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    • CommentAuthorPaul Czege
    • CommentTimeJan 14th 2006

    I was born in 1967. Kennedy was shot four years before I was born. I never knew him. My father didn't serve in Vietnam. His draft number came up, but didn't pass the physical. And then he was disabled when I was five, from a blood clot during brain surgery. He didn't vote, and didn't talk politics. My mother didn't vote. We didn't watch the news. We watched Star Trek and Brady Bunch re-runs. My father watched baseball.

    So Spione is problematic. I don't know what to do with it. I don't have the right scar tissue for it.

    Am I just not the target audience?

    • CommentAuthorPaul Czege
    • CommentTimeJan 14th 2006

    Okay, dammit, I'll tell you what the cold war is to me. It's the U.S. hockey team vs. the Russian team in the 1980 winter olympics. I was thirteen years old. The Russian players looked enormous. They skated like hydraulic machines. The U.S. players were throwing themselves in front of the puck. For me at thirteen, hockey in the 1980 olympics was the U.S./Soviet conflict. Heart vs. steel.


    As I see it, just about every person on this planet is scarred by the Cold War, even if the scars seem normal due to familiarity. I'll see if I can demonstrate it with a closer look at the 1980 Winter Olympics, held in Lake Placid.

    Here's the defining issue that underlay the whole thing: in late 1979, the USSR invaded Afghanistan. That led to the U.S.-led boycott of the Summer Olympics. American athletes in particular were barred from entering by our government, at risk to their passports. The fascinating thing is that although in 1980 the U.S. boycotted the Summer Olympics, and in 1984, the USSR did likewise ... the 1980 Winter Olympics right before all this was held on schedule, with all the political tension you could imagine. The standout event was men's ice hockey, known in the U.S. as the Miracle on Ice.

    It may seem hard to believe, but I at least remember this very clearly: clout and reputation of the U.S., internationally, and pride and identity within the U.S. were both at serious low ebb in the 1970s. Also, frankly, people only really call this era part of the Cold War in retrospect - I had been brought up to understand that the Cold War's last, lingering moments were over when the U.S. withdrew from Viet Nam. The SALT talks were taken as evidence that brinksmanship was a thing of the past.

    What you were witnessing, Paul, was the resurrection of the Cold War in a new form. That victory meant a lot to Americans who, however in denial about admitting it, felt that the U.S. was making a distinctly poor showing both economically and politically; both skyrocketing inflation and national shame were horribly unfamiliar to post-war and baby boomer Americans. These games prefigured the election of Ronald Reagan and his first-term rhetoric concerning the "evil empire" and his promise to "unleash the CIA." Although the former turned out to be mainly rhetoric (Reagan's second term was marked by five summits with Gorbachev), the latter was no joke - Reagan's appointed CIA director, William Casey, resurrected the 1950s-era "CIA covert ops as State Department" methods, of which the Iran-Contra scandal was only the most extreme example.

    "Heart vs. steel," you say - that's ideology, right there, wrapped up in symbolic sports drama the way it works best. The Miracle on Ice was the first event to be seized upon for this shift in national outlook. You know what I associate with the years right after 1980? The slew of Rambo movie sequels, transforming the traumatized, psychopathic homeless Nam vet of the first film into a gleaming, ruthless, passionate patriot, as well as Rocky IV.

    Hey! Let's take a look at that latter movie, shall we? (I'm giving away the ending, in a second.) Rocky's former foe Apollo is killed in the ring by the ruthless Soviet boxer, Drago. Much padding follows, emphasizing Drago's mechanical and technological training, as opposed to Rocky's long "natural" runs on the tundra. When Rocky faces Drago in what's basically a grudge match, he is outclassed at first but then, through endurance and "heart," takes the guy down. Sure, he delivers a "unity among nations, the Cold War is over" speech ... after he's made it clear that America can, after all, kick the Russkies' ass.

    Rocky IV dramatizes it. Remember that film, Paul? Did you see it in the theaters? What did you think?

    Do you see the connections, like weird cultural threads and political currents, linking you watching those Olympics and perhaps that movie, eventually, to smuggled arms to Iran? To stinger missiles and other military supplies covertly supplied to Islamic extremists in Afghanistan, notably the Taliban itching to take over the country and a younger, charismatic leader named Osama bin Laden? Because they are connected. You felt it beginning to happen.

    Oh yes, one more thing: in the 1980 Summer Olympics, East Germany (the GDR) won eleven of the fourteen titles in rowing that year, and has dominated the sport in every Olympics it's participated in. Right here at this forum, one of the participants was a rower for the GDR as a teenager. Paul, can that be a connection between the two of you? Dirk, you were a little younger and may not remember those Olympics directly, but I'm sure the boycott drama of the 1980-1984 Olympics, both winter and summer, played a big role in your training.

    How did the two of you experience the Olympics? What's similar? What's different?

    Best, Ron

    • CommentAuthorPaul Czege
    • CommentTimeJan 16th 2006

    Danielle and I were discussing this last night. It turns out that when she was sixteen, in 1990, her family was host to a West German exchange student named Hauke. He'd been in the U.S. (with another host family) during the fall of the Berlin Wall the previous November. And then in 1990, West Germany won the World Cup.

    Would you care to guess which event was most significant to him?

    • CommentAuthorFrank T
    • CommentTimeJan 17th 2006

    If you ask that way, it was probably the World Cup. But he would have felt differently if he'd been in Germany at the time. I was only twelve when the borders opened, but even at that age, I could sense the presence of history in the air. The sense of awe that crept over the whole country.

    On the other hand, I wasn't in Germany when we won the World Cup, because I was on a trip to the US. Making it to the final in 2002 definitely had the whole country in a daze as well. Soccer is very important to us, especially when we beat England.

    Well, my parents made sure we kids realized the scope and meaning of what was happening there in 1989. On the first weekend the borders were open, we drove to a checkpoint, and saw the border as it was, with all the fences and watchtowers and the barb wire and so forth. Drove on to the next town an went for a walk.

    So maybe it was just me because my parents are political, and raised me that way. And it was the World Cup, after all. Did you know that Andi Brehme, who marked the only goal in the final in 1990 (called "Goldjunge" ever after) comes from the same quarter of Hamburg as me? But enough about that.

    - Frank

    • CommentAuthorPaul Czege
    • CommentTimeJan 18th 2006


    Yes, the World Cup victory was more significant to him.

    And now I'm thinking a sports context for playing Spione could be pretty powerful. Ron, what resources would you recommend for such a game? Spying associated with sports teams or athletes? Defections? The only prominent sports-related defection I can think of is Baryshnikov, if you consider ballet to be a sport.


    • CommentAuthorDarAng
    • CommentTimeJan 19th 2006

    World Cup 1990 or Cold War's end, eh?
    I do not like soccer. So it is just obvious.

    But I remember the soccer World Cup final in 1986: Germany vs Argentina. I was yelling like mad as the final goal for Argentina was shot. My parents looked at me and asked me to be more quietly, because the neighbours go angry if they will hear me rooting for Argentina (of course they were fans of the real Germany!!!) I understood painful slowly. ( I was for Argentina because one of my best friends came from Peru and we liked Inkas and the original South-Americans and Argentina was that damn near to our liking)
    No, really. The whole World Cup of 1990 did not touch me at all. I had the summer of my life and it had nothing to do with soccer, but with friendship, philosophy and the discovering of our old new country.

    The Olympian Games in 1984 are present in my memories because of R. Reagan had one of his funny speeches, in which he told his guests that he started the rockets gen USSR. I do not know if this was just propaganda from the GDR or if that happened in reality? (Ron, anyone who can remember?)
    I was to young for rowing in that time, Ron. I started a few years later.

    The World Cups and Olympics I actualy had an interest in were full of hidden pride: GDR athlets won more often than not and the real rival was not the USA, it was the USSR. The Cold War was not present in these games, not for me and not for the people around me. This is what I thought, yet this begins to change: our pride was one of the kind a younger brother has when he shows something superior to his older brother. The older brother - the FRG.

    In training there was just mockering and presumption when we mentioned the older brother. Why? We always won against him, that is why. (almost every time)

    Paul, I searched for my scar tissue and found nothing important wrapped in it. If you search further then you will. sometimes there is no tissue, because it had no chance to be build - missing parts to call them correctly. Maybe the Cold War did not bother you at all. There are some around me who think the same, because the scale and the timing was very special and did not include everyone. I am with you: the Cold War and Spione have a special target audience.



    Paul, on the Wikipedia pages I linked to, there's a great followup on the various athletes. A lot of USSR hockey players defected to the western bloc countries, where apparently they (and now, in modern times, Russians who emigrated) continue to dominate.

    Dirk, that's absolutely fascinating about the GDR's main perceived rival in sports being the USSR. It's hard for me to get out of the American mind-set that perceives any state in the eastern bloc simply as Moscow's representative, even after reading hundreds of books that clearly demonstrate this wasn't true.

    As for the overall issue of target audience, what I'm shooting for in November are the following groups, in this order.

    1. People who like spy fiction, specifically the kind I'm calling "Spy vs. Guy." A certain interest in Berlin per se is built-in for this audience.

    2. People who are personally connected, as outsider or insider, to Berlin and the division of Germany - obviously, this favors German/Berlin audiences, but not exclusively.

    3. People who respond to my notion that the Wall in the Head doesn't just apply to Berliners, but to them as citizens of any country, most especially the U.S. and former USSR. This doesn't mean everyone is supposed to respond in this way, just that I think there're a lot of us who might.

    4. People who are committed to the development of Story Now as an activity, called by whatever name and published by whoever. Paul, this may well be your favored role in the whole thing.

    Best, Ron

    • CommentAuthorPaul Czege
    • CommentTimeJan 19th 2006

    Hey Dirk,

    Perhaps you're right, and I wasn't affected enough by the Cold War to know the emotional core of Spione. Pride and enthusiasm for the performance of a national sports team doesn't necessarily come from deep scars.

    And you're remembering the Reagan thing right. Prior to his weekly radio address on August 11, 1984, without realizing the microphone was on, Reagan joked:

    "My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes."

    I thought I would never be more embarrassed for my country than at that moment. (George W. Bush has since proven me very wrong.)


    • CommentAuthorDarAng
    • CommentTimeJan 19th 2006

    Thanks Paul. I was not sure if the Reagan-thing was just ill-remembered, but it suits him, I believe.

    Oh yes. Die Russen - as we called them were always our main rival. It would go so far that we would like to see them fall in nearly every game, even if the opponent was an US-American.

    To understand that you should look how the Allies treated their part of Germany. After that it becomes quite clear.

    A side comment: I watched the movie "Miracle" - or better: parts of it - moments ago. I wss never an icehockey-crack but I remembered that my father told me about that special game. I have to ask him for whom he rooted...


    • CommentAuthorDarAng
    • CommentTimeFeb 25th 2006

    And my father rooted for the USA!

    He always likes to see the underdog win. Not that politic, but an understanding position.


    • CommentAuthordjshad
    • CommentTimeMay 22nd 2019

    Life in the United States is no longer what it was. Now the whole idea of the movement is on the emphasis of politics and on the rights of different minorities. The country is absurd. Because of this, we started to quarrel strongly in the family and it is not surprising that my wife comes home from work tired, nervous because of stress at work, because someone doesn’t like something and because of this is eternal stress

    • CommentAuthorGunsharez
    • CommentTimeMay 22nd 2019

    You are right, I can not understand why so much hype because of this policy. Many ordinary residents, workers suffer because of this. I’ve been with this for a long time, but sometimes there are shifts at work and this entails a lot of unnecessary work. I also try to use the CBD to distract myself a little from all this and not to bring the negative home. After all, I love my family and I am ready for much to be happy.