Repressed Hockey Memories: European Vacation

Having a wife who was born and raised in Germany, I’ve been lucky to have spent a good amount of time exploring Europe. Her parents and family are all still there, so we made a point to go every other year and when we went, we stayed for a few months at a time.

The best time to do this (pre kids) was late Spring/early Summer, when airfare to Europe was at its lowest. This situation worked in almost every way except for one…it was often during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Let me explain the situation here. The wife hails from a small village in the former East Germany called Klingenthal. I’ll not get into a lengthy discourse on that culture only to say that technology-wise they were about 30 years behind us. My wife grew up without a TV or telephone and they were still without such luxuries as I began visiting in the early ’90s.

In the years since, the in-laws’ place has become more modern than yours or mine, but it was a process.

The Wife’s grandmother, Oma, lived in a small apartment attached to the house. When they did get a TV, it went there because she was the only one with the time and desire to watch.

So now the backdrop is set and it’s time to share the most embarrassing situation of my life.

As I mentioned earlier, I was in a remote town in Germany, during the Stanley Cup playoffs. It was spring of 1998 and the previous year, the Flyers had been swept in the Finals by the Detroit Soviet (uhhh…Red) Wings. The following season had its usual ups and downs but they found themselves as the three-seed vs. Buffalo. There were high expectations for returning to the Finals…and I was going to miss all of it.

Klingenthal had only one local newspaper, and they didn’t post any American sports news. This was also well before smart phones and the family had a computer but no Internet. Aside from an expensive phone call home, I was cut off from all Flyers updates.

My wife and in-laws could tell I was bothered by this and they did their best to help me. My father-in- law would drive to the larger, neighboring town to get better newspapers to get me my coveted scores and updates.  It seemed the Flyers were having a tougher time against the six-seed Sabres than they expected.  Maybe it was better I didn’t have any access.

One afternoon my wife excitedly plopped down the TV guide, which revealed that they were broadcasting the Flyers game on one of their Premiere sports channels. The catch was that it was around 1 a.m. Deutschland time. This , however, was no problem for me as I was on vacation and better still Oma would be sound asleep giving me full access to the TV.

I waited impatiently the rest of the day and into the night. When the time came, I gathered multiple snacks and Sternquelle beer and headed downstairs.

It was cool watching the Flyers in Germany. They dubbed over the original announcers in German but I could still hear Emerick in the background. Cross ” Watch a Flyers game in Europe” off my bucket list!

Here’s where it gets weird. It’s no secret that Europe is a more sexually open community than America. One needs only to stand in front of a magazine rack, where the nudie mags are just inches away from kids comic books. During the day, commercials have no problem incorporating nudity. This is not a critical comment on their morals . If anything,  I’d say it’s America , that is a bit prudish.

Even with the knowledge of Germany’s comfort with the human body, I was unprepared for what happened during the game. Turns out that for televised sports after midnight, they don’t bother with beer or car commercials and go directly and exclusively into hardcore phone sex ads. Don’t get me wrong, I like the female anatomy as much as the next guy but with Oma asleep in the next room and the wife and in-laws upstairs , it was a tad uncomfortable.

Once I got over the initial shock, I was beginning to get used to them and was trying to enjoy a game that the Flyers were giving away, so I was oblivious to my surroundings.

I should have heard it, this being a creaky old house, but when my wife and mother-in-law (a Sunday school teacher and church organist) came down to check on me, not only was I unprepared but it was right at the moment of a particularly racy ad of a woman, ankles to ears, begging me to ” Call Now!”

I was pretty much speechless. What do you say? They looked at me, then the TV and back at me. My non English speaking Mother-in-law said something and then left. My wife came to sit with me to watch the rest of the game.

I stammered at an explanation. ” It’s not my fault! This is what they show!” You get the gist. She allowed me to present my case like a desperate defense lawyer for a few minutes before she couldn’t hold the laughter.  She and her mom KNEW that this was the case before I even went down. Her dad often goes down late nights to watch soccer. They actually timed their visit during a commercial for maximum comedy.

Even with the knowledge that they were OK with it, the embarrassment of the situation didn’t really subside. That, combined with they terrible play of the Flyers and their being ousted in the first round by the Sabres, left a bad taste in my mouth. The only good thing was that I could stop worrying about how the Flyers were doing from them on and enjoy the rest of our visit.

With all the stress generated, I could have really used something to let off some steam. You’d think I would have remembered one of those sexy numbers or something…