Any long-running event is going to develop its epochal timeline, its eras laid out in seemingly pre-destined stages. A dividing line separates the dark ages from the modern era. It’s a long-distance journey, racing by stations on the express track, lingering at others to refuel.
For the World Cup that line may be drawn in 1982 with Spain hosting. It’s often referred to as the best ever, one that I believe may be in jeopardy after this tournament. 1982 is coincidentally the year I was smitten. The gathering of football elites unlocks a dusty mental file cabinet every four years and always goes to the “Spain 1982” folder. It’s my Rosebud and in significant ways it’s the tournament’s beginning. 1930 to 1978 happened, it’s just been put in an archive file we rarely consult.
Age is the principal factor in our shared historical narrative. As players, media and fans age there will always be a shifting focus forward. In 1978 I’d just graduated from high school and was heavily focused on soccer. I recall wishing my best friend and I could watch the Argentina-Netherlands final. The only place to view it in Omaha was a movie theatre downtown and I recall the cost being prohibitive. Young players in 1978 are now in their sixties. Those who reported the games are dead or near the end.
Another factor in placing 1982 at the genesis of the modern era is the Euro-centric nature of the event, and also the anglo-centric lens through which we experience it here. These factors tend to de-emphasize South America and Asia. Commentary at this tournament has seemed to propel England '66 ahead of Mexico and Argentina in chronology as this year’s English team finally fulfills its promise.
Television is probably the biggest factor. Americans were treated to condensed soccer on Wide World of Sports-type series in 1970 and 1974. Gary had Pathe News type snippets in school. My first experience of soccer of any type was watching Pele weave around in a clip on our Black and White TV in 1970. Jim McKay probably narrated a brief highlight clip. There was NO English broadcast of the 1978 event in Argentina. 1982 was the first time Americans had the opportunity to experience full stretches of the tournament.
I was living in Lincoln, Nebr., during that period. It was a rare stretch of relative freedom and isolation. I was alone and between jobs. My dark basement apartment had an oversized b&w television purchased at a garage sale. The $135/month rent allowed me the luxury of powering it with cable and soon after I began a morning routine. Wiki tells me it was on ESPN, PBS and ABC. PBS aired highlights at night, ABC broadcast the final, but ESPN shouldered the daily load and that’s where I’d turn each morning.
As the tournament nears every four years I think back to that routine and relive my existence on Starr Street. The apartment came furnished, but I only signed the lease when I verified the bedroom could fit my king-sized waterbed. As noted above, I soon supplemented by only furniture with a TV and later added a section of carpet to the linoleum floor.
The bathroom was actually outside the apartment at the base of the stairway. Margaret eventually moved in and shudders to this day about being caught in the shower when the landlord came down the stairs for maintenance.
Conversely, my memories are mostly positive. It was the only place in my life I lived alone. It was mine. Later it was Margaret and my first apartment. It was compact and cozy. It was cheap—even for 1982. I often think about it while I’m trying to relax and sleep at night. The bed filled three sides of the bedroom, with just enough left over for the doorway (with curtain, not door), dresser and metal wardrobe. It was a womb at a time of relative freedom and hope—my life lay ahead.
Of course I romanticize. I’m repressing the student loan payments, sporadic income, anxiety of the unknown that awaited me.
So every four years the World Cup is not just a sports competition but an invitation to take a look back and a look in.
Day Five: The Game
Our penultimate blog will offer nothing in the manner of prediction or analysis. My only recommendation is to enjoy the game. Tuesday’s game produced a fair winner with France showing its worthiness on the field and as a coaching staff. It’s difficult to imagine our 2018 winner won’t be Les Bleus.
This blog has worked strenuously to avoid talking about football and, it appears, beer. The paucity of imported beer and time difference have conspired to squash my original intention of daily beer celebration and erudition. I was able to sample beers from all four finalists, however, and I still have some Old Speckled Hen, Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc and Rodenbach Grand Cru. Alas, I’ve drained the Karlovačko but we’ll go shopping if Luka and mates book a date for Sunday.
SPINNING THE CUP with DJ Narthex
Football (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)
Artist: Brett Domino
Nation: Not allowed to say, but it rhymes with “Zingland”
Album: N/A (Other work on Spotify and YouTube)
Let me get the self-aggrandizement out straightaway.
Ronaldo prediction: Correct.
France prediction: Correct.
England prediction: Pending but presumed correct.
OK, enough with that, I’m the music guy here and over the past few weeks I've just about emptied the Cup's cornucopia of cacophony. What's left?
Graduate-level music theory.
Some installments ago, I referenced a German teacher I once had who, keenly aware of his impending retirement, would find activities thinly defensible as educational with which to fill class time and offset his lecture minutes.
One of these tactics was the screening of short films he’d receive every month or so summarizing current events in (West, of course) Germany. I’m presuming these were put out by the Bonn, or the embassy in DC, or the tourism office or something like that. I should try to see if some of them have made it to YouTube.
Anyway, my memory is that these films, which if memory serves were in English and ran 15 or 20 minutes, would feature a handful of little segments – West German politics, West German business, West German arts, West German travel, and so on.
My memory also is that these films always ended in the same way: a set of highlights from a German football match. Guessing prominent Bundesliga matches or international tournament matches or whatever.
As an American teenager in the early 80s, I certainly didn’t understand much about the game but I did notice other elements of the German approach that seemed bizarre to me. Chiefly among these things were the rolling waves of song emanating from the stands. Some years earlier, my older brother came back from a trip to Munich reporting this same phenomenon to me. They go to soccer games and they sing.
“Why would anyone do that?” I asked him. “What for?”
I understand it better now and appreciate it some. You see a little of this creeping into American sports, primarily through the MLS. And there’s always been the occasional video cringeworthiness at the intersection of professional athletes and music. But suffice it to say that we’ll never inhabit the full-on splendor of the European football anthem tradition.
In case you’re interested in starting it, though, I found this magnificent tutorial to get you going. It’s among the longer videos I’ve posted here, but trust me and stick with it. It’s genius. Line it up, and have a shot.
And generous props to the artist. I know this is meant as fun, sir, and it is. But damned if it doesn't work. Na na na na na na na....
Cornish Pasty is the national dish of Cornwall (UK). Think of a cross between a pot pie and a calzone. The traditional Cornish pasty has a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status in Europe. Which means its name, the dish and ingredients are protected by law.
It starts with a short dough crust that is filled with beef, potato, parsnip, rutabaga, onion, seasoned with salt and pepper, and baked. The Cornish pasty accounts for 6% of the Cornish food economy.
The origins of this dish are hard to trace but there are references throughout historical documents and fictional works. However the popularity of the dish has spread throughout the world thanks to the migration of Cornish miners over time. Variations can be found in the U.S., Argentina, Mexico, and elsewhere.
So grab one of these handheld feasts, a beer, and settle in for semifinal number two! Cheers!