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  • I watched the 1999 Super Bowl in Moscow one Sunday, or should I say Monday, considering the game started at 2AM Moscow time. Being so far away from home, I didn’t follow the season as much as normally would, just catching the scores in the Tuesday Moscow Times. When playoff time came around, I started to pay more attention, because I was starting to feel left out. Certain things just make you homesick. Soon, it was time for the Super Bowl.

    At first there were only a couple places I could find that were showing the Super Bowl in Moscow, but they were all casinos with large sports books that were charging far more than I was willing to pay, but a few days before the game I found a bar that would have it for only 100 rubles ($4), plus with all you can eat and drink! What a deal!

    I arrived at the bar at 1AM and the place was already full. Surprisingly the majority were Russians. I tried to pay my 100 rubles to somebody, but none would take it. Right behind me was another American, and the people working assumed we were together. After trying unsuccessfully to decipher what we were being told, this other American guy went up to the bar and ordered a beer. The bartender gave him two, so he handed one to me. Nobody took our money, so we walked away, only to be told by someone that we had to pay 120 rubles for the beer. We paid, of course, neither of us surprised that the 100-ruble thing was a scam to pull in people.

    We found some chairs and sat down and my new friend introduced himself, Phil. He was obviously from the northeast, with his accent and the way he spoke out of the side of his mouth. And I was right, a Bostonian. He had been living in Moscow for 3 ½ years, having married a Russian girl back in the states and moving to Moscow with her. “Y’know,” he said, “You’re the first American I’ve talked to in months. I avoid them. Most of them are here to make money and they always badmouth the country. I only hang out with Russians.” I agreed with him, that 95% of the Americans in Moscow were incredible wankers.

    Right after we had come to agreement on this subject, another American came in and sat down beside us. He spoke fluent Russian, and told us that he had even been born in Russia, but he was quick to add that he was not Russian, but American, and then proceeded to tell us his resume, which consisted of a few schools I was familiar with and topped off with a Georgetown law degree (a Hoya cap was on his head). “I wanted to be an agent, and got a job in the Mail Room at William Morris, but I can’t work for only $400 a week, so I went to Georgetown.” Phil and I glanced at each other with that “this is what we were talking about” look. Then it was “I took my girlfriend to the Jazz Café the other day and a Long Island Ice Tea cost $20! That’s a third of a billable hour!” Within fifteen minutes he had given us his resume and his pay.

    The game started, and the wanker translated what the Russian announcers were saying with the most derisive tone to his voice, and the caveat “these people know nothing.” He asked me what I was doing in Russia, and I told him I was an English teacher soon to grad school. He then proceeded to tell me about Fulbrights and Ford Foundation Grants and so on and so forth. He allowed himself a certain air of superiority since I was just an English teacher. Obviously, I was not somebody to be taken seriously. “Have you read ‘The Great Terror by Bob Conquest?” Bob, not Robert, like he was his buddy. “No, I haven’t.” Oh! I was obviously a fool. “But I have read his Stalin biography and ‘Harvest of Sorrow’ and ‘Nation Killers’, and they are all a load of crap.” This had the desired dumbfounding effect.

    Soon he got hungry, and after explaining to him the futility in getting all you can eat, he tried to wave down a waitress. Customer service being an art that hasn’t quite found its way into the majority of Russian establishments, after a few unsuccessful attempts he started into the “I hate this country” mode. Phil wasn’t saying a word to the guy, but me, being the swell guy that I am, continued to be polite to his idiocy, even though as the night went on I increasingly started to use a more sarcastic tone. But that didn’t stop him, he had to pontificate on the state of the economy, the rule of law, and other various clichéd subjects that he obviously knew more about than we did, not being lawyers with all the right connections. He was convinced that the country was going to destroy itself, fall into the abyss, and all the other normal doomsday prophecies that one can gleam from any English-language media report.

    The game was decent, it was only in the fourth quarter that the Broncos put the game out of reach. But as much as I wanted the Falcons to win (that typical American trait of rooting for the underdog), I wanted this guy to leave, knowing that once the game was truly out of reach, he would. And this turned out to be true. After Chris Chandler threw his third straight interception, the wanker left, only to come back a couple minutes later. “I forgot my laptop,” he said as he grabbed his bag. “If only I’d known!” said Phil.
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