Hello and how are ya? Good.
The last thing I remember is Germany thumping Brazil 7-1. The whole world went slightly mad. One country crushed, the other triumphant. Withering disappointment in Brazil, a country gone weak at the knees. Germany exultant. Nobody hurt, only egos bruised.
The World Cup: Two teams of 11 on the field, arguing territory and space, finagling a breach here and there, the theatre of feigned injury and outrage, the ache for grace, beauty of movement and a victory that amounts to a round ball crossing a straight line and bulging a net.
Next thing I knew, I was sitting in Toronna watching our infinitely entertaining local news outlet, CP24. It was the night of that great institution in this fine city, Ford Fest. In which Rob Ford, currently the mayor, gambols and parties with like-minded people.
A young reporter was broadcasting live, summarizing. He had a witness, a chap he named “Joey.” He canvassed Joey’s opinion on Ford Fest. Joey announced he’d had four beers. Not necessarily at Ford Fest. But he’d had beers. He wanted it out there. Reporter guy soldiered on. Joey then said that he’d been hoping to hang out with Snow, the rapper and reggae artist. He declared that Snow was expected to attend and “promised to bring a bag of weed” but hadn’t fulfilled the promise. This left Joey somewhat chagrined.
Reporter guy moved away from Joey as fast as possible and made a babbling, googly-eyed end to his report. That’s when I knew I was definitely back in Toronna. For sure. Dear, dopey Toronna. Where it is always the silly season.
Normally, if I’m away in mid-summer, I wouldn’t be missing much and neither would you. It would be the silly season. Bad TV shows broadcast to the depressed and the housebound while most people enjoy the outdoors. Occasional outbreaks of great TV on cable. That sort of thing.
Not this year. There was no silly season. A summer of savagery is still unfolding. All across the world, all summer, on our TV screens, all the dead. No sooner was the World Cup finished than our screens were filled with images of destruction, death and grief.
A passenger plane blasted from the sky. The wreckage and the dead scattered over the fields in some godforsaken part of Ukraine that is apparently worth such savagery. The brutality of it. Later, the indelible impression on TV of a long line of hearses delivering the coffins of the dead in the Netherlands. The line that looked as if it would never end. What, pray tell, has the Netherlands done to deserve this pain?
The brutal conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Rockets raining down on either side. The wailing sound of anger and grief. Children bleeding to death on the street, reporters trying to stay emotionless. The gruff propaganda of both sides. Toxic words that result in death, in what Seamus Heaney called, “the exact and tribal, intimate revenge.” The debate about all this polluted by grandstanding, and by very male, malicious accusations.
Why this savagery now, and enacted day after day on our screens? It doesn’t stop because we’re numb to it, perhaps. No outrage to muster, no sensitivity to it. The aggressors know it, too. While the world is made smaller, super-connected by televised images and social media, most people remain narcissistic, immersed in the local, the silly-season frivolity. Not bothered at all by brutality, too accustomed as we are to its images. The impulse to humane love and reason stays inert. We are wise about how the world works, all those ceaseless eruptions of national, racial and religious hatred, and utterly lacking in moral wisdom.
In this strange moral space, in this summer of savagery, the marvel of international sport seems even more startlingly sane and benign. Old enmities acted out on fields of play, not fields and streets of rancour and pain. I cannot be the only one who longs already for the wonder of the World Cup.
We are in fact blessed that this summer of viciousness is bookended by two international sporting events. The World Cup in Brazil and now, unfolding in Canada, the Under-20 Women’s World Cup.
First the professional men’s game, sullied at times by cynicism, but still beautiful. Now the game played by young women and not just about gutsy effort and flying ponytails, but also about artistry and skill.
If there are issues of identity and ownership, it’s about everybody owning, sharing the game. Two teams of 11 on the field, arguing territory and space, finagling a breach here and there. Nobody hurt. Happy days.
The Knick (Friday, 11 p.m., TMN, Movie Central) is a new cable series worth your time. Clive Owen stars as John Thackery, a visionary, mercurial surgeon working in New York City at the start of the 20th century and trying to push forward his field. He toils at the Knickerbocker, a hospital that treats the city’s poorest and what we see of the surgery is, frankly, stomach-churning at times. Thackery is the man to change everything, but he is, in the current cable-drama style, a difficult anti-hero to admire. There’s a lushness and a bluntness to the series, made by Steven Soderbergh, who has abandoned movies for cable TV. It starts its shocking journey Friday. More on it later.