In June 2008, Germany beat Portugal 3-2 in a knockout soccer match. The winning goal was scored by a German who simultaneously pushed a Portuguese aside as he scored but was not called for a foul.
Germany-Portugal was like a battle between the head and the heart, the part that rejoices when the birds sing versus the part that knows it has to shove others out of the way to achieve something in this world of confrontation. Strength won out. Portugal, with their pretty little passing and movement, were found wanting at the moment of truth.
I used to like sport because I considered it the only sphere where the unlikely was able to happen. However, as the little guy keeps losing year after year and it becomes less and less worthwhile following the underdogs in the hope of that one elusive victory, I wonder if I and Portugal in general have their priorities wrong: what is beauty? Is ineffective activity, while aesthetically pleasing, actually beautiful, does beauty even exist in it, or is the real beauty being able to see a play all the way through to its conclusion? Were the isolated attacks that Germany rarely but successfully executed a cause for admiration? Germany, after all, are one of the very few countries that ever achieve, who never paint themselves as the losers in anticipation of a loss, who are never afraid in front of goal (a clear sign of an inferiority complex, see Portugal, Western Bulldogs, St Kilda on Grand Final day, etc.), for whom close enough is never, ever good enough. Should they be reviled for stereotypically choosing efficiency in attack (which directly wins matches and brings happiness) rather than prettiness in midfield, which is only temporarily appealing?
Fast forward to the Western Bulldogs vs. St Kilda preliminary final 2009, in which faulty umpiring decisions directly and mathematically decided the match in St Kilda’s favour after the Western Bulldog midfield had run riot in the last quarter (although, crucially, their forward line did not). I made the mistake of watching the game with an underdog-despising, John Howard-loving friend who actually laughed when St Kilda scored the clinching goal. Since his attitude is that there is no such thing as justice, that whoever wins in life deserves to win simply because they won, that there is no merit but simply opportunities to grab or to fail, he then argued with me that St Kilda deserved whatever they had picked up.
What he didn’t realise was this: to see the Bulldogs win even one key match in my lifetime and reach (and win) the Grand Final was my most passionate desire, and when you argue against someone’s most passionate desire you will never, ever convince them that they’re wrong. More than that: they’ll hate you for even trying. So now in my mind alongside The Loss is The Loss 2, version 2009, and I keep hearing my friend’s laugh when Riewoldt scored the last goal. I love the boy and I’ll continue to, but he laughed.
When you are hurt by even the most insignificant pains of yours and of other people, is there any point at which you blow a fuse? At that point do you just stop giving a shit, and stop considering abstract crap like “beauty” and “justice” and the desire to see the little guy win in a world that’s clearly not set up for it? But on the other hand, if success kills your empathy then maybe it’s something I don’t quite need yet.