View Comments REYKJAVIK — They have a sprinkling of sports bars in Iceland's capital, but in the spirit of a family vacation and the dread of potential divorce court proceedings , I pretty much steered clear of them during our four-day visit here last week.
If you've been to one sports bar, you've been to a million of 'em, and that holds true even here in a very rugged, beautiful, and remote part of the playing fields-and-box scores world. Each had the usual array of beer taps, barstools, and TV screens and were televising European-based soccer games during the times I visited.
Nothing that captured my interest.
Advertisement "Ice hockey? Due to the time difference Iceland four hours ahead of our Eastern time , sports televised from the US don't generally fit well with a bar's prime working hours in this part of the world.
I left it there, as he rolled eyes, shook his head, and popped a cap for someone with better sporting taste and half a brain at the other end of the bar. Advertisement Because of our gadgets and our Internet ever-connectedness, it's difficult, even in far, far away places, to unplug fully from the sports that fill our lives.
It's particularly acute in the US, where we hear and see sports all day long.
The games and the athletes who play them, amateur and pro, surround our lives, fill our minds and most of our idle moments. We are saturated in sports. During your next trip to the grocery store, just count the number of teams represented in the ballcaps, jackets, sweat pants, and T-shirts of your fellow shoppers.
There is no escaping sports America.
Reykjavik population: , is a relatively small city in a bite-sized, sparsely populated island country. Iceland is roughly the size of Kentucky some 40, square miles with a total population approximately , on par with the city of Anaheim, Calif. It is out here in the middle of nowhere, its pro sports culture virtually nonexistent, its citizens seemingly more focused on doing skiing, hiking, climbing, fishing, even golfing than watching and man-caving.
There's probably a lesson there for some of us. The big sports deal in town last week, and through this weekend, was the Reykjavik Open, staged inside the sparkling Harpa Concert Hall, a stunning and shimmering piece of architecture at ocean's edge.
A total of some of the world's top chess players, including a few Yanks, were in the Open, and locals were excited about the prospects of a visit over the weekend by world No.
Advertisement Competitors at the Reykjavik Open. During tournament play on Wednesday, with dozens of players simultaneously engaged in competition, spectators milled about in silence on the floor, often stopping to watch play from directly over the players' shoulders.
No ushers. No security. No drunken louts yelling, "Take the king! Big-time chess isn't like that.
Spectators walked in off the street and roamed around, dotting from match to match, studying strategy, conjuring moves and countermoves. So often we refer to our games as chess matches.
Standing over the players' shoulders, staring at games, I was lost for an analogy. If two boxers are engaged in a mental chess match, then are two chess players engaged in mental boxing?
It really doesn't translate. Chess is what it is, as they might say in Foxborough or other remote places.
For my whole time in Iceland, the only sports paraphernalia I spotted was a guy, middle-aged, wearing a New Jersey Devils ballcap as he walked along the downtown shops.
A day trip out of town, to see the famed Geysir geothermal field, brought me across another tourist, a younger guy wearing a knit cap that sported a Bruins logo.
He was from Glasgow. Advertisement Across the street from the faithful shooting Geysir, some decades-old photographs and a looping black-and-white film inside the tourist center paid homage to glima, a form of wrestling that dates to medieval times.
Of Viking origins, glima remains Iceland's national sport.
Based on the pictures and film reel, glima looks like serious stuff, with skilled holds, positioning, and leverage the essentials, true of all martial arts. I'm told kids here still learn a variation of glima, perhaps more than American kids learn baseball.
As for the Northern Lights, in part the reason Iceland was on my bucket list, a bad luck blend of cloud cover and a frightening wintry storm mix prevented us from seeing one of nature's greatest displays.
The sky, much like the sports menu, remained dark. One of those will be the reason to return. He can be reached at dupont globe. Most read on BostonGlobe.