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Euro Cup 101: Traditions in post-hegemonic masculinity

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

As Euro Cup fever grips Toronto for the second week running, more and more residents are fed up with the non-stop honking, high-fiving and street partying that has paralyzed a number of neighbourhoods. But, as with so much European culture, what appears to some as idiotic celebration hides a continental tradition of profound intellectual inquiry .

"We probably look like a bunch of morons driving around the block for four hours," says Mimo, who drove his Jeep Wrangler around the block for four hours on three separate evenings this week. "Through ritual action," he explained, quoting Carl Jung, "attention and interest are led back to the inner sacred precinct."

"Yeah, guy," added his enthusiastic cousin, Nick, who was wearing a muscle shirt and pumping his fist in the air. "It's like what Nietzsche said about the eternal recurrence of the same," he said.

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But while some see the Euro Cup as an opportunity to celebrate European philosophical notions, others favour a more forward-leaning continental analysis.

"I see it all as this raging post-feminist commentary on the defunct hegemonic tradition," yelled Angela over the din of pounding bass in her white Hyundai Sonata, which was filled with four similarly festive girlfriends. "You've got these two extremely skilled teams who can't score on one another, revealing the futility of so-called dominance in a post-postmodern value system."

"I see it more as a study in changing gender narratives," interjected her friend Sasha, who was simultaneously putting on lipstick and dancing in the back seat. "You have a field full of men embracing homoeroticism, displaying heightened levels of emotion, and exhibiting an almost comically low pain threshold – all traditionally feminine traits, quote-unquote."

And to some fans, the Euro Cup isn't isn't so much about soccer as the European mathematical concepts the game sometimes portrays.

Following Monday's match between Spain and Croatia, the 1-0 score reminded Mike, who took off his shirt to display his well-defined chest and biceps, of the binary algebraic system on which modern computing is based. "It's called Boolean logic," Mike said between beer belches, and then pointed out that the high-definition broadcast he and others watched at a sports bar was, fundamentally, just a stream of ones and zeroes.

As Mike reveled in cosmic meaning, nearby Alex was driving his Honda Civic and honking his horn incessantly. When Mike gave Alex the finger, Alex stopped the car and rolled down his tinted window. A crowd formed.

"What is honking," Alex shouted out the window, paraphrasing Gustave Flaubert, "but a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to when we long to move the stars to tears?" Then he squealed his tires and drove off.

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Several blocks north in Corso Italia, meanwhile, a fan named Sylvia saw the Euro Cup as an opportunity to engage in the existentially informed questioning of national identity that is as old as European nationalism itself.

"What is the meaning of 'Italy'?" she implored a crowd of fans whose faces were painted like the Italian flag. "The north, an industrial giant that puts the Rhine Valley to shame, wants a divorce from the South, a feudal basket case. A single tiny village can't even agree on the recipe for a ragu, let alone the entire so-called country."

Her remarks were met by hooting and fist-pumping. The philosophically charged crowd then marched west on St. Clair licking gelato and obnoxiously chanting "Viva Italia!," the irony lost on everyone but themselves.

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