Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Flares for the Dramatic

With unemployment offering numerous daylight hours with little structure, I've been able to watch sports and sports talk television. In addition to concerns about Terrell Owens and the Sox-Yanks, steroids and the general failure of closers to do their jobs, this week's most incredible story (one that seems to only barely be about sports) is the debacle yesterday in Milan. Yesterday AC and Inter Milan played soccer. Now for those among you who really follow soccer/futbol (Emmet, JKD) this is probably noteworthy in and of itself. I'll watch soccer if it's on and I'm bored. I like it well enough, and I bet I'll go to a DC United game while there, if only to watch Freddy Adu. That last sentence best describes the degree to which I follow soccer. I will watch famous (if not necessarily, the best) players. I'm like the Easter-Christmas Christians. I'll watch the World Cup, and I'm not offended by the sport, but it fails to serve any true religious function for me.

This is not the way that soccer is understood elsewhere. Ranger and Celtic in Glasgow make Sox-Yanks look like the East-West All Star games, hired guns, professing little concern for community or class. Celtic is the Catholic team and Rangers are the Protestant team. It's not a small distinction.

'“Walking down the Shankill Road in a Celtic shirt, you’re dead, straight-away,” the Catholic 17-year-old Roisin explained. “They’ll just brush you onto the carpet. But it’s the same in Catholic areas. If someone walked in with a Ranger shirt in a Catholic area, they’re as good as dead. … If it’s a mostly Catholic area, or a mostly Protestant area, you’re dead. You just are.”' Soccer serves as a marker for geography, class, and religion. Those aren't small things.

And yet, while sport can easily be conflated with war, it's not usually a literal comparison. Yesterday it was. After a disputed goal was taken away from Inter Milan, fans began booing (no problem with that) and hurling lit flares onto the pitch. Flares, honest to god road flares. The video from the game looks like parts of the West Bank. First off, who the fuck brings a flare to a game. What normal thought is going through your head. What kind of tailgaiting involves torches. Even after the first few fusilades of flares onto the field, one of which struck AC Milan's goalie in the shoulder (injuring him, of course), the officials were considering continuing the event. Then after a calm down period further bottles were chucked onto the field. The old line about, I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out seems apt. I went to a armed insurrection, and there were a few soccer players there.

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