Monday, June 27, 2016

175. Iceland

Maybe I shouldn’t give up hope so quickly. I think we’re conditioned to expect things to go a certain way. We expect our bus to come on time. We expect our car to start. We expect to sit down at a table for dinner when we usually do. But then there are those things that throw us off. They throw us out of our routine. Whether that’s getting sick, or getting hurt, or just a general errand that we don’t want to do. For instance, going grocery shopping instead of that afterwork exercise to blow off steam. I know I’m like that.

And then there are those days that surprise you, in a good way. Sometimes I think people have tried to commodify that as well. Not that that’s entirely a bad thing, but it feels sort of weird at times (i.e. subscription boxes, reddit gift exchanges.) I once signed up for one of those reddit gift exchanges. I got a fine gift, but it was from a guy whose username was something akin to “I love rape.” It was a little weird and I haven’t signed up for one since.

And then Iceland happened today. Their football (err, soccer) team defeated England in the Euro 2016 championship. That may not make any sense to people who haven’t been following the sport, but it’s a really big deal. England’s Premiere League is pretty much the gold standard for football leagues. Their national team hasn’t had as much success on the international stage, but they were supposed to do well this year. Iceland has the smallest population of any country that qualified for the Euros. It’s a great story that they qualified, but they really weren’t supposed to do well.

However, they had two draws and a win in the group stage, so they made it to the knockout round. And then they beat England today. Even though I like most of the England players because they play for Spurs, I wanted Iceland to win. I haven’t had the most favorable view of England since the Brexit vote and I wanted a hopeful, joyful story to replace the fear and cynicism that has hijacked the England narrative.

Maybe I shouldn’t give up on the small dedication of a hopeful group of people. Iceland shouldn’t be a European powerhouse. I mean, they aren’t among the Germany’s and Spain’s of the world just yet, but they’ve developed an infrastructure. They wanted to improve their soccer culture, and they have. And they beat one of the most powerful countries in the world, at least in terms of soccer currency. That’s got to feel good. It’s sort of like a win of a Cinderella team in March Madness, but this seems a whole lot sweeter.

Cynicism is easy. Being frustrated with things is easy. Blowing off steam is easy. But I’ve learned in life that the things you stick with are often the most rewarding. Kudos to Iceland for having a vision and carrying through with it. I appreciate those people and those entities who have hope for the future and build on it.

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