The year I gave up on professional sports
Some may say 2008 has been a good year for sport and all in all I’d have to agree all except for one thing, one small niggling detail, one small unfortunate item: every team, every professional sportsman or woman I’ve set hopes for has done either outright badly this year, or worse, done well but stumbled on the final hurdle.
Hockey: the Czechs at the World Championship go out early - not altogether unexpected as they are no longer the powerhouse they used to be. When the Czechs go out, it isn’t difficult to root for my homeland Canada. Fast forward to the final: the Canadians are up by two goals over the Russians; they’ve been playing well. But all too suddenly, when they should be dominating, the wheels come off. Guess who ties it? In overtime, guess who wins?
Football in May: Czech goalie Petr Čech and London’s Chelsea. Who wouldn’t want a goalkeeper with so much talent and promise to win the prestigious Champions League? It’s the final – an incredible culmination of emotion after so many matches – and the game comes (urgh!) down to penalties. Chelsea goes ahead of Manchester and is a goal away from victory. Wanna know who wins?
Last week more football: Euro 2008. After coming under criticism for winning a poor game against Switzerland, the Czechs play far better against Portugal – but lose. Then they play Turkey in their final group match. Five minutes from the end, they’re still winning. Three minutes from time, the game is tied. The seconds tick down: guess who score the final goal to win? That’s too painful for any fan to watch. For me this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Soccer, hockey, it doesn’t matter, if I picked you to win this year, you didn’t. Forget it Nicole Vaidišová, no French Open for you! I’m not even going to watch the Olympics, so that renowned Czech decathlete Roman Šebrle has a chance.
Sending emails to a close friend of mine of Czech descent halfway around the world, who also watched many of these same moments and whose hopes were also crushed, we agree, this has simply got to stop. But what to do? He thinks we should give up; he uncovers a sudden fascinating and profound interest in gardening at the ripe old age of 28. Me? I don’t know if I’m fully ready to give up on watching professional sports just yet.
But I admit my future “as a fan” is hanging on a knife’s edge. Perhaps I can find a sports team to root for that nobody in their right mind would support? No expectations, no disappointment? Even better, maybe find a sport with a very low profile in this country to back: say bowling or fencing. If we win, nobody else notices and I cheer quietly at the office. If we lose, no problem. The marbles championship title slipped away by millimeters? Sorry to hear it. But if you don’t mention it, I won’t: it’ll be our little secret.