Sunday, September 09, 2007

My Sporting Jinx

My son has become a Yankees fan. He does not understand anything about baseball but cheers "Hip, Hip... Jorge!" and "Let's Go Yankees!" every time he sees that "NY" sign.


Steinbrenner and Cashman can be proud of the work they have done in my household.

As for myself, about a month ago I realised that Seattle Mariners had climbed to the top of the AL Wild Card race and I decided to support that team. After all, I might as well support Ichiro's team.

Since then, the Mariners hit the brake pedal in a big way, losing most of their games, including a 9-game losing streak. To top it all, I had to witness their meltdown against the Yankees on TV whilst my son went about the flat cheering "Let's Go Yankees!"

Call me crazy, but I think I have a knack for jinxing whichever sports team that I support.

And now, the rugby world cup has started in France.

And I am supporting Japan.

It was with a heavy heart that I made my way to Baker Street Pub here in New York on Saturday morning to see Japan play Australia in their first pool game. I couldn't stay sober and downed 3 pints of Guinness in the morning as my fellow countrymen (and several naturalised Pacific Islanders) went down 91 to 3. The fourth pint was on the house, thanks to a lovely Irish girl behind the bar.

As I walked back from the pub, my Guinness soaked brain was slowly being cooked by the bright daylight of New York's late-summer sunshine and the poem I had learned whilst I was in England started to swirl around in my ears...

There's a breathless hush in the Close to-night --
Ten to make and the match to win --
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,
But his Captain's hand on his shoulder smote
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"

The sand of the desert is sodden red, --
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; --
The Gatling's jammed and the colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of schoolboy rallies the ranks,
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"

This is the word that year by year
While in her place the School is set
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind --
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"

(Vitai Lampada by Sir Henry Newbolt, just in case you are interested...)

You can tell that Waterloo may have been won on the playing fields of Eton but the myth was buried in the trenches of France and the era of professional sports has finally put a stake through its heart.

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