There are so many wonderful reasons to want to be Irish by one remove – the creativity of the cuisine, the glorious weather, the bogs – that it seems ungrateful to complain.
But it's around the time of any major soccer tournament that it begins to feel a bit trying. Because it is less than fun to support a national team whose sole reason for existence is to be hammered slowly into the soft, yielding competitive ground like a rail spike by other, better soccer countries.
But that's our cross to bear. We can remind ourselves how good we have it while sitting in the corner gnawing on a raw potato. Delicious.
You? Who knows what you are? You've been smart enough to keep that to yourself. You can waltz into work this morning and announce at the a.m. sales meeting, "Everybody, just a small reminder. I'm German. I've always been German. The fact that my last name is O'Leary shouldn't confuse anyone. My people are from Berlitz."
"You mean Berlin?"
Better yet, why bother pretending to be European at all? Europe's over. Everyone knows that.
If you aren't European, you're free. Free to make your own choices and support whichever team you'd like. Europe spent the past few centuries annexing everyone else. Now, you get to annex them. It's only fair.
You like soccer? Of course, you do. If you don't, more's the better. Once Euro 2016 gets under way, you get to follow an honest-to-God sports spectacular without emotional risk. Let's find you a country to pretend to be from.
Italy: I'm not sure I'd recommend this one. Their team is iffy. Which means they'll probably only make the semi-finals. But if you do find yourself in the midst of actual Italians, they will be able to smell your treachery. You'll be the only one screaming, "Go forward!" while they all want everyone to track back. That would be embarrassing, especially when someone asks you what "Azzurri" means and you say, "Coffee? No, no, wait, those little cookies?" If you are not especially cosmopolitan, think twice.
Germany: Smart choice. Cowardly, but smart. Germany is the RRSP of world soccer. Everything else is looking for the word "Dynamic" in a company name and borrowing money to buy stock. They'll probably win this thing, but you'll know you weren't there for the bad days. (Checks back for "bad days.") Okay, there weren't many bad days. But still. Risk a little. It'll feel better later.
England: Points for bravery. First, answer these questions: I handle disappointment well and rarely have violent fits of pique. I have never had an issue with blood pressure. Wayne Rooney's hair looks pretty real and lustrous to me and I'd like to run my hands through it, like, a lot. If the answer to any of these is "No," you could have a problem. Perhaps best to move on.
Spain: This is the first bright thing you've said so far. Spain is the team for you. You're the sort of person who doesn't really know what's going on and prefers it when the entire game is one bizarre geometric meander around midfield. You're not really in this for wins. You're in it for art. As a true aficionado, results are meaningless. What matters is that everything is complicated, and ends up in a shot 18 feet wide of goal from a hundred bajillion metres out. However, if you are a more results-oriented person, perhaps just keep this one in your back pocket.
France: No one ever got hurt resorting to homerism. That's a rule in sports journalism. They put that up in press boxes: "Cheering encouraged." I can see why this one caught your eye – the team is strong. Or, as we say in France, strong (while taking a drag off a cigarette). Unlike England, they also have interesting hair. They will, of course, fall to fighting among themselves, which is their main tactical deployment. That will fester and spread, possibly to your house. Would you like a couple of French players living in your basement while they work things out back at their maison? This could be years of your life in exchange for four fun weeks of internal strife.
Netherlands: Since they haven't qualified for the Euro this time around, this will mark you as a real iconoclast. Who knew someone could be so (fake) Dutch, and yet so transcendental? But how do you look in head-to-toe orange? Precisely.
Belgium: Point out Belgium on a map. I thought not.
Russia: Ooh, the bad guys. That's a nice turn. Why wait until the Olympics to go dark? Do it now, when the doping scandal is still just a glimmer on the horizon. But remember, this will mean giving regular urine samples. Having those fixed is not cheap.
Portugal: You're all in on Cristiano Ronaldo, are you? I'm sure he'll be so happy to hear that you've been … actually, we just heard back from him and he isn't really interested in being supported by you. It's not that there's anything wrong with you. He wants to make that clear. He's just worried you'll end up standing beside him in a photo and make him look schlubby and unglamorous by association.
Switzerland: We heard back from them as well. They also don't want you. And, yes, it's because they think there's something wrong with you.
Croatia, Austria, Poland, Czech Republic, Turkey, Wales, Iceland, Ukraine, Sweden, Northern Ireland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and Albania: If you're going to make an honest effort to phony-support a team that has almost no chance, the least you can do is learn their native dances. That way, you can amuse the actual natives with your bad Canadian flopping around. Also, all of these are functionally Ireland. No-hopers. Which of course means …
Ireland: I'd like to say this is a bad idea – because it is – but the truth is, Ireland needs you. They're going to lose this thing. Badly. Washington Generals badly. The support would really be appreciated. In return for helping the Irish absorb the beating to come, you have the vast bounty of that island country to console you.
Here. Have some of my potato.