Passion bordering on obsession rings familiar

As I was doing a little work on the computer this past Saturday, I listened to the radio to knock out the silence of the world.
Specifically, I was listening to Virgin Radio UK and the Isle of Wight music festival that took place over the weekend.
It amazed me that these announcers were playing performances from all sorts of great British bands, including The Who (who closed out the second day of the festival) and David Bowie (who was the final act of the three-day event).
Meanwhile, the organizers had set up a gigantic television on the grounds so that all those in attendance, most of whom were camping out for the entire three days, could watch the game Sunday between England and France at the Euro 2004 tournament.
In between interviews with all sorts of rock stars, the DJs were talking about how unbelievable it was that Greece had defeated host Portugal in their opening match.
Now, I was lucky enough to have really started watching soccer when I worked in the athletics department at Carleton University in Ottawa. There, I got to meet an Irish soccer . . . excuse me, football player named Gordie and a Scottish soccer coach named Sandy, who I can still hear screaming across the field in his wonderfully accented voice.
Soccer, or football as the case may be, is one of the most, if not the most, popular sports in the world. The other you could argue for is cricket—an event many people who didn’t grow up around it struggle to grasp (and when explanations start, most of us zone out within the first few minutes even if we really do want to understand).
Hockey is moving its way up, but it will have a tough time ever matching soccer (this is mostly because it’s not cold enough in most of the world and not because of any inferiority on hockey’s part).
I mention all of this because when a big event like Euro or the World Cup comes along every now and again, it’s very difficult not to get swept up in the fever pitch (also, by the way, the title of a soccer movie starring Colin Firth, recently crowned heart-throb and constant Mr. Darcy).
In “Fever Pitch,” Firth’s character has cheered for his football team all his life and meets a girl who just doesn’t get it. If you are a sports fan of any kind, this is the feeling you will come away the movie with: She just doesn’t get it.
Soccer is a beautiful game that doesn’t necessarily make any sense. The nets are huge and nobody can ever score. The players have the strength and endurance to run for two 90-minute halves yet still have the frame of mind to not just reach out and grab the ball.
It has two different names, though football makes much more sense when connected to this sport than the other football in which a kick happens much less frequently.
Still, three of the songs in the top 10 on the UK chart are about football, including a remake of “Come on Eileen” called “Come on England,” while BBC’s Web site has a computer generated play-by-play of the game against France so fans can analyze what went wrong.
It borders on obsession—something most Canadians completely understand when it comes to goals.

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