Monday, June 21, 2010

Runneth over by The Cup

Yes, World Cup tournament, I understand. Thank you for the reminder. Let me get this straight: I’m to take off from work. I’m allowed to eat, so long as I do so in front of a TV showing whichever of the games the media tell me matters most at that moment. Probably a flat-screen set, too, with a the latest flavor of Dolby Digital so I can hear those infernal vuvuzelas from 360 degrees as well as at 360 decibels. I get it—all this goes with the package. And sleep? I guess I’m out of luck. South Africa is six hours away from EST, which means that if I must work, it’ll be at night rather than during the day. If I want to sleep, I have to do it in, oh, mid-July.

That’s what the Fédération Internationale de Football Association seems to want. It’s what the media seem only too happy to relay, panting, to their audience. It’s easier than reporting.

The way I see it, though, the soccer gods should consider themselves lucky at least that I know, as of this past weekend, what FIFA stands for. Insist I watch a soccer game and, for all I know, I could end up like that fellow whose family decided he wasn’t going to watch the World Cup on TV—or, for that matter, anything else. Ever again.

Not that I’ve never paid attention to the World Cup. On July 11, 1982, Elena and I were walking in Manhattan, celebrating in the vicinity of speeding cars full of loud, cheering Italians. Italy, after all, had just won that year’s World Cup. Of course, we and the fans weren’t rejoicing over the same news. Soccer? What was soccer? I’d just proposed to Elena, and she’d said yes.

I can’t blame FIFA for all the breathless excitement. Its public-relations reps, like those of any organization, do what they’re paid to do: peddle the product to the most people possible, if not with as much alliteration as possible. And it isn’t merely the World Cup. How often do the media tell us what we ought to watch, read, listen to, even believe? We’re supposed to be gaga for Lady Gaga, the way we were supposed to worship Madonna. The 6 p.m. news, moreover, is never going to lead with a real story when someone unexpected just got voted off American Idol.

Even as a kid, I was bothered by how a rock band I’d never even heard of (we called bands “groups” then) would come out with a live album that my brother Stephen would bring home. At the beginning of the album, I’d hear the band announced, followed by throngs of people cheering for them or the album’s opening song. This sort of thing always unsettled me, since the band and song were new to me. How could they cheer so loudly for a band and song they didn’t yet know were any good? I’d later learn that not only was this not the band’s first album, but that several had come out before this one. I was eight years old and already uncool.

A few years older now, I’ve come to realize I’m destined to know only some of all that the world has to offer. I just would like to partake of it with my own little spoon—without some reporter shoving it down my throat.

Excuse me now, I have to vote a few hundred more times for the ballplayers I want in the All-Star Game.