On the other Reusch-gloved hand, however, nothing unites us with our seemingly disinterested neighbors, distracted fellow Underground riders, and dyspeptic shopkeepers than being au fait on the latest World Cup babble.
"Fancy our chances, then?" asks the suited gentleman waiting for the District Line to Ealing Broadway. "Why yes," I say. I have no idea what is being said to me but I imagine agreeableness will always pass better. Normally, if someone should ask me if I fancied our chances, I would assume that we were on the same side of some endeavor. But who is this guy?
As an American, visiting the UK, resident of Serbia, driving on a German license, on my way to Italy to see my half-French children, it is hard to see clearly whose "side" I might support. At this stage, Serbia, Italy, the USA, England, and France have all returned in relative states of ignominy to their relative states.
Going out to buy a newspaper, the kiosk guy asks me what the score is. Or did you see that corner kick? You were really robbed? As it happens I DID chance to see the third goal of the US against Slovenia so I realized that it was not the kiosk guy shortchanging me that should have me worried about being robbed.
And it looked a lot like a goal to me; but I watch baseball. We don't have goals.
People draw together over these football battles. When it is not Us (i.e., whichever national team we support) playing, we all rally behind one or the other of the combatants. In London, the pubs are full of supporters who sometimes choose their Side when they order the first pint. In Rome, the city has set up enormous screens around the Eternal City. You can even watch it in 3D in the cinema....
As an outsider to football, even I have been drawn in and have seen at least two matches and have seen highlights of many. Slowly you start being pulled into to the Global Conversation. I watched bits of England squaring off against Germany when I was in Rome. At my local café, they asked what was the score.
Germany (I knew this one).
Who scored?? This was a second level of information that escaped me. I thought that I would just begin to fit in if I surrendered to the brotherly-love-fest of football and watched a little. But no! At least in Rome, I needed to know who scored, who defended, who was clearly offsides but not called out, who assisted....
In the end, I have decided that I will support Brazil. They seem to win a lot. They have nice colors. Their flag says Progress on it. Progress has to be good. I would like to visit Brazil one day. And even if they are sent packing before the end of the World Cup, we know they will be back. And besides, their logo is the most compelling argument of all: Club Fudballero de Brasil.