Friday, June 11, 2010

Soccer Mania

Greetings Friends,

The Stanley Cup has barely had a chance to recuperate from its hangover, and now it's on to World Cup soccer. Congrats to the Chicago Blackhawks for their win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Honestly, I'm pleased they won after an almost 50 year drought. That's a far cry from how I felt back in 1994 when the New York Rangers broke their 54 year-long winless streak. I hate to say it, but I must be mellowing with age. I think I can manage to put my fury on hold until October, when the Toronto Maple Leafs embark on what will likely be their 44th consecutive season without a championship.

In the meantime, it's World Cup madness here in Toronto. Everywhere you go, there are pop-up stands on street corners selling flags and other accoutrements to showcase your love of country. Flags are flying in front of houses, from cars, bars and restaurants. Today is just the first day of the tournament, but the excitement is sure to build steadily over the next few weeks. I really enjoy observing the city whip itself into a frenzy over this game. The only thing soccer-related that whips me into a frenzy is a picture of David Beckham in his underwear. Not really, but I needed some way to work in Becks, since he's hurt and will not be playing.

Other than David Beckham, I'm really not a soccer fan. I'm not a "Soccer Mom" or even a hockey mom for that matter, but I will admit the global fascination with this game is pretty intriguing. It's pretty hardcore here in Canada given the large immigrant population, as well as the celebration of multiculturalism in this country. Granted, things have gotten a bit hot under the collar on the topic of immigration over the past decade. But from a can't-we-all-just-get-along perspective, sports can be a balm that manages to smooth over the rough stuff; at least temporarily. It's not like during the Cold War when the US and the Soviet Union where at odds over everything from nukes to hockey. It's nice to see the world come together during an event like this; until the soccer hooligans start acting up - then, all bets are off.

Toronto has always been a venue for large gatherings and significant events. Later this month, the G8 and G20 summits will be taking place here, along with Caribana, the largest annual Caribbean festival in the world. I remember when World Youth Day came here in 2002 - Pope John Paul II visited cottage country, and thousands of pilgrims made their way to Downsview Park to see him. It was pretty incredible to see that large of a gathering take place with such peace and dignity. I'm not so sure what will happen if Greece and Italy end up squaring off for the World Cup title. I'm not certain that would even be a possibility, but just in case, I won't be having Greek food on the Danforth that day, or heading up to Woodbridge for some gelato. In any case, fly your flags proudly, and may the best team win.

Have a great weekend.


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