at the Sorbonne
by Zack Rogow
eight hundred years without an intercollegiate sports program, the celebrated
Sorbonne will soon be boasting an American-style football team. The controversial
decision to become the first college on the European continent to play this
American contact sport was announced at a recent press conference at the
Paris university by the new athletics director, Guillaume Walsh-Satie, formerly
of North Southwestern Louisiana Junior State College.
"Our football team will become a rallying point for students, alumni, and disaffected members of the proletariat," Walsh-Satie declared.
The choice of a name for the Sorbonne's gridiron eleven proved to be a contentious decision. One student faction threw up barricades on the Boulevard Saint-Michel in support of the name "The Fighting French," but they were soon beaten back by heavily-armed riot police hastily summoned from the provinces. A faculty committee issued a report demanding the name, "The Semiotics," but no suitable mascot could be found. A compromise was hammered out during all-night negotiations on the eve of a general strike-and the Sorbonne Unicorns were born, named after the fabled tapestries in the nearby Cluny Museum. The team will wear purple helmets and jerseys with a silver unicorn head emblazoned on the side.
Gossip has it that Walsh-Satie has obtained an actual unicorn for display at games. The animal was recently captured on the island of Ragnarok near Iceland, and purchased for an amount rumored to be over $4 million. The animal is said to be so sensitive to noise, though, that it will appear at football games only in a specially designed sound-proof glass cage.
According to Walsh-Satie, the Unicorns are planning to field an all-French-speaking team. Their most experienced recruits are Hervé and Benoit Tualaulelei, separated Siamese twins from French Samoa who recently transferred to the Sorbonne from Texas A & M, where they anchored the offensive line at left and right tackle.
Most of the Unicorn players, though, are more like the starting quarterback, Troy Truffaut, who admits, "Yeah, I played a couple of years of football in high school in Bayonne, New Jersey, when I lived with my mother." Troy's dad is French, however, and he has already bought season tickets to all the team's home games.
Finding a location in the heart of Paris for a football stadium was no easy task. "We were hoping to demolish the old Roman arena on the Left Bank," Walsh-Satie explained at the press conference. "We were gonna build a state-of-the-art stadium there with luxury sky boxes and the whole bit, but some archeology nuts blocked us. So we've broken ground at a site in the Tuileries Gardens." The new football stadium incorporates the Arc du Triomphe du Carousel and will have an underground tunnel connecting it to the nearby Louvre, allowing fans to visit that museum during halftime. The stadium is being designed by the firm of LeDuc et Maris, who crafted the plan for the new baseball stadium that will replace the old center of the medieval city of Rouen. That stadium's flamboyant gothic style was specially chosen to match the city's architectural heritage, but the Paris stadium will be a modern variation on the Louvre's Renaissance façade.
Cheerleaders for the Unicorns will sport the team's purple and silver colors, except for their black berets. They will twirl freshly-baked baguettes instead of batons. Plans are for the new stadium to sell a variety of French food, including rabbit and truffles, and the wine list alone will probably earn the stadium a three-star designation from the Michelin guidebook.
The Académie Française, the august body in charge of preserving the French language, is already holding the line when it comes to football, a sport permeated with American jargon. The members of the Académie huddled together last week and created an entire vocabulary in French for the new sport, including such words as la mise-en-bas (the touchdown), l'arrièrre-coin (the cornerback), and la fin-serrée (the tight end). This terminology has already begun influencing French thinking. A leading French politician, recently asked how France was planning to respond to the Third World AIDS crisis, remarked to a reporter, "Je crois qu'on va punter" ("I think we'll punt").
The Unicorns will have one major obstacle to overcome when their first season starts next fall. They won't have any teams to play in easy striking distance. They hope to entice some U.S. college teams to visit the City of Light for exhibition games. If all goes well, they will apply to join the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2003.
It won't be long before those Unicorn fans will be roasting their escargots at tailgate parties along the Seine.
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