Watching the Euros
Watching the Euros by Gordon Glasgow
Exactly 10 weeks ago I had a procedure on my shoulder called the Latarjet (silent T at the end, pronounced in the French way). The experience of both the surgery and the recovery was almost as unpleasant as having a conversation in English with, well, someone French. It was a difficult period, a lot of time spent doing nothing at all, staring into space, not being able to focus on anything other than how annoying it is to sleep on my back. I’ve almost always been a stomach sleeper. Anyway, I’ve found it a shame that I wasn’t clever enough to schedule the procedure to coincide with Euro 2020, which as it turns out is actually taking place in 2021. There would have been nothing more palliating than lying on the couch on drugs watching three matches a day without any guilt.
Unfortunately, by the time the Euros began, I was far off the painkillers, and my level of guilt in not doing anything had gotten back to normal, it sucks. So I’ve been doing something my girlfriend would call Temptation Bundling. I’ll go to the gym and half-use the elliptical while watching a lot of the matches. Calories burn, sort of, legs get stronger, not really, upper body stays the same, exactly, all while being able to watch what has been some of the most thrilling soccer I’ve seen in recent memory. And the process of shoulder recovery continues, albeit slowly, and every day seems somewhat a road to a stronger, more productive existence.
At 27, the one thing that’s certain in my life is that I’ll never be a soccer player. The odd thing is that no matter how old I get, soccer players will always seem older, more mature. Bukayo Saka (19), Jude Bellingham (18), and even Mason Mount (22) will always, so as long as they are playing for England on TV, appear to be older, adult figures.
I had a thought the other week, while watching Germany’s 2-2 draw with Hungary, looking at the male dominated stands, that maybe men have more trouble growing into adulthood than women. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are millions of women who love to watch sports all day. Statistically, though, there are more men who watch. So maybe there is something to the fact that we, as men, have a tougher time going day-by-day, week-by-week, without being a little kid watching older men play for high-stakes. The thought remained half-baked, and it still is.
But turning 27 this week has taught me that I do have a tough time going through the grind of daily adult life without a few small allowances of adolescence. Whether it be through crass humor or entertaining sports, it’s definitely fun to be a boy while trying to be a man, fun to be anything other than what you’re trying to accomplish, temporary regression an all around good time, perhaps.
The commentators on TV keep talking about all of the unordinary statistics this tournament: a record of 10 own goals, 7 of 16 penalties missed, an average of 2.81 goals per game, which is interesting to the childish me watching because I’ve never seen .81 of a goal scored before. I’ll take them at their word.
So far, other stats include Ronaldo and a young Czech player named Patrik Schick leading the scoring chart at 5 goals each, the temperamental Jordan Pickford with 5 clean sheets, and Goran Pandev of North Macedonia being the oldest soccer player in the tournament, at 37-years-old, to score a goal. I guess there still is hope. Ferran Torres of Spain, at 21, is the youngest to score. England, annoyingly, are in the semi-finals and haven’t conceded a goal yet. Scotland, even more annoyingly, the team I guess I’m supposed to support, went crashing out at the group stages with two losses and a draw. There was a hell of a goal scored against them, though.
This summer, I’ve become the guy at my gym who goes to work-out in the middle of the day and watch sports. Everyone else in my building who exercises at 3PM on a weekday seems to enjoy working out to CNN, but I’ve annoyed a lot of them by asking to change the channel so I could watch obscure matches like Austria vs Ukraine and Finland vs Russia. To be fair, I just cherry-picked the worst sounding games in the tournament that don’t include North Macedonia. But still, I made people turn off John King and Wolf Blitzer for those very games.
A woman yelled at me the other day. She’s probably around 40 and I’ve seen quite a lot of her ever since I started working out in the middle of the day. She takes business calls on the phone while sort of exercising and is really obnoxious on all of them. Even after overhearing around 200 calls to people in Florida over the past 20 days, I still haven’t quite figured out what it is she does. I only know that it involves yelling and saying things like, ‘it’s time to get fuckin wild on this deal.’ So she does deals, maybe she’s in sales.
I know she has two daughters in high school because sometimes she trains them, just as obnoxiously as when she’s on calls. ‘You better remember to pick that up!’ She repeatedly yells to her daughters who always seem to wish they were spending the summer doing anything else. And she was training her two fat daughters one day in the middle of June when I changed the channel from The View to Wales vs Turkey.
‘Hey!’ She said.
I knew I was in for one.
‘You know sometimes people are sometimes watching things when you want to watch things.’
‘Ah yea.’ I said. ‘That’s true.’
‘But I’m’a let you have this one.’ She said after a long pause. (She’s white)
‘Alright, thanks.’ I said, letting her let me have it.
Wales won 2-0. It was a pretty uneventful game that was surely not as entertaining as Joy Behar’s reaction to a TikTok video. Maybe I was in the wrong.
The whole thing with the Denmark player who almost died on the field was pretty exciting. It became kind of like a unifying moment of the tournament. For a little while, every player who scored had Christian Eriksen’s name written on their undershirts. They’d take off their jersey and show the name to the world, pointing to ‘Eriksen’ with sentimental satisfaction. That soon waned, though.
Be right back. Italy Spain in the semi-finals is on.
Spain are playing a high-line and Italy have an early chance, deemed offside. I check my emails and pretend to work. Nothing is happening in the game so I get up to piss and look inside the fridge. Even though nothing is happening in the game, the screen has a gravitational pull. I must watch, I must not miss a moment. I am not a sports-journalist. I am not getting paid for this.
Giorgio Chiellini, (guess which country he plays for) a brutal central-defender of the classic ilk, looks like he’s going to mug, beat-up, and then spit on half the players of this young, Spanish team. Shoving the opposition out of the way and somehow smiling in Italian is him being nice. He’s an absolute joy to watch. The Spanish team has a boyish quality to them. Nowhere near as tough as the Italians. I still wouldn’t pity the Spanish. It appears that they are the kind of boys who would romance a woman all evening, only to slip out of her bedroom in the middle of the night and go back home to their girlfriends. Other than Sergio Busquets, one of my all-time favorite players, they’re all a bit slick. It’ll be nice to see Chiellini throw a few more elbows in.
Both coaches on the side-line look like stereotypical middle aged men from each of their respective countries. Luis Enrique and Roberto Mancini, managers who have enjoyed domestic success, have a desire to consummate their careers by winning one with the national team. They’re master gesticulators with elaborate personalities, both could probably talk your ear off in any argument.
Italy’s line is still much deeper than Spain’s but they’ve had more chances. Maybe that’s what the coaches are gesticulating about. Most of the players on the bench are sitting with their arms crossed.
One of the ESPN commentators is American. It makes no sense. The other is English. All soccer commentators speaking English should be British, this should be written into law. It would be a law that I would canvas for. An American should never speak about soccer out loud, for whatever reason, it is very unnatural and painful to listen to. Only write, if they (we) must.
0-0 at halftime. Pretty uneventful first half. I’m going to go bother my girlfriend about something, I don’t know. The halftime commentary team keeps discussing how this game has the highest attendance of the tournament so far. This means they agree with me that it was an uneventful first half.
Italy have exposed Spain’s high-line again, with Ciro Immobile nearly getting in-behind. Mikel Oyarzabal, the hard to pronounce player from Spain, takes a shot right into Gianluigi Donnaruma’s hands. Now a few moments later, Federico Chiesa scores a beautiful goal for Italy, deftly curling the ball into the corner of the net. ‘A goal of both style and substance,’ the one English commentator says. The entire Italian bench is now gesticulating in happiness, arms up and then akimbo, lots of hugs, big smiles across smug faces. 1-0 Italy.
Alvaro Morata, the controversial Spanish forward who is often criticized for not scoring goals and not having enough of an effect on games, has virtually not done anything all game. Nearing the 70th minute, the Italians are now defending mightily, turning on heroic-mode. It looks like they’ll be able to win it.
I just had a thought/remembrance that Ashkenazi Jews, of which I am, are the closest genetically to Italians. Now I am cheering for my almost brothers. Forza. Forza.
Marco Veratti shoots right into the Spanish keeper’s hands. Italy come close to scoring again. But now the possession is back in Spain’s hands. They are going to pass and pass, press and press. They’ll walk the bloody ball into the net if they have to.
Soccer is something I used to hate-watch, a ‘why am I doing this when there are 1000 more important things I could be doing’ sort of thing. But I’m actually very much enjoying watching the game while writing about it, Temptation Bundling, as my girlfriend would say.
Alvaro Morata, the controversial Spanish forward who is often criticized for not scoring goals, has just scored the equalizing goal, ‘ripping through the heart of the Italian defense.’ It was, to be fair, a very beautiful goal. And now Italy can’t just park the bus and defend. It should be a very good last 10 minutes.
‘Now Spain have got Italy on their heels,’ the American commentator says aptly. (Boot reference not intended, I don’t think). There are plenty of cuts to Italian fans in the stadium crying, even though the game is still there’s to win. I respect the emotionally-driven passion of my almost-genetically-Semitic but still very often anti-Semitic brethren.
Brute-force Chiellini mistakenly handballs in the box. He frowns and looks nervous. You almost feel bad for him for a second. Luckily the referee doesn’t call a penalty in the 90th minute. It’s going to extra-time with the momentum in Spain’s favor. The goals were scored in the 60th and 80th minutes. I like how even that is.
‘This is a fantastic game for a neutral.’ The commentators say as the first half of extra time begins. It’s also the third match in a row that Spain has gone into extra-time. If they have to face England in the final, they might be fucked.
Danny Almo, whom the American commentator keeps calling Danny Elmo, almost scores for Spain with a very clever free-kick. Luckily for Italy, Donnaruma pulls off a pretty agile save. It’s all Spain.
Italian genetics comment aside, if you watch International European Soccer from a Jewish perspective, there are almost always no winners. To the most cynical Jewish mind, this is a game between the fascists and the inquisitionists, both of which have very beautiful countries with sexy, romantic cultures.
Or you can look at this game under the lens of European Woody Allen movies. To Rome With Love vs Vicky Christina Barcelona. Spain would be the clear winner, although many would argue that Barcelona is actually in Catalonia, not Spain.
1-1 still, halftime in extra-time. Both teams are huddled closely together, coaches yelling in the middle. The Italian coach is yelling more convincingly. Another substitution. Another whistle to bring this game home. A player named Bernardeschi, which would be a good name for a Tuscan breed of dog, is introduced onto the field. A Spanish player just with the name ‘Eric’ on the back of his shirt is down with a cramp. The commentator clarifies, his name is Eric Garcia, and he’s being substituted out of the match for a man named Pau Torres. Now that’s a name.
Fabrizio Gaysexo comes onto the field for the last 5 minutes of extra-time. No, not really.
And penalty kicks it is.
Lucatelli, the first up for Italy, misses. He never looked quite confident enough in the first place. Danny Almo, or Elmo, is up for Spain — and misses as well, blazing his shot over the bar. But now Belotti scores for Italy, a shot with considerable power. Now Gerard Moreno, who scores even after missing earlier in the tournament. And Leonardo Bonucci for Italy, slotting away with cool, calm confidence. Thiago for Spain puts it in the back of the net calmly too, we’re all level still. Now the hound, Bernardeschi, scoring. And now, Alvaro Morata, the controversial Spanish forward who is often criticized for not scoring goals and not having enough of an effect on games, misses, brutally.
If Italy scores their next, they win. Up walks a man born in Brazil and who had moved to Italy as a boy. Jorginho with a hop, skip, and jump in his run-up, scores, sending Italy to the final of Euro 2020 to face England or Denmark. A group of Italian fans dressed as gourmet chefs dance, celebrate with joy. Hacienda the line for Spain. Grazzi, Ciao, Adios.
Back to what I was saying — A lot of British and German pundits have been saying that June 28th, which also happens to be International Body Piercing Day, Paul Bunyan Day, and Insurance Awareness Day, will go down as one of the most memorable days in the history of international tournament history. They weren’t that wrong. The games were very fun to watch — Spain 5 - 3 Croatia (AET), and France 3 - 3 Switzerland, with Switzerland winning on penalties. There is a true, guttural thrill to watching dramatic live sports of that caliber that is unique to any sensation that art and film have recently offered. I mean, there’s no way to know what’s going to happen. And, with this tournament, as opposed to the art world, very few women are involved. Always a plus. (Joke)
It was nice to see Ronaldo do well before going out in the round of 16, throwing his captains armband to the floor and cursing his fellow countrymen. A player with his hubris and success rate is someone I’ll always root for. I didn’t care much about Belgium’s early exit, the cynical Italians won fair and square, rolling around on the turf and wasting time until the final whistle. Now that’s sport. The only thing I semi-care about at this stage is that England doesn’t win and that my shoulder continues to improve on a daily basis so that I can travel in August.
Another semi-care for this year, as I’m turning 27, it would be nice to watch a little less soccer and do a lot more writing. I’m aware some might read this and hope for the opposite, but that’s not my problem. I’m still going to write. I’m not very worried about the whole thing with people dying at 27, I haven’t been successful enough for that to happen. You have to be very successful to die at 27. If things continue to go their way I’ll live until 100.
An interesting fact I learned while watching this tournament is that the advertising boards behind the players are different depending on what country you’re watching it in. It’s always good to be reminded that nothing is what it seems. I would always wonder why they’d advertise Toyota in a German stadium. Turns out they’re not, really.
Other than that, I haven’t really learned anything after watching around 36 hours of soccer over the past few weeks. But it’s been truly entertaining, and I’ve enjoyed the process of writing fiction, a TV script, copywriting, creating ‘content,’ and watching games and nursing my shoulder back to normal strength, all while being the guy in the building who uses the elliptical every day. There have been worse, more forgettable summers.
I remember when I was younger my father said, about his friend, that it’s nice to watch soccer games with him, because he knows what he’s talking about and doesn’t say much. And I suppose that’s one of the truest things I’ve heard anyone say about soccer, life, or any other topic for that matter. If you know what you’re talking about you don’t have to say much. The American commentator today was saying too much. Sometimes in my own life, for no reason at all, I say too much, do too much, eat too much, drink too much, watch too much. Many meaningless things are done too much of, many important things too little. Italy won today because they did just enough at exactly the right moments, and then waited and got just the right bit of luck when they needed it most.
When the game was over today, I was left with nothing but life in front of me. Italy won and Spain lost, there’s another semi-final tomorrow. Then on Sunday, there will be a final. After that, there will be a break. Club soccer will start. And it will end. In between each and every game played, for me, the fan, there is no fantasy and childhood to indulge in. New temptations and illusions must be created to facilitate harsher realities. When I turned 23, I remember joking with my friends that adulthood is a slog. No matter how fortunate I’ve been, I still don’t disagree.
This is all another lesson for 27, a new year that will contain lots of winning and losing, watching and writing, hoping and waiting.