Notes on repeatedly attempting and failing to watch the 2016 European Championship while in Europe:
France vs. Ireland
My French translator Julien was apoplectic with anger. By some odd twist of fate, I was scheduled to speak at the Festival International de Roman Noir—a crime novel festival held in Frontignan, France—at the exact same time as France’s round of 16 showdown against Ireland. Julien is more than a casual fan of his national team, and he was spewing a lively mix of French and American profanities about the timing of the match. The streets of the city were completely deserted, and so the hope was that no one would show up for my talk, the event would be abandoned, and we could go to a bar near the square and watch the game. But the tent where I was doing the talk was full of non–football fans, and so, with France down by a goal early, we began. I answered questions and Julien translated in a clipped, almost aggressive French, trying to get through the program as quickly as possible. Near the end, I was supposed to read a bit in English. Julien turned to me and said, “They want you to read for five minutes only.” I scrambled for a short passage and then, without bothering to introduce the section or set up what the action was, began reading as fast as I could. The quality of the reading was terrible, but it didn’t matter because after about 20 seconds, the car horns and fireworks began, the city suddenly bursting to life, windows thrown open so people could shout and bang pots, cars circling the square drowning out the American writer with nonstop honking.
France 2 Ireland 1
Italy vs. Spain
I was on a TGV train from Montpellier, France, to Figueres, Spain, while the game was being played. A pudgy, middle-aged, Spaniard sat in the seat across the aisle watching the game on his iPhone. Every now and then he would emit painful, wounded yelps and deep despairing groans. He was in agony for an hour, and then he just sat there, in shock, holding his face in his hands, silently weeping.
Italy 2 Spain 0
England vs. Iceland
In Begur, Spain, I was supposed to watch the game at the house of my British friends, but because the available networks were not broadcasting games that didn’t involve the Spanish team, my friend had been forced to figure out some virtual prviate network workaround, a kind of program that apparently convinces the internet that we are actually in England and have the license to watch the game. This method, which I was assured works 99 percent of the time, failed. So we consumed several bottles of rosé and a few slabs of Catalan cheese.
Iceland 2 England 1