Sunday, June 11, 2006

The World Cup begins

I'm writing this blog entry while I have the World Cup on television in the background. Currently The Netherlands are beating Serbia & Montenegro. At a 25th wedding anniversary for Alana's dad and stepmom yesterday I discovered that few of her family even knew that the World Cup was on, or that the U.S. is ranked 5th in the world.

I was out of work during the 2002 World Cup, so I was able to see a lot of it live. In 1998 I gave the VCR a workout. I think I'll have to do that this year, too. I'd like to follow Team USA (in spite of their rating, they are a perennial underdog because of professional soccer's lack of presence in this country). Scotland didn't make it to the Cup (and let's not even talk about Canada...), so team USA is my team of choice. As a Scot, I can't support England. I just can't.

I was talking to my Mum on the phone yesterday. She told me that Ontario was getting World Cup fever. Canadians follow professional soccer like Americans: they don't, unless they have a strong ethnic identity to a home country. The difference in Canada and the US is that Canadian immigrants don't have the same push to assimilate. As we were taught in school, the US is a cultural melting pot and Canada is a cultural mosaic. This is most visible during the World Cup. Every ethnic neighbourhood in Toronto is flying the flags of their native countries. Mum lives in Oshawa, a city of about 150,000 some 30 miles east of Toronto. It's not usually known for its ethnic diversity, but she's seen a ton of red-cross-on-a-white-background flags in recent days.

The red cross on a field of white is the flag of England. The Union Jack is not flown for England during the World Cup. The Union Jack is the flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain. Since Britain consist of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland — all of which have their own teams, though England is the only one in the World Cup — it is improper for England to fly the Union Jack during the games.

Scots are having a hard time deciding who to cheer on right now. Many don't want to root for England, also known as the Auld Enemie. It would be like Boston Red Sox fans having to decide to cheer for the New York Yankees or, oh, a Japanese team. Some Scots are cheering for England because it's a British team. Others are cheering for other nations, particularly smaller, underdog countries. A lot of Scots are cheering for Trinidad and Tobago because of a single player: the fortunately named Jason Scotland, who happens to play for the St. Johnstone Football Club in the city of Perth, Scotland. Replicas of his jersey, with his last name on the back, have sold out in soccer stores throughout Scotland.

I find it weird living in Monroe, Louisiana during the World Cup. I know there are people of different ethnic origins around here, but I just don't see them flying flags in support of their home country. Mexico is in the World Cup, but I don't see cars driving down the road with Mexican flags hanging out. Perhaps they are scared people think they are protesting immigration laws.

Meanwhile in Toronto I'm sure there are plenty of Italian, Portuguese, Brazilian, and English flags flying. In fact, I'm sure there's an ethnic neighbourhood for pretty much every nation in the World Cup. Personally, I'm glad I'm not there right now. There are large Italian and Brazilian areas of Toronto. I have a major hate-on for Italy's and Brazil's soccer teams dating back to the 1994 World Cup. They met in the final. It was one of the most boring games I'd ever seen. It was obvious that instead of trying to win, both teams were desperately trying not to lose. They played to a scoreless draw, and Brazil won the game in a shootout, scoring three penalty shots to two. Dad and I were disgusted with the game. Ever since, I've been sworn enemies of both teams (even though I'm 1/8th Italian). I even cheered on France in 1998, who defeated Brazil 3 to 2 in a very enjoyable game.

Here's a tip for first time soccer viewers: if you plan to watch the final, you should really plan to watch the consolation game between the third and fourth place teams. That's usually a much more enjoyable game, as neither team has the pressure of being in the final.

I miss my Dad during World Cup time. He was a huge soccer fan. He followed particular teams when he was younger, but during the World Cup he was simply a fan of the game. He would watch as many games as he could, taping what he thought were the best for later viewing. Dad was very glad to see the US hold the World Cup in 1994. He figured it would be the impetus for greater recognition of soccer in the only two countries in the world where it isn't the number one sport: Canada and the US. However, he thought that much of the benefit was diluted because of the boring Brazil-Italy final. I have fond memories of the two of us, and my brother Ian, seeing Toronto Blizzard games when the NASL (North American Soccer League) was functioning. Dad had soccer in his blood. He played as a child. He messed up his feet playing the game in army boots when he did his national service in the Highland Light Infantry in the late 50s. He had two uncles who played soccer professionally, one of which was a cap for Scotland (meaning he played on the national team). Dad died of cancer in November, 1998. Though he was sick, he did manage to see the World Cup that year. I really miss him this time of year...

The game I was watching is over. I won't say who won, just in case you have the game on tape. That was the first World Cup game I've seen this time around, but it won't be the last. I'm looking forward to following Team USA. They've come a long way since 1994, when they were matched against Brazil at the end of the first round, and were knocked out of the field of 16 by Brazil (though Brazil only scored a single goal). In 1998 the US didn't get out of the first round, but they made it to the quarter finals in 2002. This time they are in Group E, playing against Italy, Ghana, and the Czech Republic. The top two finishers of each of the eight groups are seeded in a group of 16, with the winner of each pairing advancing to the next round. The Czech Republic is ranked 2nd in the world. Italy is 12th. Ghana is 50th, but that doesn't mean they can be taken lightly. Each team only plays three games in the first round; no team can afford to be complacent against any opponent.

In case you want to know who is winning, this site at Yahoo has a list of all teams and the results:

I haven't been able to watch any hockey games (the Stanley Cup playoffs have only been playing on the Outdoor Life Network, and we don't get that with our cable company), and they simply don't play Canadian Football League games down here, but ESPN2 is running World Cup games. I can finally get my "obscure sport" fix... even though this "obscure sport" is the most popular, by far, in the world.


michael collins said...

Too bad you're missing out on Stanley and world cup action! Edmonton won a close one last night.

I like your story about the guy named Scotland on T&T. Watching their game yesterday i hope they do well this world cup too.
I think the guy with the best name on that team is Stern John.
It just sounds so serious.

Allan Goodall said...

Thank you for the comment. I'm sorry I missed the hockey game.

I did manage to see the second half of a World Cup game today. I watched the second hand of Mexico versus Iran, which was interesting.

I love the name "Stern John"! I hope they do well, too. I know it's not going to happen, but it would be wonderful if Trinidad and Tobago took on Togo for the final! *L*

Michael Skeet said...

You might be amused at this: our Ops department just sent a company-wide email reminding people that steaming video sites can only be viewed for company/revenue-generating purposes. There's been a dramatic sucking effect on our bandwidth over the last few days... as the head of IT said, curiously tracking World Cup games. I've heard far more talk about the World than about the Stanley the last week or so. It doesn't feel like I'm in Canada, somehow.

Incidentally, the Oilers still have yet to recover from their third-period collapse in game one. Yes, they won on Saturday night, but they were outplayed and pretty much everyone knows it. I had a hard time watching.

Allan Goodall said...

That's funny about the streaming video problem at your office. Ummm... what streaming video sites are showing World Cup games? (He asks innocently enough...)

I did finally see part of a game: third period of tonight's game. They looked reasonably good at penalty killing, but they didn't have too many shots on net. In the end, they lost 2 to 1. Is it time to put a fork in them?

And, uh, Michael, in case you forgot you're from Calgary! Why is it hard to watch the Oilers lose? Or have you decided to cheer for a Canadian team -- even if it is from Edmonton -- rather than an American team? Now you know how Scots feel about cheering for England in the World Cup.

Michael Skeet said...

And, uh, Michael, in case you forgot you're from Calgary! Why is it hard to watch the Oilers lose?

To understand the answer to that question you have to travel back in time, to the 1970s and 1980s. Yes, I'm from Calgary, but in 1976 I moved to Edmonton... at about the same time as Calgary's WHA team (the Cowboys; you're forgiven for not remembering them) folded. As I'm sure you remember, the Leafs pretty much inhaled in the mid-seventies, so a Canadian hockey fan (who grew up hating Les Habs) had only a couple of choices: cheer for the Canucks (see comment about the Leafs) or get to like the local team. (Who were, to be picky about it, originally called the Alberta Oilers. In their first WHA season, their uniforms were orange.)

My incipient Oiler fandom was fanned into full life by the arrival in Edmonton of this skinny 17-year-old you might have heard something about. Having the opportunity to watch The Kid (as he was known then) on local TV a couple of times a week was a pleasure I have not forgotten. Even Lorna was in awe of the guy's skills.

By the time Calgary got a pro hockey team again, I was pretty much a confirmed Oilers fan, and I remain one (albeit at a rather less-impassioned level). As with real estate, the key appears to have been location, location, location: my moves to Edmonton and Toronto did nothing to erase my love for the Calgary pro football team, a team I was able to grow up following.

Do-Ming Lum said...

Hi, Allan!

Don't cheer for England or the United States -- do as we in the Lum household intend to do -- we are cheering for Trinidad and Tobago!

You can do that too -- they apparently have a team member named John Scotland (as noted by Michael in conversation last night. I am not enough of a pro sports fan to have found that out on my own). If you needed justification at all, there it is :-)

Allan Goodall said...

Michael, that explains it! I thought your deep hatred of Edmonton sports teams ran across the entire gamut of athleticism.

Of course Edmonton with Gretzky truly was "Canada's" team. Even die hard Leafs fans (not sure about Habs fans) were cheering for them in the Stanley Cup. It wasn't just due to Gretzky, either, but the entire team.

The Edmonton Eskimoes were another story. I started watching the CFL relatively late, and had to put up with not only a series of awful Argos teams, but also an Edmonton dynasty. It must have been worse for you in Calgary, though.

Speaking of the CFL, I noticed last night that a pro football magazine actually had a 6 page pre-season "matchup" article on the CFL. I really hope the CBC starts selling CFL games online, or (better yet!) stream them for free...

Allan Goodall said...

Hi, Do-Ming! Long time no see! (Gosh, that made me sound like Tonto...)

Ummm... you didn't read the entire blog that you're responding to, did you? I mention Jason Scotland in the 5th paragraph. *L*

I've been remiss in adding more Civil War battlefield photos to my web site. I have Vicksburg mostly ready. If you are interested, let me know. Knowing that others want to see the pictures will spur me on to doing more with that part of the site. I do have another essay almost complete. Got to finish that, too...

Do-Ming Lum said...

Heh. You got me -- I read only the comments, not the original post. Your name came up in conversation last night and this morning, I had the bright idea of using Google's Blogger Search. My search criteria was "Allan Goodall Civil War". Your blog was the first hit.

Yes, it has been a long time. No, there is no damn excuse, not in this age of near-instantaneous electronic communication.

Glad to see that things are going reasonably well for you. I am looking forward to actually reading all your recent posts :-)

I would interested in reading your new Civil War essay, when it is ready, and seeing photos of Vicksburg as well. I don't think that Jill and I partyicipated in that trip, so thankfully, there won't be more photos of my fat butt trudging across a Civil War battlefield.

Allan Goodall said...

What's cool is that I didn't even realize Google had a blog search!

Don't feel bad about not keeping in touch. I'm bad about it, too. Everyone has busy lives and it's real easy to lose track of folk.

If you find yourself in this neck of the woods again, I will take you on a tour of Vicksburg. I've been there five or six times, which isn't surprising as it's less than 90 minutes away. I've only been to the Mansfield battlefield once, though, and that's just about 2 hours away. I need to get there again.

Do-Ming Lum said...

We had an opportunity to visit Vicksburg in '98, when Jill, Lorna, and Michael joined me in Memphis and we drove to New Orleans. However, even though we passed through Vicksburg, we couldn't stop on the way back, as we were running short on time. As it was, I think we got Lorna and Michael to their plane with only minutes to spare. Hopefully, there will be another chance. And we also need to do something about Shiloh, which has been discussed with Michael for the last couple of years.

Allan Goodall said...

Shiloh is a nice battlefield. I prefer it to Vicksburg. Vicksburg is interesting, but it is very large. It takes the better part of a day to see it all, and even then you don't have a lot of time to explore. On the other hand, the USS Cairo itself is worth the price of admission.

Alana and I might get to the Chickamauga and Chattanooga battlefield this year. She has family next to it in Chattanooga. I think it is the one Civil War battlefield that she has visited that I haven't (she went there with her family years ago). Logan would love it. We might also get to Stones River.

I'm falling way behind in posting my battlefield pictures. I still have to finish Vicksburg, Port Hudson, Mansfield, and Fort Jackson. I'd better get working on it, especially if there's a chance that I'll get to two more battlefields this year...