Is it “just a game”? Ask the guys in the picture below!
You might have guessed already from his fourteen-letter last name, but the Big Differ Dennis Van Staalduinen is rooting for the Netherlands “Oranje” Team in Sunday’s FIFA World Cup final. And he’s getting a bit weird about it.
Yes it’s just a game.
Last week, someone in my family (who shall remain nameless) who is not a soccer / football / futbol fan, asked me this question when I sheepishly admitted I was going to take the afternoon off to watch the Dutch Oranje team beat Uruguay in their semi-final match.
My dear relation said: “What’s the big deal? It’s just a game?”
And you know what? She was right. Objectively speaking, it’s just a game.
Which is why it probably seems odd to my clients and friends that for the past few weeks, I’ve been doing odd things like wearing orange socks to business meetings, obsessively checking my iPhone for the latest scores, and rearranging my meetings to make sure I can be at a friendly pub at 10:00 a.m. on a business day to catch my team playing, what is, after all, just a game.
From that perspective, the flags on cars, the jerseys everywhere on streets half a world away from the tournament, and all those honking horns in certain parts of town when a given team wins, they all must seem very odd to the non-fan. It’s just a game.
But what a game!
On the other hand, saying that a World Cup match is “just a game” is kind of like saying that Halloween is “just a day”, or a wedding feast is “just a meal”, or that Mardi Gras in Rio is “just a parade”. All accurate statements, but they miss the point. All of these things are festivals, pageants, epic plays – where people come together, wear different clothes, act silly, go through strange rituals, and celebrate mundane things like a day, a meal, a walk down the street – or 90 minutes of grown men kicking a little ball.
And it is the very weirdness and counter-intuitive logic of it that makes it such a special occasion. A celebration is powerful because it doesn’t make sense.
Unless you are human.
So once every four years, I become part of a soccer tribe. I wear my orange. I honk my horn happily and wave at people wearing the same colour. I seek out other like-minded people. I celebrate the weirdness.
And you know what? I do this even though I’ve never been in touch with the actual Dutch football club. I’m not in their database, I’m not their Facebook fan. I have no direct “relationship” with the brand in classic marketing terms. I just want to be part of it.
How about you?
Enjoy the game. Just a game. A beautiful, beautiful game