Mesa Musings: The Dutch did much

"If you ain't Dutch, you ain't much."

OK, I'm not Dutch. But I've seen the aforementioned slogan on bumper stickers for years, most particularly on cars parked in a lot next to a Dutch market in Bellflower. My wife, Hedy, and I occasionally shop there for sweets and Indonesian spices.

If you've never sampled Dutch almond butter cake, you haven't lived!

Frankly, the rather smug sounding "phrase is nothing more than an all-too-convenient rhyme. Take it from me: The Dutch aren't smug. They are generous to a fault, and our G.I.s who liberated their country during World War II felt that they were the most gracious people in Europe.

I may not be Dutch, but neither am I dumb. I married Dutch.

Hedy is Dutch-Indonesian. Born on the Indonesian isle of Java, she moved to Holland as a youngster and spent her formative years on a patch of polder 30 feet below the surface of the North Sea. She was kept from treading water by five gazillion windmills.

The Dutch, as you may have heard, won six of seven matches in the recent FIFA World Cup soccer championships and finished runners-up to the Spanish. Their style of play, referred to as the "Dutch Touch" (another too-convenient rhyming scheme), propelled them into Sunday's title match.

Sadly, that's where they fell.

Hedy's family is soccer-crazed. Her father was a semi-pro player in Indonesia, and most of her uncles, cousins and kinfolk have played the sport. Many relatives in Holland Facebooked her during Sunday's finale.

Early in our marriage we'd often visit her parents' home in Costa Mesa. Her dad could usually be found in the den watching soccer on a Spanish-language TV channel (the American media didn't broadcast much soccer in those days). He couldn't speak Spanish, so he'd call Hedy into the room for a little translation.

I knew nothing about the sport, but I'd sit with him and watch the game, and he'd explain its intricacies. The announcer would describe the action in Spanish; my father-in-law would speak to Hedy in Dutch in order to extract a translation; and my father-in-law would enlighten me in English.

By the way, he developed a love of American football and baseball, and I was privileged to return the favor and tutor him. We attended Dodger and Angel games together, and even a USC-Notre Dame football clash.

Spain beat Netherlands, 1-0, in extra time on Sunday. I sat on the edge of my seat for 116 minutes, waiting for a goal. It was excruciating! One Amsterdam relative said people became so agitated, where she was watching the action, that they began to throw food.

Waiting for a goal in soccer is not unlike waiting for the Hale-Bopp Comet to show up. I started checking the night skies in 1995, and that "bad-boy" didn't materialize until 1997. "Nil-nil" is one of the most oft-used phrases in soccer.

Now, here's some Dutch minutiae for you. What color is the American flag? Red, white and blue. What color is the Dutch flag? Red, white and blue. What colors are featured on American jerseys for international competition? Red, white and blue. What hues do the Dutch wear? Orange.

Excuse me?

Orange is the color of the Dutch royal family, and the Dutch victory phrase is "Oranje (pronounced oh-run-yah) boven!" — which means "Orange on top!"

William of Orange was a Dutch prince in the 17th century who married his cousin, Mary, the elder daughter of James, duke of York, heir to the English throne. James became the British king, but was ousted by William and Mary, who became joint monarchs of the nation (and in 1693 had a college named in their honor in the Virginia Colony).

I choose to provide no further details regarding European royalty because, frankly, things get rather convoluted, not to mention congenitally creepy. Europe's inbred royals manufactured chaos for centuries.

But, politics aside, the Dutch have a great deal to be proud of. Their run in the World Cup was spectacular.

Oranje boven!

JIM CARNETT lives in Costa Mesa. His column runs Wednesdays.

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