In the midst of this frenzy over the World Cup I can't help but notice a tiny word that ties London and New York together in a way that is absolutely maddening.
It's the collective noun "we," used relentlessly on both sides of the ocean during times of athletic excitement.
"If we can get past Croatia, we're into the final!" a chubby little man said to me in the local grocery story the other day.
It was all I could to do keep from asking him: When did you join British World Cup team? And why aren't you in Russia?
Same deal in New York back in the late 90's, whenever the Yankees were heading for the World Series. Words I'll never forget:
"We got this game in the bag, as long we bring Rivera in to pitch the ninth."
Oh yeah. A double-we in that hum-dinger of a sentence, spoken in a sports bar by a mountainous guy who would have had trouble squeezing into Babe Ruth's pinstripes.
One of the best scenes in the movie "A Bronx Tale" happens when the bus driver's son meets the Mafioso after the New York Yankees lose the final game of the 1960 World Series. The kid is upset because Yankee superstar Mickey Mantle wept over the defeat, and the Mafioso - played brilliantly by Chazz Palmintieri - replies:
"Mickey Mantle, is that what you're upset about? Mickey Mantle Makes a hundred thousand dollars a year. How much does your father make?...See if your father can't pay the rent, go ask Mickey Mantle, see what he tells you."
Which is a brutal, brutal assessment of the situation, but come on. You smiled when you read those words, didn't you?
I've had trouble with the word "we" for most of my working life, especially when I was a TV producer spending hours writing and editing stories long into the night. The next morning the story would be screened, problems would be assessed and some clipboard-clutching middle-management type would invariably say:
"We have to re-think the piece."
We have to re-think the piece. Re-think! As if the clipboard-clutcher had thought about it in the first place! When it came to additional work, we had a funny way of morphing into me.
So when it comes to things like the World Cup and the World Series, I appreciate the lightning-fast reflexes of these amazing athletes, their grace, their speed....all the things normal human beings can only dream about.
But I'm not part of their "we." I only wish I could be part of their "we." Too old, too slow, too clumsy, too whatever. Next life, maybe.
And sure, it's nice to take pride in your city's team, or your country's team, but let's not get too carried away.
Because I know what's going to happen if Britain loses the next round of the World Cup to Croatia, and I bump into that chubby little man in the grocery store again.
"Did you watch the game, mate?" he'll ask me. "Bloody hell, they really blew it!"