I have never been part of a sports team for longer than a school gym class. Not once. I was always the last one picked in school and for good reason. I’m not good at sports – those games of physical prowess played on fields, courts, and especially on ice. There’s something about a fast moving ball or puck traveling towards my head that makes me go – oh no, not I – and retreat to reading a book. (Though pull out a Scrabble board and it’s on.)
So, I might not be a player of sports but I’m a really good spectator, and sometime fan. It must be noted that I don’t have the commitment it takes to follow a sport or a team from game to game, week to week to season’s end. I don’t have a team, and I definitely don’t own a jersey, baseball hat, or wavey team thingy. I’m more of a special occasion sport lover – World Cup, Olympics – winter and summer – I’m there; Blue Jays in the World Series, I’m there. If the Leafs ever make it to the Stanley Cup Finals in my lifetime – I’ll be there. For most other sporting events – I’m a bandwagon type of person. I’m interested only because that’s what’s going on and I like to be current with what’s going on.
However, when my sport button is pushed, it goes from 0-100 in no time flat! Especially during World Cup. I’m dedicated to my ‘team’ for as long as I can be. As long as the team is winning, I’ll be there. Once they’re out of contention, I have no compunction about moving on to the next team that catches my eye. My choice of team has nothing to do with how well a team is expected to do, or necessarily the game itself. It might have to do with where I was born, my cultural roots, the cuteness quotient of the players, the cut of their jib – so to speak. (I have no shame). Sometimes I choose teams just to be contrary. There’s nothing like cheering against a team on their home turf. I prefer hard-won games to landslides. I love an underdog, a little team that did. Obviously, I also love a sports cliché.
For many years I lived in the heart of Little Portugal – footie-loving fans on the left of me, footie-loving fans on my right. Depending on which team was playing, I didn’t even have to watch the game to know what was going on. It was in the air – complete silence periodically disrupted by cheers of joy, followed closely by groans of disappointment. There was no better way to experience the game than through the charged emotions of my neighbours. And then after the game, the inevitable cavalcade of cars with horns a-honking, and best, streetcars blocked by spontaneous dancing in the street. Good times.
In the lead-up to World Cup 2014, folks started scouting early for a bar/restaurant/sports club to watch the ‘beautiful game’. Prized seats on the patio, stools at the bar with clear views of the screen go quickly along College, along Dundas, along Queen — in fact, across the city. Whether a die-hard fan, a jump on the bandwagon-er, or occasional sport lover like myself, everyone wants in on the action, wants to share in the excitement. And I will be among them, fist-pumping and cheering.
Yes, it’s World Cup 2014.