BY CHRIS WRIGHT
FRIDAY, MAY 31, 2002 — I am living in a state of constant terror.
For once, my fear has nothing to do with Al Qaeda or India and Pakistan or finding a finger in my Big Mac. In all honesty, I’m not even that bothered about the prospect of Brian Williams taking over from Tom Brokaw as anchor of NBC Nightly News, despite Boston Globe columnist Brian McGrory’s trenchant analysis in this morning’s paper ("But aren’t network anchors supposed to be steeped in experience covering floods and famine, wars and other forms of mayhem?"). For the time being, I’ll even put aside my understandable anxiety over what these "other forms of mayhem" might be.
The thing is, as I write this, France and Senegal are kicking off the first match of the 2002 World Cup finals, and I am faced with a marrow-nagging question: who will tell me the score?
This year, the planet’s biggest sports competition (sorry, folks, but the World Series doesn’t even come close) is being held at various venues around the Omega Nebula region, and so games will be subject to a 5500 light-year tape delay. Okay, they’re being played at various venues in South Korea and Japan, but for all the good that will do the soccer nuts among us, they may as well have staged the bloody thing in a galaxy far, far away.
The France-Senegal match, for instance, is being played in Seoul, 8:30 p.m. their time, 7:30 in the morning here. Which leaves us with two choices: we can get up at the crack, watch the game, spend a half-hour or so cursing the Gauls and everything they stand for, and come staggering into work just in time to start thinking about lunch; or we can wait until our local bar shows the game on videotape later in the day, and run the very real risk that some nincompoop will blurt out, "Can you believe the French scored 17 goals against the Senegalese?!" (This, of course, is merely a dreadful hypothesis — I don’t know the score yet.)
And it gets worse. The Croatia-Mexico game is being broadcast live at 2:30 on Monday morning. A couple of days later, at 5 a.m., the United States–Portugal game will be on. The following afternoon, ESPN will show the US-Portugal match at 1 p.m., but then we’re back in "Who’s going to tell me the score?" territory. And even if we manage to avoid contact with a fellow human being for the vital 10-and-a-half hour period between the match’s being played and its being shown on tape delay, there’s still a real risk of finding out the score through other means — the Internet, the telly, the nasal cries of "Allez les Bleus!" in the streets. The fact is, short of locking ourselves in a closet for days on end, we World Cup watchers are doomed to a month of searing frustration.
Or we could just suck it up and watch the games live. Why not? Well, to do this we’d have to perform such fantastic somnambular feats as getting up before we’ve gone to bed, driving through heavy traffic having had minus-six hours sleep in the previous five days, and performing our workaday tasks whilst undergoing a full-body massage by Carmen Electra — who will then turn, as she always does, into our trunk-legged high-school teacher Mrs. Deere. But I digress. The point is, this year’s World Cup is doomed to be one of those "other forms of mayhem."
Some of us, though, are making the best of a terrible situation. On Sunday, a Swedish friend of mine will be cooking up something herringy and making Swedish bloody Marys (herring juice instead of tomato) and inviting a few die-hards into his Cambridge bachelor pad for the Sweden-England match. Kick off is at 5:30 a.m., and the only channel showing it live is a Spanish-language station. I have, in my back pocket, a copy of Spanish for Complete and Utter Morons, but I don’t hold out much hope of getting to grips with the thing before the weekend.
I’ll make these kinds of sacrifices for the England games, but what about Paraguay vs. South Africa? China vs. Costa Rica? Cameroon vs. Saudi Arabia? Will any of us, save a few peripatetic Riyadh-ites and Asuncióners, be willing to lose our beauty sleep to watch these games? No chance. Instead, we’ll blunder through our daily lives in nail-gnawing anticipation, avoiding all forms of media, saying "Don’t!" to anyone who opens his or her mouth in our vicinity, and hope for the best. I, for one, will be doing just this for the rest of the day, until I can make it down to the Plough & Stars for the France-Senegal match.
N.B. As I was writing this column, my phone rang. I picked it up and heard the word "Idiots!" It was my friend Nick, who lives in Paris. Before I could say "Don’t!" he blurted it out: "France lost 1-0." I, in turn, hollered, "France lost?" within earshot of Jeffrey, our arts editor, who was no doubt planning to watch the game this afternoon himself. Such are the trials of World Cup 2002.
Issue Date: May 31, 2002
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