29 June 2008
Me and Sports: Not a Good Mix
Football season is upon us. Perhaps it has been for several months, I really wouldn’t know. I only just noticed it last week. And by the way, when I say “football” I don’t mean what Americans call football, I mean what Americans call soccer. Outside of the US it seems you don’t really use the word “soccer” unless you’re a teenage girl in a badly fitting gym skirt trying to get out of P.E.
Right now as I write this, the finals of the European Championship are being played. It’s Spain vs. Germany; two nations with a common bond of past fascism and a love for goofy music (I give you Los Del Rio and The Kelly Family, respectively). Wim is in a bar with some friends watching it, and I am sitting at home in stripy pajama bottoms and a comedy club T-shirt not watching it, like a civilized person. I tried (I did, I did) to get into it this year. Three days ago I went to the same bar to watch Russia and Spain compete in the semi finals. I ended up being put off the whole sports thing once again as I was reminded of that caring-so-much-about-the-outcome-of-a-ball-game thing which I have never been able to get my head around, try as I might. I made the mistake of watching a football game that Russia had no chance of winning (apparently) with actual Russians. They were so upset by the outcome of the game that three days on their lives are still in utter ruin.
This was my friend Anya before the game:
Looking relatively happy and enjoying an evening out.
And THIS is Anya after the crushing 3-0 defeat of Russia:
Devastated. Lost. Inconsolable. It’s sad, really.
At that point I tried all my lighthearted ”It’s only a game” ploys, but she was a lost cause.
Luckily there was lots of alcohol.
But it got me thinking: I will simply never understand this phenomenon. The only allegiance I ever feel toward a particular sports team is if they have a lot of good-looking players or if I like the colors of their uniforms. All that running about and ball kicking they do is completely inconsequential to me. Don’t get me wrong: I like football. In fact it’s the only sport I really do like because it's easy to follow. The ball either goes one way or the other and if they get it past the little man and into the net thingy it’s a goal. I’ve been known to watch entire games and even follow a World Cup tournament. But at the end of the game, whether the good looking guys in the pretty outfits won or lost has no effect on me.
I once was hosting a comedy show in Denver Colorado on a night that the Denver team (American football) had lost to someone else in the Superbowl thingy. Like the truly hacky comic I was at the time, I started my set out by saying, “How’s everyone doing tonight?” to which I was met with steely stares and faint groans. For a few seconds I stood there flabbergasted staring back at them. I mean you would think I’d just bounded on stage in a Nazi Death Camp and said, “Hey gang! Why all the long faces?!” – So momentarily suspending all comedy (which didn’t take much effort in those days) I said, “Why are you letting yourselves get so upset over this? You should be happy! After all they came in second!” And I meant it with love. I mean clearly the Denver Broncos should have been proud that they were better than all the other teams except one, right? They had proved their skill, but another team just had a bit more skill, that was all.....These were the things I was arguing under my breath as I was dragged off the stage by the club manager to the angry jeers of the crowd.
I just didn’t get it.
Another time I was in San Francisco when one of their American Football teams won a big thingy (maybe it was also the Super Bowl thing. That’s the biggest one, right?) and there were people screaming in the streets and sounding their horns and this guy ran out of his car right towards me (Why? Why?), picked me up and swung me around screaming, “We’re number one!! We’re number one!!!!!”……I turned to a friend and asked, “Do you think he’s on the team?” because I didn’t know. And the guy was practically humping my leg and screaming the same thing over and over. I kind of got caught up in the frenzy of it all, but I still can’t say I understood it.
And why is it acceptable to act like that over a ball game but not anything else? Why don’t you see rabid Chess enthusiasts spilling out of sports bars in euphoria screaming, “Vladimir Kramnik Won! Valdimir Kramnik Won!!!!” and then getting into brawls with Veselin Topalov fans?
……….Am I missing something?
And here’s what I don’t get: What is this big thing that’s supposed to happen when your team wins? People always say, “It would be so great if __________ won” but after all the “We’re number one!” screams have died down, what really changes? Unless you had money riding on the game: Nothing. Nothing ever happens as a result of these ball game wins and yet every day millions of people jump around acting as if it does.
OK – Just now I turned on the TV out of curiosity and apparently Spain have just won. (This is the first blog I’ve ever written in Real Time!) They’re still in the jumping around and throwing each other in the air afterglow, and the German guys are looking like they’ve collectively just realized that Bratwurst is high in saturated fat. They came in second and they can’t even enjoy it. And their misery is made all the more painful by the orgy of jubilation the Spaniards are displaying. I’m pretty sure I can see them mouthing the words, “Numero Uno!” over and over again. Will one of them suddenly stop in his cute red shorts, realize “Nothing has actually changed in the world” and plunge head long into an existential crisis? Only time will tell.