An Entirely Different Universe
LONDON--Never again will I go along with the notion that Canadians beat themselves up over hockey in a way that no other country does over a sport.
Not even close, folks.
Indeed, compared to the manner in which the English national soccer team is being absolutely and thoroughly trashed after being ousted from the World Cup on Sunday, we Canadians look like we barely give a fig when it goes all wrong on the international hockey stage.
Our strongest reaction, after our juniors lost to Kazakhstan and our seniors fumbled away the Olympics, was to call a national summit in 1998 to sit down and discuss it all like civilized people, a gathering that actually resulted in enormously positive developments for the sport in Canada.
By comparison to the English reaction to the big footie loss, we look like we don't care.
This country is into its third full day of tearing and shredding Fabio Capello and his charges after the worst loss in the country's World Cup history, with no end in sight. It's not just on the sports pages, either, but on the front page of many daily newspapers, with related coverage on TV and radio.
Unrelenting and unmerciful, with plenty of war references thrown in, no surprise given that the defeat was at the hands of Germany. One columnist opined that if the British military had defended the country in similar fashion to John Terry and Co., "we'd all be speaking German now." Today, another paper showed two players smiling as they disembarked a flight back to the U.K., suggesting they were laughing as the country cried.
The key difference is that while Canada might severely criticize its players and coaches when defeat comes, here the athletes and administrators are treated like traitors, accused of betraying their country, of knowingly and intentionally bringing shame to every man and woman in England.
Yes, there have been a few howls over the disallowed English goal, which any reasonable person would agree made an enormous difference in the 4-1 result. Had that game, as it should have, gone into halftime tied 2-2, the second half would have been played in a different manner, although England's leaky defence would likely have, in the end, been unable to stop the German push.
But that goal has already been, if not forgotten, pushed to the side in favour of the most vicious and vile criticism of each and every English player imaginable. Capello, of course, has been drawn and quartered. Here, it's not like they just played badly, or got out-played. It's being treated as if they threw the match, and in so doing humiliated the country.
Given that England hasn't won a World Cup in decades, its not as though they were even a favourite. In fact, Germany's famed Franz Beckenbauer pretty much predicted the outcome beforehand, saying the English would be tired and "burnt out" because the heavy demands of the Premier League are so much greater than those faced by German players in the Bundesliga. But there remains a sense of entitlement here about soccer, not so different from Canada's attitude towards hockey, but expressed in a much more virulent, near lethal manner.
It really is ugly. Then there's the other side, the louts riding in a rickshaw through Trafalgar Square on Sunday chanting "We Won The War, We Won The War!"
They take their football very personally here. By comparison, we Canadians seem positively relaxed and reasonable about our national pastime.