LeAnn Stevens-Larre, a former Lawton resident and Eisenhower graduate, and her husband, Lionel Larre, smile at a riverwalk. Stevens-Larre has become a France soccer fan in recent years and was overjoyed to see "Les Bleus" win their second World Cup title on Sunday.
The FIFA World Cup is a celebration of soccer and culture, but the overall scope of the event wouldn't be the same without the wide variety of fans around the world.
From the scores of Iceland fans performing the "Viking Clap" to Brazil's "naked" Sunday soccer, each nation's fan traditions leave a lasting impression on the rest of the planet. However, with the United States missing out on the world's biggest sporting event this year, it might be difficult for many Americans to latch onto the practices of other fandoms.
There are so many diverse cultures in the world, and one former Lawtonian's adoption of another introduced her to a side of soccer of the World Cup she never thought she'd experience.
LeAnn Stevens-Larre, a 1989 graduate of Eisenhower, lives in Bordeaux, France, as an English teacher, and she was one of millions of fans tuned in as Les Bleus hoisted the World Cup trophy for a second time after a 4-2 win over Croatia on Sunday.
"My daughter is in Paris right now, and she sent me a video of all the crazy people in the streets celebrating," Stevens-Larre said. "And my son, who is in Bordeaux, wrote me and said people are going crazy there, too. People party in the streets, they drive their cars and honk their horns and wave French flags out the window -- it's a big party."
But how did someone who lived in Lawton all her life end up in France?
"I was an instructor at Cameron from 1999-2004, and I had finished my master's degree at (the University of Oklahoma) at that point," Stevens-Larre said. "When I was working on PhD. at OU, I met a cute French boy in one my classes. I was already an English teacher at that point, and we got married two years later and moved to France."
Of course, when someone leaves their comfort zone and move to a different country, there is going to be learning curve.
Not only did Stevens-Larre have to adjust to the different culture France presented, but she also had to overcome the language barrier. Add raising kids into that equation, and you've got quite a tall task.
"I didn't speak a word of French when I moved here," Stevens-Larre said. "That was the most difficult thing, and I already had two children at that point, who didn't speak French either, and they were 8 and 6. I was so busy being a parent, finishing my PhD, teaching full time and having another child, it took me quite a while to get comfortable with French. I never took any lessons, I just learned it by living here.
"I'm not fluent, by any means, but I can function. I can talk to people, I can shop and I can talk to my administration at the university where I teach."
Stevens-Larre also had to adjust to the difference in the sports culture. Being a graduate of OU, she naturally found herself an avid fan of Sooners football and basketball.
However, those options weren't available to her anymore once she made the move overseas. She had to satisfy her sports fix elsewhere.
With a basketball star like Tony Parker hailing from France, basketball has developed an increased interest in the sport, but as is the case in most European countries, soccer reigns supreme.
She noticed the impact of soccer on the local community and compared it how it is received in Lawton and across the U.S.
Her conclusion -- soccer in Europe is much like football in the states, but on a much larger scale.
"Unless the U.S. is playing, there's so much less interest in it, unless you're a diehard fan of any sport," Stevens-Larre said. "I remember people talking about the World Cup when we were in the states, but I never really had much interaction with it, except for when I teaching and I knew people from other countries, and they were more interested in it. It was never a part of my everyday life at all.
"Here, it's everywhere all the time. It's more like the Super Bowl. The World Cup is much less commercialized here, though. There are two teams in the Super Bowl, so part of the population is unhappy with the result. With the World Cup, everyone in the country is celebrating together."
Stevens-Larre was certainly celebrating on Sunday afternoon.
As fun as watching her home country claim the World Cup title was, having her family there with her made the experience even more rewarding.
Stevens-Larre and her husband, Lionel, usually visit her parents in Lawton every summer, but they haven't been able to the past couple of years. This time around, though, her parents came to France.
"We decided we were going to make a Franco-American celebration and make hot dogs," Stevens-Larre said. "I thought it would be fun to make my in-laws celebrate a sporting event with American food instead of French food.
"It was fun for me because I got to show my parents an event that typically isn't that big of a deal in the U.S., and we all sat around and cheered and yelled. I got to explain who some of the players were, so they could get an inside <t-9>into the sporting world of Europe."
Having her parents around reminded her of the good times she had growing up in Lawton.
After all, Lawton played a pivotal role in helping Stevens-Larre get to where she is now. The people she met over the years inspired her to learn more about the diverse cultures throughout out the world.
She said living in Lawton was a great preparation for living in another country.
"I grew up amongst so many different people from different parts of the world because of Fort Sill," Stevens-Larre said. "That's one of the reasons I feel comfortable traveling because I had so many friends and influences from other cultures when I was growing up.
"As an adult, especially living abroad, I really credit the multicultural environment of Lawton to opening my mind to the world and helping me accept and appreciate other cultures.
It was that multicultural environment that led Stevens-Larre to her career of teaching English in a foreign country.
"I really enjoy learning about other people's perspective and how other people live, and that's what literature is about," Stevens-Larre said. "You live other people's lives, and you learn and realize you aren't the only person in the world with the truth. For me, that's important."