Sunday, September 07, 2008

Taking stock

Reflecting on life, or taking a monumental shit like Canada did yesterday?

It's in moments like these that I often find the need to meditate a little about why I care so much about sport.

On the one hand, it does seem a little ridiculous that I should get worked up about grown men playing a kids' game in little shorts, when our world has more important problems to deal with. Is it healthy for me to have so much emotionally invested in an outcome over which I have so little control? Yesterday's match was heartbreaking. Another game involving a team I also follow was like having salt rubbed in the wound.

I'm an otherwise normal guy, one who generally keeps his emotions in check (some would accuse me of being unemotional). Maybe it's a good thing that I have some kind of an outlet, but it doesn't seem that way when it's all so painful.

I can talk myself out of caring too profoundly about professional sports. It's just a business, and just like I don't mind seeing GM or Ford take a beating on the stock market, the fortunes of the Green Bay Packers or Toronto Blue Jays (teams I pulled hard for in my teenage years) don't have the same effect on me they once did. I enjoy when things are going well for the teams I like, but in losing times I don't take it too personally.

With Canada's soccer team, it feels somehow difference. There are so many factors in play. It's about national pride. It's about a sport that has too often been treated as a second or third class citizen by the TSNs and Sportsnets of the world (yes, Rogers,I'm still mad at you). Seeing this team fail to ride the wave of momentum started by recent developments for the sport in Canada (Toronto FC in MLS, the Voyageurs Cup, the emergence of bona fide stars of the world game like Julian de Guzman and Rob Friend) is hard to take, because those who have waited out the even leaner years deserve better.

Joe Ross over at The Footy Blog quotes one of my final remarks from yesterday's live blog. In an emotional outburst, I wrote "The dream is dead". Part of following sport passionately is an underlying belief that your team might actually succeed, so I would be selling myself short as a supporter if I proclaimed the World Cup dream over before it was mathematically so. I'm not such a fairweather follower as that. I don't see why Canada couldn't sneakily nick a point from Mexico on Wednesday and create a few surprises along the way. This is CONCACAF after all.

For the sake of my mental health, it might be best if I acted like the majority of Canadians and only pretended to care about soccer when some country with which I have a minor connection does well at Euro or the World Cup. But I can't do it. I can't say, along with them, that "Canada sucks" when there have been moments of such brilliance.

There's only one thing I can say: "Allez les rouges!" (yesterday's choice of blanc notwithstanding).

If you're not a fan of the overly philosophical, I can point you to some actual analysis of the game:

What Can A National Team Head Coach Do? -- Unto the Dogs
Canada 1 Honduras 2 Game Blog -- The Footy Blog
This is why I hate the phrase do or die -- The Footie Fool

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