Here's a Cliff Notes version of my last 24 hours: I drove our pea shooter, named the Elf, 5 1/2 hours back to Warsaw from Gdansk but before we arrived there, we stopped at this quaint little hole in the wall in the middle of nowhere to get some food.
The food (not what I thought I ordered):
We finally pulled up to the apartment around midnight, shook hands and got the rules of what we could and couldn't do from some guy we met through Twitter, which sounds sketchy because it is! And then we crashed hard for 3 to 4 hours in what turned out to be a really nice place for a great deal. Wayto go, Twitter!
The following morning came quick and we had to be ready for anything because Poland was playing Russia, the rival they despise the most. As I was told over and over again by Polish fans, the Russians believe they are superior. As we started our day in the friendly confines of the Fan Zone, under the watchful eye of the Palace of Culture, I could sense something different in the air. The citizens of Warsaw had a little bounce in their step, even though the game wasn't kicking off for another eight or so hours. This gave me and my posse that little extra energy, that buzz, to fend off a lack of sleep and food (we don't eat much, either.)
With the aid of this newly found second wind, we went to work editing content we already shot and prepping for a Russian march, which would start near the Fan Zone and end at the stadium, to commemorate Russia's Independence Day. My initial thought of the march was that it felt a little disrespectful for the Russians to celebrate on Polish soil but the more I pondered how I would feel if it happened back in the States, the less I thought it was that big of a deal. People are happy, they are in a good mood, so what if they want to walk down a street together waving flags and singing songs? Of course, as I learned quite quickly, the relationship between the Russians and the Poles is a lot more complex and runs a lot deeper than anything I could compare to back home, at least from an American perspective. Maybe some other inhabitants of the U.S. feel otherwise. Anyway, that's a conversation for another time.
We ended up setting up shop in the middle of the Russian march, which was incredibly intense due to the sheer number of police that were there in riot gear and the emotional epithets being thrown out by the Polish fans to the "we're just happy to be here" Russians who were marching on one of Warsaw's biggest streets.
Thanks to the agility and athleticism of my posse, Michael Milberger and Sam Winter, and with the aid of writer, Brian Blickenstaff, who caught some of the violence of the march up close and who is penning a terrific blog on ESPN about the Euros, we compiled a video that puts a face on how a game can bring us together but also continue to tear us apart. Take a look.