Sports

One quality I find unique to fussball is that, precisely because it is so hard to score, it is possible to be outplayed for most of the game and still win. That is, it is possible for the other team to be continually attacking—for the ball to be mostly in front of your goal posts; but if your team has managed to score, perhaps because of some defensive lapse, while theirs has not, you win. The best example of this disparity in my memory was the concluding game of the World Cup in 1974, when Holland consistently outplayed West Germany and yet lost 1-0.

—“Europe’s Principal Game: Fussball In Germany” (1989)

Black American culture had always had a special attraction for certain Europeans. The first to hit the continent, just after WWI, was jazz and then came rhythm and blues. Thousands of Europeans have tried to play music as blacks do, honoring the models through their efforts but always failing to equal them. Then came black-American social dancing which certain Europeans tried to adopt as well, without really succeeding.

Later, after WWII, came basketball in which, like jazz, blacks would always dominate, inventing the performance styles that others would try to imitate; but no European has succeeded as well at playing their game as Detlef Schrempf, the tall blonde kid from Leverkusen, who, having learned to play all the riffs, has sat in with the best bands and thus lived a black-American athletic life as no other European has, first on the playgrounds of Seattle and now as a professional basketball player.

—“Working/Playing A Long Way From Leverkusen” (1989)