Proudly tell an American that you once came second in a three-legged race, and he will tell you that he once won an egg-and-spoon competition. Show off your collection of New Order rarities, and she’ll open a cupboard and reveal recordings that even Peter Hook didn’t know existed. And woe betide he who claims to be able to drink a pint of water in 3.1 seconds, as he’ll suddenly find himself battling off against an American who claims he can do it in half the time. Through a straw.
Yes, Americans are competitive – something I have learned extensively through my marriage to The Special One. To be fair, she would never claim that she is competitive – just that she’s better than me at everything. Given that any reductive argument between two parents (and whether it’s about world poverty, or who peels the carrots) always boils down eventually to the comment “When you’ve gone through childbirth, then you can talk to me about that”, I’ve learned to treasure the runners up spot and make it my own.
The fact is that America and Americans always do seem to take things one step further than the Brits. We grow nice looking aubergines that can do a perfectly serviceable job in moussaka or ratatouille; Americans grow eggplants that can feed a family of four for a month. Britain’s summer lasts between the third Tuesday in July until the following Monday; American winters and summers run so long that they’d be more accurately known as dynasties rather than seasons. And so on.
All that is fine, and I’m very proud of my adopted country for its consistent pattern of oneupmanship.
That said, all bets are off when it comes to the World Cup.
A little back story first. As long time readers will know, I was born in England but feel a greater affinity with the Welsh, having been brought up in North Wales. Maybe it was a reaction against the arcane rule that still allows an Englishman to shoot a Welshman with a bow and arrow in my hometown Chester (as long as it’s after midnight, obviously)? But whatever the case, whenever Wales are in the same competition as England, I’m firmly in the Anyone But England camp.
With the World Cup, there’s frankly more chance of me taking a starring role in Zoolander 2 than Wales qualifying. Given that I have as much need to waste six weeks of my life as the next man, the lack of a Welsh presence means that my allegiance then has to switch to Wayne Rooney and his dubious crew of adulterous inbreds.
Which brings me to Saturday, and the International Kickball Chanmpionships game between the country that I rarely admit to being born in, and the country that I still have trouble believing that I live in. So my allegiances are torn, right?
Wrong. The last three days have witnessed me daydreaming at length about dipping Rooney volleys from 25 yards, elaborate back heels into the net through the legs of 10 US outfielders, and a sudden discovery of Cruyff’s Total Football ethic by Emile Heskey. To be frank, I may be in the lion’s den, but nothing would make me happier than a crushing Three Lions victory, and a demonstration that second place isn’t that bad after all.
Saturday’s game aside, it’s nice to have a second team to support in the World Cup. Given that a UN mandate requires the elimination of the England team at the quarter finals stage on penalties, it’s always good to have a reason to follow a team that can occasionally spring a surprise.
Let’s just hope it’s not on Saturday, eh?