The long-anticipated Games of the XXX Olympiad, also known as London 2012, are now in full swing. Some members of the Displaced Nation team are looking a tad bleary eyed after staying up late several nights in a row to watch their favorite events (gymnastics, anyone? or how about some synchronized diving?).
Maybe we’re getting grouchy from the lack of sleep, but we’re beginning to engage in some surprisingly heated debates — surprising given how much we looked forward to the arrival of the Games.
Or perhaps it’s not surprising given that most, if not all, of us residents have confused, hybrid nationalities…
In any event, here’s my displaced question for YOU: What if an athlete or team from your native land ends up competing with one from your adopted country?
Now pay heed, because this could be important.
I studied in Cardiff, Wales, where this sort of thing can be a matter of life and death. I’m English y’see, and while Wales may be part of the United Kingdom, it’s also its own country. For which I can hardly blame it…
Historically, Wales and England have not been the best of friends — in fact in one English city, it’s still legal to shoot a Welshman with a bow and arrow at certain times of the year.
For some reason it’s one law they just keep forgetting to appeal…
To say the English have treated the Welsh unfairly is…well, fair. We were utter bastards to them back in the day, as we were to pretty much every other civilization with which we came into contact. That’s why they all rose up and threw us out at various points in time.
Unfortunately, we haven’t learned our lesson — that infamous stiff upper lip isn’t the only national trait we’re known for. Yes, we Brits are an arrogant lot — legendarily so — and never more so than in the arena of international sport.
Luckily we’re not very good at most of it, or we’d have been involved in even more wars.
The art of living dangerously in a country of sore losers
But the Welsh, alas, aren’t much better; on the contrary, they have a horrible habit of being even worse than we are. Rugby is supposed to be their game, yet we English keep beating them at it. And if you’re the only English bloke in the immediate vicinity shortly after such a humiliating defeat occurs…well, the Welsh aren’t known for having a magnanimous, forgiving nature. They are known, rather, as barbarian tribes so unruly that even the Romans couldn’t subjugate them.
I never once tried to subjugate anyone, but in my three years at university I was on the short end of a serious subjugation every time the Welsh lost to England. Which was depressingly often.
So, herein lies the dilemma: You’re an expat. Your birth-home team is playing your adopted-home team. Do you:
a) Cheer for the local team to curry popularity — even if you’re dying inside with every goal scored by the locals?
b) Cheer for your native country’s team to show character, and honesty, and that you’re not afraid – even if, inside, you are actually terrified at what the locals may do to you afterwards?
c) Find a nice, comfy hole to lie in for a week or so until all the excitement dies down? (Note: Not for heroes. I’ve been known to adopt this tactic.)
Both a) and b) are seriously risky strategies. When questioned by a drunk and excitable Welshman, approximately five feet tall and about the same girth — along with ten of his veteran drinking buddies — it was always something of a lottery. Declare for my homeland, and pray I was in better shape athletically (or at least less drunk) than any of them; or declare for Wales, and risk getting beaten up anyway because they thought I was taking the mickey.
My answer varied (like my patriotism) with the number of pints I’d drunk.
(Note to self: Singing “God Save The Queen” loudly in response is almost never a good idea, even if you are drunk enough to hardly feel a thing. And especially when you haven’t even bothered to learn the words…)
The art of not having an opinion
Thankfully, I have since come up with my patented Ultimate Solution™ to this problem, after years of suffering one way or the other — or sometimes both ways simultaneously — at the hands of my ancestral foes.
I don’t cheer for my home team. Either of them. Because to be honest, I don’t give two figs about a sport unless I’m actually playing it, and then if I win, at least I’m dressed in the right gear for running away.
Let’s break this strategy down a little more.
PRINCIPLE #1: CHEER FOR THE WINNERS, REGARDLESS OF NATIONALITY
Taking this approach means you can celebrate every goal. If “your” team loses, you’re not too heavily committed, having cheered equally for both sides in their best moments.
Indeed, no one will be 100% sure which side you’re on, and as you’ve shared at least a few cheers with their side, they’re bound to feel more kindly disposed towards you than if you’d been screaming obscenities at their favorite player.
The second, and even more important part of this strategy is:
PRINCIPLE #2: BE THE LOSER!
As Leo “The Lip” Durocher, manager of several Major League baseball teams, once said (in 1946):
Nice guys finish last.
It doesn’t matter who wins in the end. No, really, it doesn’t. That’s the whole point of the saying “It’s only a game!” — because it is.
And while some people honestly admire a winner, and are happy to let them enjoy their well-earned celebration, in my experience most people have a bitter spot in their hearts for those who beat them — or their team. And it’s not a healthy place to be for anyone — basically, they can’t stand someone who beats them.
But everyone loves a loser.
If your birth-home team loses, be the humble eater-of-pie. Congratulate your new-found compatriots and maybe let slip — in an unguarded moment — that you knew they would win anyway as you’d had a horrible feeling that they were actually a much better team.
And if your adopted-home team loses — join them in commiserating. Because let’s face it, people from your home country are a bunch of so and sos — except you, of course. Which is why you’re here, and not there… “They” never play fairly. One day, hopefully soon, the local team will show ’em who’s boss. And until then, well, you might as well drown your sorrows with the rest of the losers…
Either way it goes, you get points for being a good sportsman. That’s what I call winning by default.
* * *
Okay, readers, now it’s your turn to weigh in on this vexed question. Do you ever feel confused about who you should be rooting for at the Olympics, or is this a moment when blind nationalism sets in, and it’s your home athlete/team or nothing?
Tell me what you think!
STAY TUNED for Monday’s post, another in our “expat moment” series…
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