Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Sgorio in the City
I like to call this 'being a journalist'. The American would say I use my profession as an excuse for most of my personality pitfalls.
But one question flummoxed me recently: "When it comes to England v USA in the World Cup who will you be supporting?"
That one, I had no answer for.
The Welsh among you will be frothing dragon scented spittle that I could even think of supporting England. "As long as we beat the English we don't care." Ok, so that's stolen from the game with the funny shaped ball, but it applies to football too.
The English will be thinking it's a no-brainer. We're all Brits after all yeah? Innit? Whatevs? Ribena? Marmite? Crumpet? And Wales never qualify for any major footie tournaments, so obviously cheering on the neighbours is the next best option.
The Americans reading are probably just confused. You're thinking "What's the problem, you are English aren't you?" and then you'll ask "Where's Wales?" and I will do my frantic arm flapping demonstration of the UK map where I draw in the air with my fingers and point out the four countries that make up The United Kingdom. You will then remain confused, yet entertained when I speak some Cymraeg and you laugh heartily and say it sounds like Lord of the Rings language.
When the world cup rolled around every 4 years in the UK, I would always end up cheering for England. I was brainwashed by The Sun and their clever low rent headlines and reminiscences of '66 and all those Page 'free stunnas' wearing hotpants with The St George's cross on their arse.
Here there was little to no build up. Although now it's got going, there seem to be flags and tournament schedules outside most bars. I think it's seen as another excuse to drink here. Not that New Yorkers need much of a reason to imbibe. The rising of the sun is enough to perpetuate the institutionalised alcholism of this city.
So, last Saturday I go to a bar in Hell's Kitchen to meet with English and American friends. I am asked who I'm supporting and I explain my dilemma of being British but living here and being married to an American, albeit one who has no interest in soccerball.
I make a crack about possibly cheering for The USA, being as I now have American DNA in me. Unfortunately I forget The Teenager is right behind me and old enough to get such inappropriate jokes. She is horrified and I throw another wad of virtual notes in the virtual therapy pot. That pot, however imaginary, overfloweth.
I declare myself neutral in summary. That makes everyone calls me Switzerland. I'm not crazy keen on that, I was nearly arrested there once over an argument about using Euros. Despite their neutrality they are very insistent about their Swiss Francs.
Then I head to the bar, and before I can even be misunderstood with my drinks order it happens... England score. I pause. The small but vocal fans go crazy in the bar... I feel nothing.
Flatline. Passionless emptiness.
We watch the rest of the game and I enjoy not feeling attached to either team, it's zero stress. I clap when there's a clearance or decent shot at goal. The Teenager shouts at me when I do it for USA. but I ignore her-she is infected by an English boyfriend and has grown up under the influence of a united Europe. Jingoism escapes her.
Then the USA equalise and I laugh. Really hard. America has got it's cock out again, only this time it's like it's pissing on the overinflated egos of the England team.
Soccerball is one of the few sports The USA play where they are the underdog. We all agree it's nice to laugh at Yanks doing something badly. However, this time, they are 1-all with England in a World Cup. Unexpected doesn't begin to cover it. Is there an evolution happening where by the USA get less of a joke every 4 years? Maybe Becks has been secretly coaching them in a hidden tunnel underneath The Home Depot Centre?
When the whistle blows not much past 90 minutes the bar goes gaga, chanting "U.S.A." I laugh some more. England played better, but it feels like the right result, even if it's just for England fans to step into a Welsh supporters shoes for one game.
The next day the strangest thing happens: a phonecall with my Mother makes everything clear. Really, that never happens.
I tell her of my supporting dilemma and she reminds me of what my late, beloved football crazy Dad Big D would have said:
"I support Wales and whoever England are playing."
In this topsy turvy world where the Yanks beat the English in the World Cup and The NY Post can run this genius headline, it seems like a perfect philosophy for a Welsh Alien in New York.