Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

09 Jul 2006, 17:35 p.m.

World Cup Of Hemlock

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2006 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

I watched the overtime and the penalty kicks at a crowded cafe near my house, where the crowd ran very pro-Italian but gave good sporting cheers to French goals too.

The pro-Italian folks celebrated for perhaps 30 seconds after that last Italian goal. But no one broke out into singing or recognizable Italian. And the guy sitting next to me, who spent ten years of his life in France and just got back from a visit to Paris, will be mourning for days.

Like booze, sports is a social lubricant. It was nice to make small talk with the strangers. And I liked being an Asian American, in a Greek/Latino/Middle-Eastern neighborhood of New York, watching a French player of African descent exhale and shake off his nervousness as he began a run up to his penalty kick. The universal language of the attempted goal is up there with music and sex. The only reason soccer can incur the destructive kind of nationalism it does overseas is that almost every nation plays on that common battlefield.

But for every raised and fulfilled hope there is a raised and dashed one. Even though I wouldn't want to remove melancholy from the human condition, I feel bad for that French guy.