. It was one of those amazing, uplifting experiences that makes the world seem like a much smaller place.

Plus, now I was really conflicted about who to cheer for! Russia won the game and took the bronze overall, but Belarus went on to win a huge upset game and became a mini-Cinderella story itself.

The game taught me an important lesson. People love someone to cheer for. We crave it on some basic level. If we’re really honest, I think that’s what we’re all looking for in stories, too.

We want to be those screaming fans in the stands. We want to fall in love with the characters, have our hearts broken during hard-fought battles and oh-so-close defeats, and feel on top of the world when the sweet taste of victory finally comes.

It doesn’t matter who you get us to cheer for, as long as we’re cheering!

Me, cheering just about everywhere I could during the '02 Games

9 comments:

  1. Cool you got to speak to a Russian journalist. Something so fascinating about talking with someone from another country.

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    1. It was a wonderful conversation!

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  2. Awesome post, Nicole! And I love how you brought out the aspect of us needing to cheer for something, and how that applies to writing too.

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  3. Awesome post, Nicole! And I love how you brought out the aspect of us needing to cheer for something, and how that applies to writing too.

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  4. When I don't have a dog in the hunt...I always root for the underdog! :)

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    1. So true! There's a 39 year old Bulgarian gymnast...I'm rooting for him. That just impressive!

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  5. Great points. Characters who are up against it are more interesting than those who have it easy, and we'll care about them more!

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