Monday, July 12, 2010

World Cup Fever...or maybe I'm just sick.

They (the fictional people who are behind every proverbial saying) say there are two topics a person should not discuss when trying to maintain a calm and civil conversation. Those two things – according to “them” – are religion and politics.

Now, although I am in absolute agreement with that thought process, I would like to simplify it one step further. I have come to realize that there is a singular topic that actually covers both religion and politics.

If you want peace, don’t talk about...


The World Cup has made me very aware that, in the minds of many people, soccer is a deeply political, religious experience. For that reason, when sharing opinions about soccer, one must choose their sparring partner wisely lest they be crucified or beheaded for treason.

Make a statement like, “Soccer is boring” to a die-hard soccer fan and you might as well say, “Jesus is God and he belongs to the Liberal Party” to an Atheistic Conservative.

*Non-Canadian readers exchange “Liberal” with your political party of choice.

Anyways, having said all that, I’d like to make it perfectly clear that I am not one of those people who bash soccer. In fact, today I watched an entire soccer game. That’s right. The whole thing. From beginning to end. Every minute. Every last excruciatingly boring minute.

In fact, one day I might even start referring to the game as “Football”. It will be the day when soccer players stop crying like a baby after getting a light tap on their ankle. Just once I’d like to see a soccer player take a helmet in the ribs while in full extension trying to catch a deep pass across the middle…then they’d have something to cry about.

Now, I am obviously not an enthusiast of the sport, but I will admit that every four years the pomp and pageantry of the World Cup does capture my attention…albeit a sideways glance.

I am not alone in this. I know many non-soccer fans who at World Cup time, get sucked into the daily news surrounding a sport that they, in general, avoid like the plague. The reasons for this vary, depending on the nature of the individual.

The Partier is always looking for any reason to celebrate, so if soccer is presently providing a month-long party then, “Long Live Soccer!” For The Gambler, there is simply no way personal preference is going to keep them from dipping into the world’s largest wagering pot. And, The Social Butterfly, who dreads being out of the social loop for any length of time, will gather information about players, teams and games just to keep from being alienated.

However, all of these reasons (and many more) ultimately get hidden behind one large banner called “National Pride”.

Here in Canada, each time the World Cup approaches, we Canadians are forced to dig deeper into our heritage to find a flag to wave because…well…Canada isn't going to the World Cup anytime soon.

Unfortunately, this year my Irish brothers didn’t make the World Cup either so, right at the beginning, I was forced to adopt a new national family to put my support behind. I chose the Cote d’Ivoire. Why? Because everyone knows that Ireland and the Cote d’Ivoire are cultural twins.

Although I was aware of slight differences between the two countries, I will admit to being genuinely surprised when I discovered that Cote d’Ivoire does not translate as “Irish Spring” in English. Also, there are no Boyles on their team. Shocking, eh.

Anyways, the tournament started and…blah, blah, blah…Spain and the Netherlands are in the finals.

After doing the math, I concluded that my brothers from a different motherland got eliminated somewhere along the way. Oh well. There’s always 2014. Long live the Irish and the Ivoires.

As a result of this unexpected turn of events, I was now facing a rather difficult decision. I could jump ship and cheer for another, less worthy, country OR I could continue cheering for a team that wasn’t in the finals. Although the latter option seemed quite intriguing, I ended up going with option number one which, in doing so, brought me face to face with another dilemma.

Espana or Nederland.
Bull fights or Clogs.
Red/Yellow or Orange.
“Ik houd van vrouwen” or “Tengo gusto de mujeres”

What to do. What to do.

After a long mental battle I decided, for one day, I would stand proud with my new Dutch brethren. Hup Holland! (whatever that means). I was so excited…until I found out that Paul the Octopus had picked Spain to win.

I briefly considered turning to embrace my new Spanish brethren (after all, Paul had never been wrong), but ended up staying true to Holland after discovering that Mani the Parakeet (also a perfect World Cup forecaster) was waving the Dutch flag!

Someone was going to be wrong, but I’ve always liked birds better than fish.

To be continued...

Tomorrow:  "Finally, the day arrived. Sunday, July 11. World Cup Day! I put on my imaginary clogs and the only orange outfit I had and headed over to my in-law’s house to watch the game..." 

Have a good one,

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