A feeling so new, so unusual
|By Will Jones - The Outsider | February 27, 2014
And so I bathed in the glory of it all. I soaked up the exuberant pre-game atmosphere, the excitement of the game itself, the elation at the goals, the pride of Canadians on top of the world. And I have to admit that, even for a reserved, sometimes a little restrained, English bloke I rather enjoyed it.
Yes, I got carried away by the men’s hockey final at the Olympics. I roared when they scored, I cheered whenever ‘our Matt’ touched the puck and I shook hands and patted backs of all in sundry when the final second fell from the clock.
I have to admit that it all came as a bit of a shock. Firstly, finding myself wanting to rise from my bed at 5:30 a.m. and drag myself, my lovely wife (who manages to glow even at that ungodly hour) and a rather groggy Little Z to the Pinestone for a communal breakfast and hockey game was a strange feeling. But, on getting there, came the realization that this was going to be a fun event. Folks were dressed up, smiling through their tiredness and eager for the game to start. I buried my doubts and dove straight into the coffee and croissants. I say doubts because being English I have long gotten excited about big matches but have learned not to expect too much. You see, football (not soccer) is England’s national game and the English team are always tipped to do well. However, not since 1966 has the team brought home the World Cup. And that was before I was born (just before, honest).
But still, in the build-up to each World Cup, the English media whips the public into a fervour of nationalistic pride and insists that this year, ‘our boys’ will bring home the trophy. Now, being English, we are all somewhat pessimistic and sarcastic about this to begin with but somehow everyone, even those who don’t normally like football, begins to ‘believe’. Pop stars write catchy tunes about winning the cup, prime ministers send good wishes to the players, pubs order in vast quantities of extra beer (this is drank whether we win or lose). And then the competition begins.
England fails to impress but scrapes through the first few games. They get better and win one or perhaps two
decisively. ‘This is it; this is the year we’ll do it’, you can hear the whispers, you can feel the hope really building... And then, in the quarterfinals England meets a team that is actually rather good at football and we come unstuck. We play terribly and lose by a big margin; or we hold out and the game goes to penalties, only for our guys to fluff their lines and miss wildly, so losing and embarrassing themselves. The public is now used to this and goes back to everyday life (after finishing the extra beer) and the press goes on a witch hunt, which usually ends in the manager of the team being fired. Our shot at glory is gone and our hopes and dreams are forgotten for another four years.
But here in Canada there are happy endings. Here in Canada the national team wins. Both national teams win. I’m not forgetting the women’s hockey team. I wish I could have watched the final but I was at work, on a roof and so there was no communal fanfare for me, other than a whoop and a hug from my boss.
But as I was saying, here in Canada the boys and girls do bring home the trophy.
They do justice to the game that is held so dear to millions of Canadians’ hearts. They won and that meant that I got to feel the elation that I have been missing with my allegiance to the English football team. It meant that I could experience a room full of sports fans going wild when their team achieved the highest honour in the world, rather than drowning my sorrows in another pint of warm stout. It meant that I could shout and cheer to my heart’s content, amidst a crowd of like-minded folk who were totally, utterly, deliriously happy with the outcome.
Thank you Canada, and your crazy hockey fans for allowing this oft disappointed English man to join in with your joy. I’ll savour the moment and cherish the memories; and I’ll try to keep them with me in June when the World Cup starts and I watch my team slowly capitulate once again.
“Go Canada!” I’m a hockey convert.
WILL JONES - is The Outsider