Today was not an ordinary day in Montevideo.
The Uruguayan soccer team was received by the president and a sea of men, women, and children, after reaching the semifinals in the soccer world cup.
High schools were shut down, to allow teenagers to join in the celebrations. Military planes were hovering over the area outside the Uruguayan House of Parliament, where a stage had been set to honor the players in front of the proud and overjoyed crowd.
It was freezing in Montevideo. I had to walk for 20 blocks to get to the place, because I couldn´t get a taxi, a recurrent situation anytime Uruguay was playing a game or people were celebrating after a win.
I had made plans with my friend Maria to attend, but she had just come from teaching a University class, she was cold and hungry, and I still had an hour to go translating a film treatment for a friend in Argentina. So, I was running late and I didn´t have a date.
The prospect of standing in a crowd with no one to share that special moment with was rather unappealing.
Fortunately, my beloved friend Nico, one of the most talented actors ever, as well as an assistant producer in my film, was also going, so I arranged to meet him.
Though people had been standing in the freezing Montevideo morning since 6 AM to catch a closer glimpse of our boys, Nico and I got pretty close to the stage, but, alas, we were unable to meet before the ceremony began.
So, I finally had to watch it all by myself.
I have a friend in Spain who is a huge fan of Uruguayan music and literature. When I posted something on his Facebook wall about Uruguay in the world cup, thinking he might be happy about us, he surprised me by saying something like: I don´t care for the emotions of the masses.
An argument was then installed between us, where I maintained that our emotions were genuine; we just shared them with A LOT of people.
When I stood in the midst of the cheering crowd, wearing my Uruguayan flag T-shirt and all, I couldn´t help but be reminded of the bloating sheep in George Orwell´s fantastic novel ANIMAL FARM.
The crowd would cheer for EVERYTHING and EVERYONE that was mentioned over the PA system. They didn´t seem to make a difference between one thing and the other. For example, I was less inclined to cheer for our goalie, who I think made some crucial mistakes during the last matches of the world cup, than for Forlan, who had an impeccable performance, always behaved like a gentleman, and scored a goal even when he was injured. But the crowd didn´t care. They just wanted to shout out all the time.
If I had been standing next to Nico, I would probably have been screaming with them at least part of the time, but my solitude left room for introspection and I thought to myself that maybe my Spanish friend was right after all.
Later on, I went on to have lunch/dinner (his late lunch, my early dinner-my trainer forbids me eating at night and Nico is always running from a commercial shoot to a rehearsal and hardly has any time to stop for lunch).
After that, I headed down to my gym at the Sheraton Montevideo hotel.
Oddly enough, I saw the same fencing around the entrance of the hotel as I had seen earlier; and I realized what was going on: the players were there!
I am not much of a groupie for anybody, but I was wearing my Uruguay T-shirt (designed by Virginia Keusseyan, couturiere extraordinaire) and I thought how brillliant it would be to have it signed by FORLAN, my favorite player.
No such luck, I saw most of the team walk by my side at the hotel lobby, but my timing was at odds with Forlan´s. Any of those people at the ceremony would have killed to get a photo with one of the other guys I ignored or to get their autographs, but I knew what I wanted. Maybe I was not a sheep after all.
There is no epilogue where I miraculously get Forlan to sign my shirt, if that is what you were expecting here; but I do have something to add. When I got home, as Forlan-less as I had departed, I thought to myself that it was still kind of cool that the only person I ever asked for an autograph was still Billy Corgan. He had had that coming since Mellon Colie…