Monday, July 14, 2014

Getting Back to Reality

The World Cup is now over.  Whatever shall I do now?


The thing about long, drawn-out events like the World Cup (and a month or so of any sporting event, even one you look forward to and objectively enjoy, is a long, long time, do you hear me NHL Playoffs?  And don’t even get me started on the NFL’s plan to expand their playoffs again – ain’t nobody got time for that) is that once they’re over you look up and realize that there were a lot of other things that really needed to be accomplished during that period and, well, they still need to be accomplished.

Where are those dratted house elves when you need them?

I have a class to prep for the fall.  Plans to make for August.  Grading to do for, well, pretty much every day until the end of July.  I desperately need a haircut, despite there being objectively less hair on my head than there used to be.  And next week is the 4H County Fair, which is always a blur in the best of circumstances. 

Methinks there will be some short sleep around here for a while.

And yet it was definitely worth it.  We watched most of the games, and it actually became a family activity that we could all share.  Hey, so it wasn’t learning a new language together while we crafted organic trinkets out of Fair Trade recycled forest products to sell them at local markets in order to raise funds to benefit homeless kittens.  Sometimes you just have to vegetate in front of a screen and share the magic of asking, “Now why is that a yellow card instead of a foul/red card/public flogging?” 

Also, “What is the deal with people wearing different-colored shoes on each foot, anyway?”

There were a lot of things I liked about the games.  The Chileans deserved better than they got after some really fascinating matches, for example, and after watching the Germans dismantle Brazil I’m feeling much happier about the fact that the US only lost to them 1-0.  I enjoyed the announcers that worked the American broadcasts – most of them rented from the English Premier League.  They were refreshingly brutal in their assessments of both players and performances (“it looked like a triple salchow out there!” said one after a particularly egregious flop) and even the guy who sounded way too much like Michael Palin for me to take altogether seriously was interesting.

There were also a few things that I didn’t like.  Does anyone play a less interesting style of anything than the Dutch?  Seriously – I tried to be on their side, but I began cheering for Argentina about halfway through their semi-final because I couldn’t fathom watching another game consisting entirely of people kicking the ball backwards. 

One thing that struck me, as I watched the matches, was how friendly most of the players were with each other.

Some of it just seemed to be the kind of unwritten (I assume it’s unwritten – perhaps not, but I can’t imagine that anyone would actually put it in a rule book) assumption that there were times when it was appropriate to kick the ball gently back to your opposition, who would take a few moments to let you get set again before the game would start up in earnest.  This usually happened after a player actually seemed to get hurt and lay there for longer than they would if they were just trying to draw a foul.  Whoever had the ball would often just kick it out of bounds, turning over possession to the other team.  And when play resumed, the other team would just kick it back.  I thought that was very courteous of them.

Some of it was also the sort of “hey, man – no hard feelings” exchanges that happened after most fouls.  It’s just a game.  You don’t really see that in hockey or American football very often.

I’m sure that some of those players don’t like each other, and some of them are the usual assortment of jerks and idiots that one finds in any assemblage of humanity (somebody really ought to feed that Uruguayan player before games so he doesn’t try to eat opposing players in the middle of the pitch anymore).  But mostly they seemed to respect each other and play within the rules of decorum as generally understood. 

Diving was okay if graceful and not too exaggerated or often, for example.  Don’t mess with anyone’s goalie.  If you were genuinely caught doing something stupid, shut up, accept the card and move on.  A nice thumb’s up on someone’s good idea that you just couldn’t follow through on is always appreciated.  And so on.

Eventually it occurred to me that of course they felt that way. 

They were highly paid professional athletes – the elites of the world at a sport that dwarfs every other in terms of interest and participation around the planet.  They all have spent years training to be where they are.  They do this for a living, at the highest level, when most people watching them (not in the US, of course, since most people here probably spent half of what few games they tuned into wondering where the end zone was) would gladly pay to be where they are.  They move in the fairly rarified circles of the wealthy and famous.  Half of them are teammates with their opposition in other leagues around the world.

They have more in common with each other than they do with anyone watching them, really. 

Of course they treat each other with a certain amount of camaraderie regardless of the color of their uniforms.  Who else would understand them?  Who else knows what their lives are like?  The guy in the cheap seats?  The viewing audience?  Seriously?

So it was interesting watching them go about their jobs, kicking a ball around and getting handsomely paid for it.  I enjoyed the games.

And now there is work to be done, alas.

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