Adiós, World Cup, and thanks for the memories 11

Well, World Cup 2010 is over, and what a tournament it was. There were lots of upsets, and lots of surprises. This Cup left some indelible impressions on me; chief among those is the one caused by my lumpy futon, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m talking about the stuff memories are made of.

Of course, you simply can’t talk about WC 2010 without mentioning the ubiquitous vuvuzela. One thing that drew more commentary than it warranted (not that that’s going to stop me from commenting further) was this yard-long injection-molded plastic trumpet. By my lights, vuvuzelas are a lot like children – taken one or two at a time, they’re merely annoying; more than that, however, and they become a motivation to kill. Surely, if Satan has a marching band, it will be composed largely of vuvuzelas.

My one consolation here is that bagpipes are insanely expensive and largely out of reach for your average drunken yobbo.

Another thing that struck me was the level of vitriol this enormously popular game provokes in some people. The most common complaint I heard is that soccer’s boring. Of course, most of the people I heard voicing this opinion were weaned on American football, which is typically 45 seconds of mayhem followed by 10 minutes of beer and truck commercials. And I have to admit, it’s hard to compete with that for excitement. In fact, about the only thing that even approaches that level of stimulation is golf, or perhaps reading federal tax codes.

Some football lovers compare the beautiful game to jazz, with its ebb and flow and emphasis on improvisation. To me, though, a soccer match is more like four years of high school — it seems to go on forever, and if you score even once, it’s a huge deal.

Another highlight of this Cup was Paul, the German octopus who accurately predicted the outcome of eight out of eight matches – including the Germany side’s loss to Spain, which knocked them out of the tournament.

The fickle Germans loved Paul – until he accurately forecast the loss to Spain in the semi-finals. Once that happened, public opinion turned against the prescient mollusk – in fact, he even started receiving death threats. But that’s the nature of fame, I suppose – one day you’re the toast of the stadt, and the next your adoring public wants you lightly breaded and fried, with a little lemon aioli.

Actually, this whole Paul the game-picking cephalopod thing puzzled me from the start. Why did the Germans have an octopus predicting games, anyway? Apart from U-boats, I don’t recall them having much of a seafaring history. It seems to me that they’d have something with a more Prussian personality doing their prognosticating — like maybe a badger with a toothache.

Also, I can’t help but reflect that it’s too bad they didn’t have Paul around predicting outcomes in 1939; he could have saved the world a lot of trouble.

Another thing that made an impression on me was the English commentators and the way they butchered Spanish names. A perfect example was the way they pronounced the name of the midfielder who scored Spain’s Cup-winning goal. For the entire final match, I thought they were talking about “Auntie Esther.” I found this confusing because I actually had an Auntie Esther. She was a sweet old lady but she wouldn’t have been much of a footballer – what with the oxygen tank and everything. Hell on wheels when it came to bingo, though.

One last thought while we’re on the subject of names. If it’s true that our names influence our destiny, then Gerard Pique should thank his lucky stars his name is not Bijay.


  1. Jeff, there are no words to thank you for saving me from the need to actually watching this orgy of jingoism, hive-mind euphoria and high-stockinged beefcake. You’ve delivered MANY times more laughs, and I’m sure your futon-slouching was at least as athletically impressive as anything that ever happens on “the pitch.” Can I count on you again in 2014?

  2. 1. Russell is a wanker and I suspect he knows it.

    2. The “soccer is like high school” joke made me laugh out loud.

    3. I can’t decide which is a better name for a band, “The Ubiquitous Vuvuzela,” or “Prescient Mollusk.”

  3. OK – I’ll just start off by saying that I’m a little miffed that after working my tail off for three years and finally making first chair vuvuzela in my high school marching band you go and trash this isntrument. Then you take on American football – there’s a problem with 45 seconds of mayhem followed by ten minutes of beer? (did you mean beer commercials)…
    OK – you are somewhat off the hook on that, but only somewhat because you omitted the greatest soccer name ever – Giovanni Von Bronckhorst! You know that’s a tough guy without even looking.
    Thanks for yet another great column.

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