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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Who Dares Wake This Slumbering Beast?

Summoned.jpgUMMONED BACK TO LIFE, like the Cold Genius in Purcell's King Arthur, only to complain to the sorceror Darko:

What power art thou, who from below
Hast made me rise unwillingly and slow
From beds of everlasting snow?
See'st thou not how stiff and wondrous old,
Far unfit to bear the bitter cold,
I can scarcely move or draw my breath?
Let me, let me freeze again to death.

I am subsumed by My Own Private Quagmire - my tiny, under-resourced team is consumed by insurgency at work, by a project that seemed to us so simple, so willing at first. All that was needed was blitzkrieg, a furious shock and awe of precision coding, couple of months tops, and it would be ours: a pipeline of profit and a chorus of flowers and cheerily-waving flags.

Aah, no.

We are instead presented with an ever-growing cauldron of hatred and complexity: the thing has ballooned; that which we have freed, which looked to us so simple, so tidy, has proven instead a labyrinth of unfathomable trickery, a bulb of blood-sucking vines that attack us, who hack within, from every point on the sphere.

Metaphalically, that is.

It is not going well. It seems to us there is no way out but wrapped in a pink slip. We have come, almost, to welcome such a fate.

I've been in foul mood for months, so really it's a blessing that I haven't written anything. I haven't been inclined to write, even where the opportunity arose. My out-time begs for escapery: in books; in games; in mindless television.

But since I do use my blogroll as my daily gateway to the world wild web it grates upon me, too, to look upon a never-changing Xenoverse.

And so, to keep the jabbers off our back, and with subject pre-ordained: to football. Soccer. Fitba'.

I hate fitba' - and so does America.

At least I thought it did? What the hell has gone wrong in this country?

In a most peculiar turnabout - almost definitively esrevoneX in these widdershins counter-cultured times - America learned of this year's World Cup long before I did! In fact, I heard about it on my local Fox 11 station, which is all the more strange because that station, that type of station, is normally more parochial than your typical Rev. Murdo McLeod from the Utter Hebrides who sees no further than "Thou shallt keep the Sabbath Day to be Holy!"

I used to pretend to like football - had to, really - since my [scots] son was devoted to it in his early days. Still is, it transpires: he sneaks downstairs to watch the football on the telly when everyone else is supposed to be out. Hah - he's too stupid to change the channel back when he leaves, so we always find out. Let him get his own hoose, his own cable, then he can watch all the footie he wants, says I.

Wasn't always that way. When I was wee, football was the only game there was. I was always a lousy player though, and suffered the weekly humiliation of being second goalie to be picked in our classroom teams. Does that happen here? Two "good" players are nominated captains; everybody else lines up while they take turns choosing who will play on their teams? The fat wheezy boys like me are left standing to the very end.

I don't blame them. I just hate them.

All praise to High School, then, for the gift of Rugby Union - a game where even a lumpen clods like me can find a place. I was useless at rugby too, but that never mattered. A whole other ethos - the amateur - for which britons are born.

I did used to follow my local soccer team - they were every bit as dreadful as me - especially with the sprog in tow: he was enthused, I was enthused. And we even got excited together when our team won promotion to higher leagues. But outside of that, I never watched, never cared for other teams, always switched over from "Sportsnight" or "Grandstand" except... Except.

Except when it was Scotland, and the World Cup. It is the biggest sporting event on the planet; every four years, like the Olympics it eclipses. Nobody goes all-out raj over womens' gymnastics or the 400m hurdles - not like they do over the national team in the World Cup finals.

We scots, we have a treasured history of World Cup failure. We are the duffers of the world. If - and lately that's been a Big If - we should make it to the World Cup finals, then we'll burn down in a blaze of glory. The ritual demands that we be placed in a group alongside two third-world emerging nations - whose football teams are assumed to be easy prey to our fearsome forwards - and one Hard Team, like Brazil or Holland, who we expect will gub us. So, we all gather in a pub for the first game to roar our team to its guarenteed 7-0 victory over Faroe Isles or Peru or Zaire or whoever the unlucky match should be, only to have our team buried and beaten and humiliated. Same with the second match, further despair, whereupon our continuantion in said finals falls, once more, into the beckoning realm of "mathematical possibility." That's always the way it unfolds: why we still believe at the start; why we are always devastated after two lost games; why that should still happen despite everything we know, remains a Mystery. Our last game - always against the Big Team - our boys play like demons. They win, too: but one goal short of the mathematical target.

That's not why I hate football: rather, its the only thing that might draw me back to it, if only for two or three weeks.

What does make me hate football, to an irrational degree, is a World Cup that has England in it. Funniest thing: you immigrate to America, and before you know it all your old national hatreds have dissolved. They mean less than nothing here. You believe you're over it; past that; moved on. And indeed you have, until something like this happens. Oh there'll be all sorts of talk in the usual places about how scots should grow up and support England in this contest or that competition - but it ain't gonna happen. We cannot help but wish them ill. We fail, nay, proudly fail, the fabled Cricket Test. Especially when it applies to England in the World Cup.

They won it once, you know.

They won it in 1966, forty years ago, the year my sister was born. They beat the Germans, with an assist from a Russian referee. And they've never, ever, ever shut up about it since. On and on and on and on they go about bloody 1966; their sports broadcasters will find a way to hook it into anything - could be Ladies Tennis, they'll find a way to bring up Bobby Charlton or Geoff Hurst or Nobby bloody Stiles.

Better that I stay away from this year's World Cup, and all that. Who needs it?

God bless America.


Blogger DarkoV said...

Oh my, but it's a glorious day when the Slumbering Beast is awakened and his nimble fingers lay out such a feast...

...and England wins 2-0 on very,very late goals.

12:07 PM  
Blogger Cowtown Pattie said...

Ah, Slumbering Beast, you made the William smile today!

2:25 PM  
Blogger Whisky Prajer said...

Ah, those lingering "old national hatreds" - such a bouyant source of amusement to those of us just outside the tribal loop. A co-worker at the bookstore was a Liverpuddlian, an aging hippie who had "followed the birds" to Canada. Easygoing and copacetic to the max, was he - until the day Peter Ustinov walked across the store threshold to sign copies of his latest. I didn't think Ustinov's presence was particularly difficult to bear - his thermos full of clear liquid seemed to keep him jolly, and he didn't make any unusual demands on the staff. The Liverpuddlian, though, made a pointed and very vocal request to be kept as far away from "Sir Peter" as possible. I figure Ustinov's knighthood (gee, I spelled that as "knithood" first time through) was my friend's chief source of contention. His protest didn't make a whit of difference to the rest of us, and if Ustinov caught wind of any of it, the whole affair amounted to little more than a pleasing dash of bitters in his brew.

1:57 PM  
Blogger DarkoV said...

"Ah, those lingering "old national hatreds""..

Sad to say WP, but some days they are like a natural nitro glycerine tablet for the soul.
Childish? You betcha.
Idiotic and Primitive. Yes, Double Yes.

What can I offer as a (lousy) excuse, than to say, "It's in the blood."

6:55 AM  
Blogger F.C. Bearded said...

I thought I'd put them all away, and that Engerlund in the World Cup was the last of them. But they do have a way of sneaking up on you, to puncture the hubris.

It remains true, sad to admit, that whenever some English person says or does something particularly stupid I can be relied upon to Tsk or Tut, and to mutter to my wife "What do you expect?"

11:43 AM  
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