Monday, October 25, 2010

Tranqui Yanqui

My devoted search for a bar in Buenos Aires that was showing the Packers game paid off.  Casa Bar, owned by an expat American as you might expect, not only showed the entire game, but delivered it on multiple screens in full HD with the original American play-by-play.  I didn’t have to listen to a single “Los Packadorés” the entire game (though I was sort of looking forward to hearing “Los Viquantes”).

Casa Bar in Buenos Aires with one other Packer fan
Suffice it to say, that was a huge, huge, HUGE win for the Packers.  Not only did it go a long way to vanquish the Favre demons, but it put the Pack right back into contention in the NFC North.  The only wrinkle of the evening turned out to be the near total lack of Packer fans at the bar.  Usually Packer fans travel well.  So many of us have left Wisconsin like a giant diaspora that we show up just about everywhere.  But besides me and my sisters (and one of my sister’s boyfriends who we converted), there was only one other Packer fan among the crowd of Americans at Casa Bar.  The other 20 or so were Viking fans, and one Bears fan who apparently got lost.

Of course, that didn’t stop me from standing on my bar stool with my hands above my head hollering at every big play the Packers got.  After Desmond Bishop’s pick six, my enthusiasm earned me a “Tranqui Yanqui” from the bartender.  My sister, who’s fluent in the unique Argentine dialect of Spanish, translated for me.  “Tranqui” (pronounced “tranky”) means essentially “go easy.”  Settle down.  Chill out.  Relax.  It is culturally resonant with the Argentine’s easy, non-hurried lifestyle.  “Yanqui” (pronounced “schanky” because Argentines pronounce all “y” sounds, as well as Spanish double “l” sounds, as “sch” – rather than “yo” it’s “cho”) means “Yankee” – as in, an American.

This phrase, as you can imagine, is used fairly frequently down here.  Obviously, it has the acoustically pleasing rhyming quality, “tranky schanky.”  But it also is typically Americans who are the first people who need to be told to chill out… relax… take a deep breath.  As an aside, I'd just like to point out that Argentines aren't exactly mellow when it comes to sports fanaticism.  My other sporting event this weekend was a River Plate game.  River Plate and Boca Juniors are the two professional soccer clubs in Buenos Aires, and, like the Packers vs. the Vikings, you are born into one or the other.  The game between these two teams, which occurs in two weeks, is a rivalry that practically brings the city to a stand still.  The game we saw was against Racing, yet the crowd of 40,000 strong bounced and chanted continuously throughout the game, as captured in this video.  It's no Lambeau, but it was an amazing experience.

Anyway, the "tranky schanky" phrase definitely applied to me as I pumped my fists in the air as the Packers left the field victorious.  But I realized afterward that the phrase was applicable in more ways than one.  As psyched as I was for this win, it’s just one win.  And it came down to one play.  Percy Harvin’s second foot was the only difference between a glorious victory and a defeat so devastating that I may never have recuperated.  We saw in that game the signature elements of what makes Favre Favre and Rodgers Rodgers.  Favre threw three interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, yet he fought through ankle sprains and sacks to the final play and almost won it.  Rodgers played within himself, logging more completions, more yards, and a higher passer rating, yet when he had the chance to put the game away he couldn’t do it.

Rodgers has the physical gifts and the mental toughness, but he still needs to develop that insanely competitive killer instinct.  That X factor that enables him to put the team on his shoulders and deliver it, beaten and bleeding, on the doorstep of victory.  Although it failed Favre Sunday night, he still has a lot of whatever that X factor is.  “Never underestimate the heart of a champion,” or something like that.

And that is why I am heeding the “tranky schanky” advice.  Even though Rodgers finally beat Favre, even though we’re tied for first in the NFC North, I’m trying not to get too excited.  We need to see more from this team.  More consistency.  More killer instinct.  More X factor.  Maybe this win will be for the 2010 season what the Dallas win was last year.  I hope so.  String together a few more wins and maybe I’ll get back to my pre-season optimism.  But for now, it’s tranky schanky.

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