Opinion

Michaels: Watching World Cup from the perspective of a sport-loather

A particularly harrowing episode with a tetherball in the fifth grade laid the groundwork for a lifelong dislike of all sports where my nose—or any noses—could be painfully buggered up.

Even watching the likes of hockey, American football, ringette, water polo and so on, from the safety of my couch makes my front two teeth tingle in that anticipatory, fight-or-flight kind of way.

So, needless to say, I’m not a huge sports fan.

But there’s one exception to the rule and it got underway yesterday.

World Cup. Now that’s a sporting event worth watching, regardless of the irritation of tingling teeth.

On the field it’s basically a month of people running back and forth over a huge expanse of green, rarely scoring. Oftentimes falling. Sometimes wailing. Tears, too.

Where it gets really exciting for a regular sports-loather like myself, is outside the pitch. A cornucopia of cultural gold is in that space, and it overflows onto the field in the most delightful dribs and drabs.

Football commentators lead the way with their  free expression of thoughts—often the type Canadians would deem borderline inappropriate.

Then there are the people in the stands. They’re brimming with cultural insights that even the most intuitive museum curator couldn’t patch together.

The chants offer an unsettling walk through history. An eye-opening, not-all-places-are-politically-correct-like-Canada type of walk, mind you.

When the English play Germany, for example, they shout “Two World Wars and one World Cup.”

Can you imagine that being said at an NHL game? No, you can’t.

Canada’s less stellar representatives may be content to light their own cars on fire after a loss to an American team, but they’d never cheerfully rib the opposition with barbs about the War of 1812. Of course, they may not know what that is, but shortcomings in education are a different conversation.

Ultimately, the best part about the fandom surrounding World Cup, I learned in Seoul, South Korea, for the 2002 event.

It’s an opportunity to tap into your heritage, and be excited and proud about the path your ancestors trod as their representatives take part in a game that isn’t always won by the country that has the most wealth. It’s kind of a breath of fresh air.

I know the Greek half of me is super enthused come World Cup time. Several Greece FIFA shirts are crumpled in the bottom of my dresser, and this year I was excited to buy my new-ish small human his own tiny blue top.

He’s a green-eyed ginger thanks to the genetic lotto, but when I say Greece, he points to his shirt and gives the toddler version of a shout out to 25 per cent of his bloodline.

When they inevitably lose, we’ll switch things up and root for the English end of the  pool.

Come what may, our noses will never get out of joint. It is, after all, win-or-lose, a beautiful game.

And, a-hem. Go, Greece, go.

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