In South Africa, as around the rest of the world (probably), we like to tease Americans for knowing almost nothing about anywhere other than America. Books are written as if everyone is a US citizen. Issues outside the border are not issues. Africa is a country. A particular area of amusement was 'The World Series' played in and by Americans. I later found out that 'The World' was apparently the first sponsor and a New York newspaper. I am not sure naming a local newspaper the world is a get out of jail card.
Enter the 'World Cup' of Rugby. The two sports I care most deeply about are Rugby and Cricket. South Africa is a genuine contender. New Zealand is perhaps the most dominant international team in any sport. Losing to them is what every team does. So arguably South Africa are perennial #1 (first of the losers). It is great feeling like World beaters. Then I heard a British comedian say something along the lines of, 'The thing about Rugby, is that half the teams are us'. This is true. Only 4 teams have ever won the World Cup (New Zealand 2, Australia 2, South Africa 2, England 1). France has made a bunch of finals but never won (3). The other teams, are the British 'us' - Scotland, Wales, Ireland. Slowly, some new teams are being introduced.
I have really struggled to became a passionate football supporter despite that really being the obvious 'World' sport. Sport is the one area that I allow myself to become absolutely, completely and blindly supportive. I will not make comments like 'Time to put on my Australia jersey' when South Africa lose. If I am wearing Canary Yellow, it is because I have lost a bet. I will not place a bet against the Boks. I will get sullen and sulky when we lose. When I feel myself feeling happier and philosophically explaining the loss, I will berate myself. Losing should not feel good. Ever. Feeling awful when you lose is the price you pay for being allowed to celebrate when you win. Supporting the team when they lose is the price you pay for celebrating with them when they win.
So losing to Japan last night was a strange experience. I didn't have the emotional bank of 'how to reactions' to go to. Each missed kicked hadn't built up a 'that is going to cost us reaction'. I wasn't wired to look for referee errors to blame a loss on. That inbuilt whining defence mechanism was silenced because, well, we don't lose to Japan. It will turn around. I feel nothing but good will towards the Japanese team. Their players don't elicit admirritation like Richie McCaw and David Pocock.
I won't let myself feel good about the loss. The day you do that is the day you start preparing to do victory laps when you get a draw. But given that the next World Cup is in Japan in 2019, there was beneath my disappoint an enormous respect for the men in the red and white loops. They played incredibly well. They turned down two opportunities to go for a draw, for one chance, just one chance, to tell their kids about the day the Sun rose.