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17 April 2005

it's not what it seems (or maybe it is what it seems)

It's Sports Time on Vleeptron!
All the Sports from Vleeptron!
We've got the latest Qx'ii scores!
All the games from the Dwingeloo League!
Bear-baiting, fish-shooting, cockfighting too!
Bare-knuckle boxing from 1902!
A fifth of our Sports all take place in the Zoo!
Get your Sports on Vleeptron!
Get your Sports on Vleeptron!

By now possibly you may have come to the conclusion that Vleeptron Sports Network specializes in the geeky, violent, dangerous aspects of athletic endeavor.

Maybe. All I can promise is that VSPN will be covering the Fish-Shooting Season in Vermont, which is on now and runs through 25 May, when you can take your automatic assault weapon or Glock (provided it's fully licensed) to Lake Champlain and blast the crap out of some fish. No other sports channel covers the Fish-Shooting. You got to come to VSPN for the Fish-Shooting.

As I have previously noted, I am all hung up on the Netherlands, and particularly I am wild and crazy about Amsterdam, and have been there now maybe eight times, the most recently Summer 2003 with my Nephew LacrosseGuy, whose mother decided I would make a dandy Positive Adult Role Model for his first visit to the Continent.

We took the trains from Amsterdam to Prague because he wanted to see where Vin Diesel defused a nuclear bomb on a high-speed robot jet boat racing down the river under the medieval bridges of Prague. (So after we got home, I had to rent "XXX" and even watched it. It also has attractive young nude women, Euroscum villains, terrorists -- well, it's a James Bond movie, but all punked and pumped and pierced and tatted.) On the river tour, two German nurses liked Nephew and taught him to drink beer mixed with Fanta.

A few years earlier, SWMBO and I went to Amsterdam to see the Floriade -- once each decade a supercallifragialisticexpialidocious Flower Olympics, and SWMBO is a gardener and particularly fond of tulips. We stayed at a very swanky little hotel, the Ambassade, on the canal called the Herengracht, the Gentlemen's Canal. We were trapped in a perfect picture postcard, in the loveliest, most charming part of Centrum, the superbly preserved Old Part of Amsterdam, where Old can easily mean the 16th or 15th or even 14th Century. People were still speaking Latin in that neighborhood when Amsterdam was founded.

One Sunday in early Spring, a gorgeous, perfect Sunday, quiet, peaceful, mellow everywhere we went. The kind of perfect Sunday that makes you want to wire an extra $50 to your travel agent. Finally it ended with coffee and cognac and fattening pastry in the Library of the Ambassade, and then SWMBO went up to the room. I went outside to look at the beautiful canal and neighborhood by night. The young night clerk joined me. I waxed poetic about our perfect Sunday in Amsterdam.

"Oh, then you didn't notice that the city was put under emergency martial law and all civil liberties were suspended?"

He was right, I hadn't noticed that. I should pay more attention to things. Well, SWMBO hadn't noticed it, either, so I got to tell her about it.

The night clerk explained what had happened. Across town at the Big Stadium on Sunday morning, the home team, Ajax, was getting ready for a big game with their rival Utrecht. Utrecht is a big city about an hour southwest by train, so lots of Utrecht fans had come up for the game against their big rival, and now a few thousand of them were waiting for the stadium to open. There are indications they had been drinking.

A few thousand of them started chanting very loudly:


amd kept yelling this louder and louder for an hour.

Well, don't jump to conclusions. It's not exactly what it seems.

Or it is. I don't know. You'll have to figure a lot of this out for yourself. I didn't even know about it at the time, although I was just two miles away.

For reasons largely mysterious to me, the nickname of Amsterdam's beloved soccer team Ajax is "The Jews." All the fans yell "Go Jews! Go Jews! We love the Jews!" during every game, and they wave huge Israeli Star of David Flags in the stands. Most of the yellers and the flag-wavers aren't even Jewish. That's just what Ajax fans call their beloved team, which is one of the most successful football clubs in Europe. They've been doing this for many years. It's not part of the official team program, it's just a Fan Thing.

Amsterdam has about 28 mosques and a huge Islamic community from North Africa, Turkey and Indonesia. Not to mention a Christian majority of all denominations. The state religion is the Dutch Reform Church, whose leaders got it into their heads during their war of independence from Spain in the 16th Century to let everybody worship any goddam way they pleased. Religious tolerance is just a temporary emergency war measure, because the coalition of many religions helped Holland win its independence. After they won their freedom, they just never quite got around to rescinding the temporary emergency war measure. The Dutch sort of liked it, and it kept making them fabulously wealthy.

And from those days Amsterdam's had a lot of Jews, including the Mayor, a former labor union official named Job Cohen. In Amsterdam, everybody gets along, with respect, neighborliness, good wishes, community. These days it's Cohen's turn to support and maintain and lubricate that very old, strong, proud Amsterdam tradition, and everybody thinks he does a pretty good job of it.

Right now times are pretty rough and difficult over these ethnic, racial and religious harmony and respect issues all over Europe, even in the Netherlands, even in Amsterdam.

Well, anyway, the Chief of Police calls the Mayor and tells him a few thousand drunks from Utrecht are outside the stadium screaming KILL THE JEWS! So the Mayor says the Dutch equivalent of Fuck That Shit, and declares martial law in Amsterdam and suspends all civil liberties. He orders the Horse Police to the stadium. (Horse cops are particularly effective against rioters.) The Horse Police push the Utrecht hools into police vans, the vans drive to Centraalstation, they shove the hools on a UTRECHT EXPRESS train, lock and guard it, and send them all home to Utrecht. I think the game is played, but without spectators. (That's a fairly common thing in Euro Football when there's trouble with spectators.)

I never even saw this nasty footie insurrection on Dutch TV, and the first and last I heard of it was when the night clerk told me about it around midnight. (I really should pay more attention.) But I never expected to hear about this ugly mess again. I don't speak Dutch and I don't spend much time in Europe. I also don't know squat about Soccer, and I wouldn't know the Offsides Rule if it bit me in the ass.

I remembered the hotel clerk had told me these were visiting Utrecht fans, and I made a mental note not to visit Utrecht in the future.

So in 2003 me and LacrosseGuy went back to Amsterdam. I asked LacrosseGuy where he wanted to go. LacrosseGuy is smart and goes to a very fine school, and reads a lot, and he said, "I want to go to the Anne Frank Museum." His class had just read "The Diary of Anne Frank," and it had made a very big impression on him, and now he wanted to see where it happened.

The AnneFrankHus is probably the biggest tourist attraction in Amsterdam, maybe tied with the Van Gogh Museum, but a gazillion people from all over Earth have been to the AnneFrankHus -- which was the little food export business where the Frank family and another Jewish family hid from the Nazi occupation of Holland in a secret upstairs room starting on 6 July 1942. Their Christian friends and neighbors brought them food and protected them.

On 4 August 1944 they were betrayed -- no one is sure by whom -- and a team of Nazi and Dutch Police raided the factory and sent the Jews to concentration camps, where Anne and her sister Margot were killed. Their father Otto found Anne's diary and published it after the War. It's been translated into about 50 languages, it's one of the most translated of all books, and it's been made into at least two movies.

I'd never been there. I'm a Jew, and something of a coward, and when I was in Amsterdam unsupervised, I didn't want to go out of my way and pay extra to learn about the mass murder of Jews and children. I volunteered for some ghastly War history at the Joods Historisch Museum in Waterlooplein, but I'd never had the nerve to go to the AnneFrankHus.

I'm actually not a coward, and I can usually handle just about everything the Humans of Earth have to throw at me, but when it was just up to me, I was loathe to set an alarm and pay extra for the really horrifying stuff. I figure the really horrifying stuff will find me at its own schedule soon enough.

But finally it was time for the Positive Adult Role Model to buy an Adult ticket and go. I wasn't happy, but I went. This is what Positive Adult Role Models are supposed to do.

Well, read the book, see the movie, go to Amsterdam, go to the AnneFrankHus. It's not for me to provide meaning to what's inside. I haven't a clue what the years 1930-1945 in Europe were all about, and God knows I've tried to learn about it and figure some of it out.

If you know the meaning of all that, please let me know. Leave Comments liberally. All I'll say is that this kind of shit does not go on on Vleeptron, it is absolutely not permitted, and nobody on Vleeptron ever wants to do shit like this in the first place. This is Earth crap, strictly Earth crap. My guess is, there are warning beacons all over our region of the Melkweg so that extraterrestrial spacecraft don't accidentally land on Earth.

At the end of the tour through AnneFrankHus, there was a little theater with benches to seat about 30, and we sat down and the lights went down and they showed a little documentary, fortunately in English.

The documentary wasn't about Anne Frank or the Nazi Occupation of Holland during World War II. It wasn't about long-ago things in the 1930s and 1940s.

It was about the resurgence of hate politics and right-wing politics and racist, ultra-nationalist sentiment and antisemitism in today's Europe, in modern Europe, right now.

And there they were up on the big screen in the little theater in AnneFrankHus: The thousands of Utrecht Soccer fans, newsfilm of them screaming KILL THE JEWS! KILL THE JEWS!

It was uglier than I'd imagined it in my mind's eye.

Yeah, I think they'd been drinking.

The documentary used it as a very vivid example, but just one of many recent contemporary examples, of the return of the culture and politics of hatred and violence in modern Europe, from the Ajax-Utrecht Soccer Game, to Poland to Austria to France to Hungary to Russia to ... and the targets of the hate weren't only Jews, they were gays and Rom Gypsies and Muslims ...

Well, anyway ... I've actually become something of an Ajax fan. I love Amsterdamers, and Amsterdamers love Ajax. I'm trying to buy an Ajax shirt. Ajax, I've heard, just played spectacularly this year, finishing in the top four.

I want to go see a game. I'm very curious about all this. I'll sit there for an hour or so and have largely no idea what the heck is going on, but I want to get closer to this aspect of Amsterdam and the Netherlands. It means a lot to them, so I want to understand it better.

Poor Ajax. Through no fault of the team's, and due to circumstances beyond their control, something that happened at their stadium is now the Euro Poster Child for Hatred and Racism. I wouldn't want to be in the team's Addidas. I don't know what I'd do or what clever plan I'd come up with.

But here's what I found last night when I was looking for Ajax's on-line store to buy an Ajax soccer shirt. Now you know the latest about this unhappy situation, you know about as much as I know. You figure it out.


Ajax want further deliberation
with fans about 'Jewish' chants

Amsterdam, January 21, 2005

Recently, Ajax announced that the club wants to get rid of the chanting of the word 'Jews' by Ajax supporters, of related chants and of the use of symbols such as the star of David and the flag of Israel by Ajax fans. The subject has received attention by the national and international media. Ajax wish to clarify their point of view through this article.

The paradox that we are a so-called Jewish club, but that in most cases Jewish people find it difficult to attend our home matches, let alone away matches, because of the very hurtful reactions, has to be put to a halt.

Ajax are sometimes billed as a Jewish club. As a result, a part of the Ajax supporters use the term ‘Jews’ as a rallying cry. Ajax wish to make clear, that the club knows that their own supporters harbor no anti-Semitic feelings or thoughts when chanting the word ‘Jews’. Also Ajax would like, hopefully redundantly, to stress that the desire to halt the use of the rallying cry ‘Jews’ has no anti-Semitic reason. The rallying cry ‘Jews’ has proven to evoke anti-Semitic reactions. Especially in a society with today’s tensions. After all, ‘Jews’ has a different social and historical charge than for instance the ‘Super farmers’.

When there is talk of hurtful chants, people mostly think of hurtful to opposing players of supporters. In this case however, a reaction to rallying cry hurts a big part of our own supporters, who do not subscribe to the rallying cry ‘Jews’. Many people, not necessarily Jewish, take offence with this situation and the excesses that result from it.

As a typical Amsterdam club, Ajax historically have ties to the Jewish community. Like many other clubs in our capital Ajax have and have had Jewish footballers, officials, volunteers and supporters. And Ajax are proud of that. Just as we are proud of all our members, fans and volunteers, and of the importance of Ajax for the Amsterdam community as a whole.

We realize that this is not an easy subject. Ajax also realize that not using the rallying cry by our hard-core supporters also evokes emotions. After all, it concerns a part of their identity and their commitment to the club. It would be too easy to simply ignore those feelings. Yet we appeal to our supporters to keep an open mind about this policy and think along with us.

To reach this objective, Ajax will soon open the discussion with a group of representative Ajax aficionados.


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