Wednesday, June 16, 2010


According to a Bird family history compiled by my late great-aunt Joy (that's late-great aunt, not late...great...aunt, although she was a great lady), the Protestant loyalist Samuel Bird emigrated from Northern Ireland sometime around 1820, which makes me something like an 8th generation Canadian, so you'll have to excuse me if I don't fly the St. George's cross from my car in support of England at the World Cup. My emotional ties to the old country don't run nearly as deep as those of a second generation St. Michel Italian or a recently-arrived civil war refugee from Cote d'Ivoire. In fact, I take an almost perverse pleasure in any misfortune suffered by England at the World Cup - not out of any sense of malice, but because of the mordant humour that adversity invariably stirs in the English character. From the London Mirror's Hand of Clod headline to the Guardian newspaper's hilarious Lego recreation of goalkeeper Robert Green's already infamous blunder, the sardonic nature of the media coverage in the wake of what the English universally consider a 1-1 loss to the USA in their tournament opener has been infinitely more entertaining than the predictable crowing and self-congratulations that would have followed an England victory.
For erstwhile imperialists, the English are remarkably comfortable in the role of the underdog. Their resolve was never tested as severely as in the early days of World War Two, but historical accounts of the London Blitz are rife with anecdotes and examples of typical English mockery and cheer under the most dire circumstances. With the help of her allies, England rallied to victory from those dark days, as she may yet rally at the World Cup.
Just so long as the Germans don't win. That part never changes.

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