I’ve never been a sports fan. I was the kid at school who made up more and more elaborate reasons not to go to PE every week, the one who regularly got yelled at to “not run away from the ball, dammit, Baxter!”. Beyond a strange time when collecting football stickers was cool among school friends, I displayed no interest in watching major sporting events either. I’m still not clear on the difference between rugby union and the other rugby. I look blankly at my fiance when he deploys golf or cricket-related metaphors during casual conversation.
Yet during the pandemic, I was sucked into the world of sport, strangely enough because of its absence. While I lamented the loss of brunch and bars, E would sit on the end of the bed and moan about the loss of football and its associated camaraderie. When Arsenal began playing again to pared-down stadia, I became the only sounding-board for his fantasy football team choices (when you live in a studio apartment – and most football fans are across the ocean and several time zones away – you don’t get much choice in the matter).
So now the Euros are here, and a combination of patriotic nostalgia and familiarity with the players has turned me into an active participant. Last weekend, as England geared up for their first game against Croatia, E and I rolled out of bed and straight into the TV room of our building with a couple of Irish coffees for the 9am start. Our other British friend got a Rebel scooter over and joined us, all of us in England shirts and shorts. It was strange to emerge, blinking, into the heat and light of a New York morning after England’s win, but it certainly felt like we’d made the most of the day. Later, we ended up at the local sports bar, positioned between two screens showing two different games: one, another Sunday Euros match and the other, an NBA match between the Brooklyn Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks.
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