Friday, May 26, 2006

Portuzilia: Futebol, and the Crisis of Ethnic Identity

It's as cliched as it is possible to be: The World Cup isn't about sport, it is about tribalism. It is about old world vs new; about stallwart Europeans and South Americans vs upstart Asians, Africans and Americans; about ye olde enemy and the new world order. Sides are chosen, colours are flaunted, victories celebrated, defeats mourned, drunkeness encouraged.

In a city like Toronto, without its own surrogate soldiers marching as to war, allegiances are found in the lands of ancestors - or, at the very least, in the lands with a common language. These mercenary decisions are advertised via the now ubiquitous for every playoff series in North America car flags.

Fluttering from the rear of the family station wagon, or as a personalizing touch to a company vehicle, in Toronto these flags mean "My great grandfather was Polish - so from now until the end of the tournament, or until Poland gets ousted, I too am Polish." Of course, the link is often far more precarious than even that - a favourite player, a fondly remembered holiday, as a favour to a local merchant.

As a sports fan, I see these as perfectly legitimate reasons, all. As the holder of an Irish Passport who spent time living in England, I have supported both these sides in international competition - and at alternating tournies, flown their flags. However, there is one flagging scenario I cannot condone, one that I think may be unique to Toronto.

Portugal, for the uninitiated, have had "needs more effort" inscribed on their international football report card forever. The current "golden generation" of Portuguese internationals won a prominent junior tournament and have nothing international to show for all their high-flying, big earning club careers since.

Brazil on the other hand, share only one thing with Portugal on the football field - a language. They win often, with flair and really hot female supporters.

Interesting then, how Toronto's sizable Portuguese population and small Brazilian population seem to reverse proportions just around the time the World Cup comes around.

In fact, just yesterday, I saw a car flying both the Portuguese and the Brazilian flags. I can only assume it will be the standard trooping of the colours, with the Portuguese beating a hasty retreat as they are ignominiously dumped from the tourny.

Again, it's not that I have a problem with supporting more than one team. Only that I think it only right to support only one team at a time.

Mike From Vancouver, I Hate You

Thanks. Muthafuckah.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Bill Simmons, Why do you Hate Steve Nash so?

"I hate to keep harping on Steve Nash's faults..." No you don't Bill. And I'll tell you why. You see yourself as a lunch pail, blue collar kind of guy. You say to yourself "I'm not the best writer in the world, hell, I'm not even the best writer to come out of Choate." And right there lies the rub. No, I'm not talking about Edward Albee (Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?, class of 1946) being a better writer than you - I'm talking about the ridiculous, Republican assertion that you are a lunch pail kind of guy. You went to fucking Choate.

Now, what does that have to do with Nash? Who, by the way, also comes from reasonably privledged roots. Simple - in your anti-Nash screeds, you consistently single his contributions out versus other players on the basis of stats. What do you consistently ignore? Those WASP-iest of attributes, fundamentals and intangibles. In Nash's case, it is uncanny court sense, an inate ability to move the chess pieces around the hardwood in his head before they have to be moved for real combined with rock solid free throw shooting and great footwork. In your case, it is that special strain of effortless nonchalance that comes from being exposed, at a formative age, to a broad enough range of influences and references to both appreciate pop culture for the absurd, wonderful universe that it is - and put it in perspective in complete, if run-on, sentences. Just like your readers.

You have a lot in common, you and Steve. Maybe you're two sides of the same tuna sandwich with the crusts cut off. Like Batman, only directed by Ron Howard.