Three-Card-Monte: Pre Super Bowl Blues

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The looming nature of the Super Bowl unnerves me. A sporting event of this magnitude brings with it an unstoppable germination and thriving of vast tracts of unweeded thoughts and feelings. I never make much progress with it, year-to-year. It’s like pushing a lawnmower through a swamp. The trouble is that the spectacle—like any spectacle that sits on the top-shelf of its field of endeavour—brings a level of intrigue that I cannot escape from.

I’m simultaneously maddened with a disturbing desire to get on the sidelines, right there with the teams, rooting for their cause like a wild sow deprived of her sucklings, and in contrast also wanting to hurl a particularly savage excoriation of the whole deplorable extravagance, while striking a match to it all and watching everything go up in an eyeball-searing heap.

Alas, I must be content with more of a twenty-miles-behind-the-lines kind of support or maniacal barrage. Fair enough, too. However, as a preparatory buffering I am lining up a Three-Card-Monte special: Monsdale cigar (thanks to Andy in Ireland), Rum Old Fashioned (made on a brand called Untold, a Melbourne mob, I believe, and one I’ve not tried) and, lastly, a lamentable lamenting of Chelsea’s 0-3 loss to Bournemouth. Yes. It’s time to face up to that one. Bugger.

You see, I go way back with the Blues. And the blues of following the Blues. In 1997, during my first backpacking trip around Europe, I was staying in a hostel in Florence when I somehow fell into clunky conversation with a couple of Argentinian lads. The conversation was in English, because I speak no Spanish. Or any other language for that matter. Although I do know a few key phrases: one in French, ‘Garde le money’. It means ‘Keep the change’. You can make a lot of friendly jam with that one. And in Spanish, ‘Esta mujer pagará por todo’. That means ‘This woman will pay for everything’. Which is a very useful phrase, but one that must be deployed with great care, for obvious reasons.

Anyhow, these lads somehow convinced me to join them for a game of football in the city, that night. I’d never been to a game of soccer (as we Aussies regretfully call it) in my life. But, I said to myself, when in Rome (or Florence), do as the Romans (or Argentinians) do. So I went along. To my genuine surprise, I immediately became addicted. At that time, the great Gabriel Batistuta was leading the line for Fiorentina. Communicated through very simple words and gestures, and mainly just some genuine good will to understand one another, I learnt that I was watching Argentina’s all-time (at that time) number 2 footballer. ‘Maradona, 1; Batistuta, 2’, the Argentine contingent consistently conveyed to me, till I managed to assure them that I had the concept well in hand. Long story short: thoroughly enjoyed the whole shooting match. Wonderful.

Later that month, I would return to London and randomly take up following Chelsea. A pre-Abramovich-Chelsea, I hasten to add. And probably I based this decision on little more than the fact that I kept hearing, in my head, Mick Jagger singing the line about the Chelsea drugstore from You Can’t Always Get What You Want anytime I heard or saw the word Chelsea. And perhaps a little more because Chelsea happened to be packed with Italian footballing talent, at that time. Zola. Vialli. Di Matteo... Which I guess was some sort of salute to the country that had just introduced me to the love of the game. Not long after that, Chelsea went on to sign Super Frank Lampard (still to this day, I believe, the best Chelsea signing in my twenty years of following them.), then, not long after that, enter Mourinho, et al, and we were off to the races in enjoying some very good years. Then, some not so good ones. Ups and downs. Especially in Europe... We got there in the end, though (re-enter Di Matteo!). But, hell, you can’t really complain about anything when you follow a club that has oil money slushing out of its cheque-book every time they pull it out, can you?

And, let’s face it, Chelsea (who are, after all, the reigning champions) have not been the real article this year, from the get-go. I once heard an analyst or commentator make the remark that he only put the rule over the Premier League after 10 games. At that point, he said, you get the first genuine idea of how the season will trend. Honestly, this year, it probably took half that amount of games to realise that Man City were the real deal and they were a bolter that would likely show a clean pair of heels all the way to the winning post. Come February, and the jock hasn’t pulled the whip as yet, and they look like they’ll win with their head on the chest, going away—such is the gap in class, this year. So getting too wound up about this sort of loss seems a little pointless. There are still things to fight for, of course, but let’s not start putting our heads up our arses in flamboyant denial of our capabilities. Yes, with a payroll like ours, we should be capable of beating Bournemouth 99 times out of 100. For some reason, we got the 100th game performance. Take it on the chin, move on. We wait to see what happens in a day or so when we take on Watford away.

So I’m going to smoke this lovely cigar and sip on my old fashioned and suitably soften myself up with this meditative prelude, hoping to then take on the Super Bowl with a resurgent equanimity. If that’s not enough, then bring on the padded walls, the straitjacket, and the rounds of temazepam, trazodone, beer and mac & cheese. Saddle-up, settle in. See where the ride takes us.

Based purely on my association with the Red Sox, I’m staying in that neck of the woods, and I’m going to back the Patriots.



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