It would have been enough that Nathan stayed over at 7 Pitman Street a few nights ago. Then yesterday I had to go ahead and hear a mash-up of Blur's "Song 2" and K. Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone." I pretty much lost it.
As also regards losing, I vote F. Grosso's game winner on Tuesday against Germany as the moment of the tournament thus far. Friends of mine accuse the Italians of excessive on-pitch theatrics. I couldn't disagree, but I also think their style of play is more stylized, entertainingly improvisational than any other of the more sober, calculating West. European teams.
That said, I think spectators (often curly-haired, Queens-bred) who so fiercely rebuke the Italians and others for exaggerating their reactions to tackles hold to a ridiculous ideal of what it is to "just play the game." Under the current rules, with the current referees, and (thankfully) without the aid of instant-replay jurisdiction, one can hurt the other team through well-timed facial expressions just as much as through well-placed shots on goal.
Tennis-playing, gourmet faux-Men who dispute the courage of Portugese and Italian footballers neglect the basis of fandom--putting themselves on the pitch, imagining what it might be to collide at 20mph with a hulking, remorseless Swede. To sympathize with the players is to both honor a foul when such is committed, and also understand their impulse to wince prematurely or for too long after the tackle so as to punish the opponent (both the individual who had the nerve to even consider injuring the actor, and the whole opposing team).
Players who do actually become impaired by an opponent's foul, but do not react accordingly, and do not get a call, and "tough it out," are putting themselves at a disadvantage. On the other hand, if indeed they do "dive," players take themselves out of a potentially critical opportunity on the field. It shouldn't come as a surprise that some of the best strikers in international competition have the ability to wear such vivid faces of agony: they are like extremely young magicians, characterized as much by deceiving goalkeepers with dancing, overstepping shins (the magic trick) as deceiving referees by clutching on their thigh and cringing ("It hurts me, Mother, when you ignore my talent 4 magic: get off the phone and watch me!").
As anyone who has spent time with very young (4-5 yrs old) children knows, they are as likely to cry from a near-boo-boo as the boo-boo itself, and will sometimes just break down weeping because they are being ignored, or because they cannot get what they want. Full-grown footballers who willingly insert themselves into boo-boo ridden circumstances (dressing for the game, going in strong on an attack) cannot be held accountable for their necessarily acquiring the other pre-adolescent emotions that come with this territory. And really, when one is trying to determine the worth of a star footballer, or at least his goal scoring potential, why not begin in discerning his capacity for that maniacal self-interestedness and disregard for other people most associated with children? Great players like Portugal's Ronaldo exemplify this. How a great team
comes about, well, that's another matter.