A Continental Competition

Picture this: Two white boys. One gay and tall, the other short and straight. A third boy, Latino, with an ambiguous sexual orientation, is medium-sized. It’s April. Springtime. They are stranded in the Old World: Europe. They have no phones, no money. Only their Odyssean cunning and a 24-pack of Red Bull. The goal? Reach Berlin.

No, this isn’t a woke mashup of Jason Bourne and The Amazing Race. Rather, it’s the Red Bull Can You Make It competition, and it’s the dream of three Yale students—Matt Nadel, GH ’21, Sammy Landino, GH ’21, and Teava Torres de Sa, GH ’21—to participate. “Entering the competition was originally my idea,” said Landino, a Directed Studies alum and proud Italian-American. “A chance to rough it in Europe for a week, all expenses paid? That’s not an opportunity a guy like me can pass up.”

The competition is divided into two main phases, Nadel explained to me. First, university students from around the world form teams of three, each creating a one-minute video pitch explaining why their team should be chosen to participate. All the videos are then uploaded to YouTube and the Red Bull website, where the public can vote for their favorite teams. After one week, competition officials select 15 teams from the United States to participate in the race to Berlin. In the second phase, the race itself, the chosen teams are dropped in a random European city with no money or technology—just a week to reach their destination.

Landino was instantly intrigued upon learning about the competition from a friend. The decision to enlist Nadel and Torres de Sa, his friends from Hopper College, was a no-brainer. “Teava is my suitemate, and Matt is one of my best friends,” he explained. “We’re really about as close as it gets. Collectively, we speak Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. This is a dream team we’re talking about.”

Getting the other two on board required little effort, Landino said. Nadel confirmed: “I mean, I saw no reason not to go for it. The concept of traveling to Europe definitely appeals to me, while the concept of actually spending money on that does not. It seems like this competition is the best of both worlds.” Torres de Sa’s reasoning, however, was a bit simpler. “Sammy is only a quarter Italian,” he said, “and I needed an opportunity to expose him. His over-pronunciation of the word cappuccino has gone on for far too long.” Thus, “Team That’s Amore” was born, entering the competition with a video that showcases each strapping team member and his individual skill set.

This competition is not without its predecessors. Back in the 1700s, upon finishing their formal schooling, the sons of wealthy aristocrats would embark on a months-long “Grand Tour” of the continent, soaking in the artistic and cultural achievements of classical antiquity and the Renaissance. Today, things are slightly different (at least for Team That’s Amore). Europe has certainly remained a desired destination. But, instead of a thoughtful, meandering journey meant to nourish the young mind and spirit, the Grand Tour is now a hectic, corporate-sponsored, caffeine-fueled dash to Berlin. It’s an appropriate extravaganza for our late-capitalist era.

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