James (pronounced HA-mez) Rodriguez is Colombia’s soccer star. We learned of him during the 2014 World Cup (known obviously to the more rabid fans of San Diego as La Copa Mundial or Copa del Mundo), where we religiously watched the Colombian games as a first step of cultural immersion. And it was a particularly immersive experience since we don’t have cable so the only channel available via our sad little digital antenna — strung up across the sunroom into a skylight for reasonable reception on the rare occasions there’s something we want to watch that isn’t on Netflix — is Univision. But frankly, what do you need to understand about any sports narration besides, “Goooooooooaaaaaaaalllllll!!!” which is comprehensible in either Spanish or English?
When James (HA-mez) is not dazzling soccer fans with his skills (and men-fans with his quite delicious appearance), he is #10 on Real Madrid, which apparently is the soccer equivalent of saying, “He plays for the 49ers.” His jersey on both teams reads, “James” because either (a) he bows to people’s desire to pretend to be on a first-name basis with celebrities or (b) there are lots of other Rodriguezes on both the Colombian and Spanish teams.
Jack, whose real name is James (djaymz) and who has a strong impression of his own soccer-playing abilities (once informing me sadly that, “It’s kind of a waste when I play keeper because I’m so good on the field”), latched onto his name-buddy James (HA-mez) immediately and announced, “When I am in Colombia, I’m going to introduce myself as James (HA-mez),” in a well-founded if a bit obvious attempt to blend in and buy local affection. He then ran off to practice the Colombian I-made-a-goal dance on the off chance that he might someday make a goal.
However, being good parents — and being stumped at the challenge of finding a 10-year-old both a birthday AND Christmas present within a month of leaving the country for half a year* — we are playing into his fandom. He now owns a James jersey: a useful, packable, conversation-starter. At least until we show up and realize that Medellinos hate him for some reason…
Jack also has informed us that he expects to come back from this Colombian adventure as a “really tough player” and a “total drama-king” because he will be playing “street soccer” since there are no refs in Colombia. Which begs a couple of obvious questions, starting with why he thinks he needs drama-king skills in a world (allegedly) without referees and ending at the more profound, “Where does he get this stuff?”
* We only partly rose to the challenge, however, as Jack pointed out on the night before his birthday when he mournfully informed me, “I’ve noticed that there are no presents on the table. [meaningful and pointed pause] And tomorrow is my birthday.” So he had nothing to open on his actual birthday which is kind of a fail when you’re hitting double-digits for the first time, but, you know, also a good opportunity to learn to deal with disappointment.