It has been more than six months since my family – two kids, one wife, and me – moved from the cozy Columbus suburbs to Switzerland.
I left the workforce last September to prepare for the move, and since then my full-time job has been a Hausman, or as it translates to English, a stay-at-home dad. One of my main responsibilities as a Hausman is to go grocery shopping. No big deal, right? Well, it wasn’t back in the states. As soon as we arrived in Switzerland, I was directed by fellow Hausman (we’re a club, we have a Facebook page and everything) to go over the border into France or Germany to get my groceries. It’s much cheaper, they said.
So, there I was last January by myself in a small-German town, my hands clutched to a shopping cart and knuckles beaming white. I needed to fill my shelves at home, but in front of me were a litany of questions I had no answers to:
- Why in God’s name is the cheese so stinky?
- What?!?! They don’t have ranch dressing?
- “Zucker” German for sugar, right?
- How many pounds are in a kilo?
- Wait, I have to bag my own damn groceries?!?!
Three hours later I was back at the apartment with a bag of potato chips — er, sorry, crisps — a bottle of wine and something I thought was laundry detergent but turns out it was fabric softener. Although it was 11 a.m., I opened that wine, sat down on my couch, snuggled up with my extremely soft blanket and drank the entire bottle.1
Fast-forward to today. Day drinking is a rare occurrence and is done for fun, not despair. There is no such thing as ranch dressing and one kilo is 2.2 pounds (thanks for the tip on that last one, Dad).
The Delcos are settled into our new lives and new roles in a new country that has quickly felt like home. Except for one thing. It is REALLY hard to follow American sports. Switzerland is six hours ahead of Eastern Time, which means calculating games’ start times for someone who is math deficient like me is a chore.
When we decided we were moving to Switzerland, I knew this was going to be an issue. Needless to say, the Swiss cable system’s sports channels televise 23 hours of soccer with an hour of snooker sandwiched in between. Before leaving, I set up Slingbox at my parents’ house in Cleveland. So for most, admittedly not all, of the Cavs’ playoffs games I set my alarm for anywhere from 2:30-3:30 a.m., pulled myself out of bed, dragged myself to the couch and fired up Slingbox on my iPad. My cheering commenced at a sound level as to not wake my family or neighbors, which was harder to do than actually getting up for the games.
Following American sports six hours ahead is not ideal. I’ve rarely watched the Indians save for a noon or 1 p.m. start back home. Waking up for the NBA Playoffs and staying up for top golf events is grueling. Last, and most certainly least, Browns games will be on at an all-too-convenient time of 7 p.m. here. In other words, I’ll end up watching abject failure each Sunday evening.
So, why bother? The existential question, “Do sports matter?” came into focus for me during the spring. The hours and days spent in a sleep deprived state was worth every second. Each time I turned a Cavs’ game on, I also logged into Twitter and had my phone by my side. Interacting with Cleveland Sports Twitter and texting with my close group of friends back home made it feel like that’s just where I was.2
Now that we are entrenched into our new lives in Switzerland people wonder if homesickness has set in. Those early mornings on my couch in front of my iPad with Twitter and the group text message in full force has helped ease those feelings. And let’s be honest, I would have been doing the same thing if I still lived in Ohio because pushing 40 with two kids under six years old and friends in similar situations means late nights at a bar are happen about as often as a sensible tweet from a Boston sports fan.
As few as five years ago the idea of me living overseas would not have gotten off the ground. Why? Because sports. I couldn’t fathom being so far away from my beloved Cleveland sports teams. West coast? Maybe. Very far east coast? No way.
As you get older and your priorities change (e.g. kids) and following sports naturally takes a back seat. Being able to accurately describe the dimensions off all 30 MLB stadiums or playing the “where did this guy go to college” game with almost 100 percent accuracy begins to secede. That doesn’t mean you stop caring about sports, but the intensity level diminishes.
There is still a slow burn, as evident by the early-morning wake up calls. I hope to do it again this October. Sports has kept me close to my friends and family who are more than 4,000 miles — er, sorry, 6,437 kilometers — away.
I’m going to return to the states later this month for a three week visit. An Indians game and a Browns training camp practice is on tap. Although other commitments and distance takes me away from an overall sports obsession there will always be room for the Indians, the Cavs and, ugh, yeah, I guess, the Browns, too.
Now, I need to wrap this up and go grocery shopping. And, no, I’m still not used to how bad the cheese smells.
Don Delco lives in Switzerland with his two kids and one wife. When he’s not grocery shopping in Germany or France he is recording the SwissPats Podcast. Visit SwissPats.com or look them up on iTunes and follow Don on Twitter @DonDelco.