Olé Blah-Dee, Olé Blah-Da

The fifth and final part in a series by Andrew Jenner about the South Africa 2010 World Cup and the meaning of life in Harrisonburg, Virginia (Part I, Part IIPart III, Part IV).

For nearly a week now, the Spain v. Netherlands World Cup final has been weighing on my soul. It doesn’t have anything to do with my own feelings about the game’s outcome. It’s just that I’m supposed to be finishing up this series and, given how the whole tournament ended with a whimper, not a bang, I’ve got nothing much to say.

It had all the makings of a big-deal kind of thing in Harrisonburg. I left town last weekend without my phone charger, and when I got home and powered the thing back up, it was full of unreceived texts (OK, maybe there were just a couple) wondering if I had plans to watch the game somewhere or another.

We’ve started to take it for granted that soccer’s a popular thing these days, but stop and think. A sporting match in Africa, between two teams from Europe, involving exactly zero players who play for clubs in the Western Hemisphere, was an anticipated and planned-for event in Harrisonburg, Va.
Then the game started, a bruising, violent, plodding thing, rolling like a tank straight over my hopes for something exciting. I was a neutral fan at first, until the Dutch players’ acts of thuggery turned me against them. Two hours passed. I gave a few spiteful, vindicated cheers when Iniesta scored minutes before the end, giving Spain the title and giving the world a bit of rare justice.
Back home, it didn’t seem like people cared to talk about it much.  “What d’you think of the game?”, we asked each other. Meh.

This same thing happened four years ago, when France and Italy saw to it that the beautiful game’s beautiful tournament ended in infamy and vitriol.
By mid-week, some of the short conversations I’d had about the final had lapsed into arguments with friends who held the mystifying opinion that the Dutch had been the victims of Spanish treachery and hijinx. Had we seem the same match?

These discussions quickly escalated in volume and intensity, taking the tone of an intractable political argument with a wrong-headed cousin or wayward high school classmate. The Dutch were the good guys? Staring at one another across a great ideological chasm, we grudgingly agreed to disagree and went our separate, frustrated ways.

And that, I’m afraid, is all the further I’ve gotten in a week since the game, and all the further I’ll probably ever get.

Somewhere, John Pilk is still crying.

Ghana: gone but not forgotten.

Alexi Lalas, you of unpolished delivery and unbridled spirit, don’t ever take your heart off your sleeve. John Harkes, find a different job.

¡Hasta la victoria siempre, Diego!

The final always seems a little anticlimactic each time anyhow.

Life goes on.



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This post was submitted by Andrew Jenner.

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