Back when I was in Europe, I attended an NFL Europe game with a European citizen named Brauni. Technically, Brauni was a German because his parents were German citizens, but by ancestry he was Czechoslovakian, which made his global perspective slightly more enhanced than the average German citizen's. Which meant that his global perspective was about ten times more global than mine because well, I'm an American and we're a bunch of short-sighted, obnoxious jerks.
But at least we're proud of it.
Anyway, after Brauni and I watched former NFL freak Lawrence Phillips run for more than three hundred yards against the Amsterdam Admirals, Brauni and I went out and had a few drinks. Brauni liked to drink. I liked to drink. And our girlfriends were best friends, which meant that, while I was in Europe anyway, Brauni was my drinking buddy.
Now, one thing about Germans is?and do not forget this if you ever go to Germany?they hate talking about Hitler or Nazis or WWII. In fact, if you want to make a German incredibly uncomfortable, just bring up Hitler and watch how quickly you are shunned from whatever cocktail party you're so drunk at that you forgot that you're not supposed to bring up Hitler even if you're talking to a short Austrian with a wispy mustache that seems to be begging you to bring this shit up.
Now, because Brauni was only a second generation German, and because we were drunk, and because I had just spent fifteen minutes explaining why Lawrence Phillips wasn't playing in the American NFL (they only let you beat your wife a couple of times in the NFL before they get all high and mighty on your ass), I figured I would bring up Hitler because I wanted to talk to at least one European about this and my question was rather innocent and I was, as I mentioned, pretty drunk on some pretty good beer.
“Why does everyone get so antsy when you bring up Hitler over here?” I asked. “I mean, in America we killed and imprisoned a bunch of Asians, dropped a nuclear bomb on Japan, wiped out entire tribes of Native Americans and enslaved and degraded God only knows how many black people, and when you bring that stuff up to us, we'll talk about it with you. We don't get all bitchy and kick people out of perfectly good cocktail parties. I mean, why are the Germans so sensitive about this shit?”
And Brauni took a long pull of his Tuborg, looked me up and down and said, “Because man, you won. You can say whatever you like when you win. When you lose, well, then what you did is disgraceful. So, because we cannot be proud, we must be ashamed, and no one wants to be ashamed.”
“Well,” I said. “Maybe Lawrence Phillips?”
“Excuse me?” he asked.
But then our women arrived at the bar after a day of shopping, and we switched to talking about what lucky bastards we were to have these beautiful women in our lives.
And I guess that was the day I learned just how important winning really is.