…sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines… (Sonnet #18)
June 20th was officially the hottest day of summer. Temperatures reached a record 30C (86F). Of course, this is nothing compared to the scorching weather I was subject to growing up in the American South will temperatures regularly crept easily past the 100 C mark!
My summer thus far has been ruled by the weather and England’s erratic fortunes in the World Cup. The D.E.B. was supporting England of course, but wouldn’t describe himself as a football fan. He “doesn’t mind a bit of footie,” but isn’t obsessed by it, as are so many of his fellow countrymen.
By contrast, I have been bitten quite firmly by “World Cup Fever”, and have gone a bit football mad. I quite literally wept in my beer watching England being pummeled by Germany.
My flirtation with English football began in 2006, during the last World Cup. I was here teaching on a summer short course in Stratford-upon-Avon, and arrived in time to join in the “Come on, England!” mania.
My friend Tracey’s brother, Simon, dared me to “have a flutter” and gamble on the first England match. So, I “screwed my courage to the sticking place” (Macbeth) and sauntered into Ladbroke’s – the infamous, British, high street betting shop.
Apparently, at that time, Ladbroke’s were trying to improve their image and public perception of “the betting shop”, so while I was expecting a rather seedy sort of establishment, it was not actually.
There were of course a quite a few blurry-eyed men wandering listlessly through the premises to be sure, but overall it was not the smoke-filled den of iniquity that I’d imagined.
“How may I ‘elp you, Miss?” The man behind the glass window chirped at me, pleased to see that Ladbroke’s “family-friendly” re-marketing had obviously paid off.
“I’d like to place a bet, please.” I said shyly. “Well, you’re in the right place, then.” The man beamed and smiled at me broadly.
I was offered a number of options to pursue on England’s opening match against Paraguay. The prospect that appealed to me the most was: “Who will score the first English goal?”
Being a novice in all things football, I relied on the only source I had had back in New York: movies. I didn’t know who any of the English footballers were, but I’d just seen Bend it Like Beckham on DVD. It was a fun movie, and he’s cute, so he got my vote.
“David Beckham!” I exclaimed to the man behind the counter. “You’re quite confident.” The man smiled again. “And, why not?” said I. We both nodded as I slipped my £10 note under the glass counter.
No one could have been more shocked than I was when David Beckham actually did scored the first English goal!!
As the ball struck the back of the net, my phone rang. It was Simon, my friend Tracey’s brother: “I do believe you have just won £100. Well done! But, don’t let it go to you’re ‘ead. And promise that you won’t ever bet again!”
He needn’t have worried. I thoroughly enjoyed my “beginner’s luck”, but have since left betting well enough alone. Still, I am proud to inform anyone who will listen that I once won a hundred quid off David Beckham’s boot!
I placed no bets this time around, which was probably a good thing, given England’s World Cup results. But, watching the World Cup has really inspired me to take more interest in the game.
I decided that I should find an English Club side to follow/support. Given my David Beckham connection, supporting Manchester United seemed the obvious choice. But, then everyone supports Man United, and I’d like to be a bit more creative than just following the crowd.
So, I started to approach this in a serious way, by considering the skills and performance of the players on the national side (team), and them looking at their club teams. This approach eventually failed, as Manchester United was again the most represented side.
I then thought about locality. If I chose a team close to where we live, I’d have more of chance of seeing them play live, as opposed to just seeing them on telly/TV. This gave the edge to Aston Villa, as our nearest Premiere League side.
To settle the score, I decided m final criterion would be: which side has the best-looking kit/strip (uniforms). With that, Aston Villa won outright, with their very fetching claret and sky blue home colours!
As an added bonus, Aston Villa is owned by Randolph D. Lerner -- an American entrepreneur from Brooklyn!
Now that that’s settled, it’s nice to know there be more football (and tears?) after the World Cup has finished.