Monday, June 14, 2004


Okay, I'm not really "gutted", but I love that word (when it's not describing the interior of a building destroyed in a fire). I've heard it just over four thousand times since 9:30 last night, when Zidane scored the second goal to beat England. Two goals in the last 2 minutes to win 2-1. What England fan would not be "gutted"?

I have to say that I'm neither "gutted" nor "delighted" by the result. I was just hoping the game would be good and it was. Much, much better than the earlier game between Croatia and Switzerland.

International sports - particularly when played by professionals - always leave me a little cold. Why do I have to root for people who the rest of the season I HATE just because they've changed jerseys for a few games. I reserve my partisanship for the league season.

One of the benefits of being a sports fan in America is that this never happened when I was a kid. There were no "internationals" in any American sports, other than the occasional series between a Canadian team and the Soviets in hockey, and there were no Soviet players in the NHL. Still, I used to be more interested in a good game than in who won. The Olympics were always different because the athletes there were not the guys in the professional leagues.

But, soccer has regular internationals, when guys who play for your favorite team may suddenly be among the "opposition" and the guys who play for the team you hate most are now on "your side". Take last night's game as an example. If I am an English Arsenal fan, am I supposed to be thrilled at the idea of Stephen Gerard leveling Thierry Henri? It's just too confusing. I just watch and hope the games are good.

I find the "playing for your country" mentality bizarre. You're not playing for your country, you're playing for a professonal sports organization that has adopted pseudo-nationalism in pursuit of profit.* "Fighting for your country" is one thing, but playing for the English football association (or whatever) seems to me completely different.

* For the record, I have no problem with that, but I do think it bears remembering when we're constantly assaulted by the patriotic siren call that these professional sports organizations use to generate interest.