Just like Bono Said It Would Be + My First Bilingual Wedding

There we were on Sunday watching the world cup and the tension during the overtime was palpable. Not just because the score was tied, but because we had a wedding to attend. At the end of the first overtime, I set the digital video recorder to capture the rest of the game, even if it went into quadruple penalties, and Carrie Nick and I caught a cab to the corner of Ontario and Papineau. Right there was a bar showing the game. Nick and I peered in the window, trying hard to ignore the stench of dogshit on the sidewalk, hoping to catch a glimpse of the end of the game. Carrie, perhaps more olfactorily aware than Nick or I, headed over to the restaurant where the wedding was being held to discover that the game was being projected on a giant overhead screen in a large, air-conditioned room (where the reception would later take place).

And so it came to be that my life was just like those awful Bono-narrated commercials shown during the beginning of World Cup play. For 30 minutes, or however it went on, the wedding had to wait. The crowd — all in our fancy clothes — stood and watched and gasped and yelled (predictably, there were more France fans than Italy fans). As it was ending, they served us some sparkling wine of unknown origin (I now know better than to assume it was champaign). The penalty kicks decided the game, some discussion ensued, and the wedding took place. It was actually a wonderful way to conclude a soccer game and begin a wedding.

It is often said that Montreal’s bilingualism means that everything takes twice as long. This is true in the case of voicemail messages (ours included) but what it means in contexts like a wedded appears to be more like regimented turn-taking. One reading in English, one reading in French. Time is not yet an issue. My French is not yet good enough but I have a sense that they French readings were more romantic, while the English readings were more well, English. It makes the ceremony somehow more polyvocal than other weddings I’d attended. I’m sure what that means, only that it did indeed feel different.

There’s not a lot else to blog about a wedding — it was a wonderful time, of course, but I have no further anecdotes, so I’ll finish with the World Cup for now. Montreal was transformed for the past month. I’ve been dutifully writing each morning, so I have skipped the morning games and most of the afternoon games, too, until it got serious in the end. But I’ve always enjoyed watching soccer for precisely its differences from American televised sports: the continuity of the game, the rustic game clock that continues ticking even when the ball is out of bounds, the impossibility of capturing the game statistically (particularly meaningful as I’ve been writing about the statistical capture of hearing this month). The spectatorship is also incredibly public. I’ve always understood the Super Bowl party or football sunday in general to be a domestic event. World Cup watching happened at bars and restaurants all over town. You could set your watch by the horns honking after the game.

I did not find the internationalism particularly touching, because it seemed more like an ensemble of nationalisms. I think the racism that has repeatedly emerged during the competition suggests (once again, thank you Etienne Balibar) that nationalist loyalties are at their base tied to noxious racial politics, even in sport, an activity that does not require reference to nationhood. But all the same, it was a giant party, and one that I missed large swaths of in order to pursue my work. I have no regrets because I’m happy in no small part because of all the writing I’ve done this summer.

But in 2010, I’m taking a month off to watch the games in South Africa and hang out in different places all over the city.

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