The fat lady and the animal oracles


Unlike the usual years when fans have to face withdrawal symptoms in dealing with football-less days there are plenty of kicks in store until August.

A WEEK may be a long time in politics but as not as long as five minutes in football.

It has been more than 10 days since the game but it is still not easy to accept that Manchester City won the 2011/12 Premier League season on goal difference and in the most dramatic of styles.

Just when it seemed that a 44-year wait for the trophy would go on, City scored two stunning goals in five minutes of injury time against a 10-man Queens Park Rangers to deny Manchester United a record 20th title.

Edin Dzeko headed in the 93rd minute, making it 2-2 before Sergio Aguero slammed home the 95th minute winner.

As one colleague put it, no movie script writer could have come out with such a gut-wrenching, nerve-wracking finale in arguably the best game of the season.

It was a fervid moment of euphoria for the ABUs (Anything But United supporters) and corresponding misery for United diehards.

When it was still 2–1 with two more nail-biting minutes to go, the phone rang. It was Papa Joe aka Manuel Lazaroo, an old friend from Malacca and fellow Red Devil blaring that United had won the 20th. He had been watching the other game in which United had just beaten Sunderland 1 - 0.

The immediate response was an old phrase: “It’s not over till the fat lady sings.” She certainly did so later but sadly, the song was Blue Moon not Glory, Glory Man United.

For those unfamiliar with the expression about the fat lady’s singing, it is meant to emphasise that nothing is over until the final act is played out. The phrase can be traced to German opera via American sports.

Dan Cook, a TV sports editor from Texas famously used it during a basketball game in 1978 to illustrate that the series wasn’t over yet after a team’s loss. Its use has been continued over the years.

The ‘fat lady’ in the context is Brunnhilde, the name of the character in a Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle opera which often lasts for hours.

When, Brunnhilde, usually depicted as a portly woman, begins her final solo — which can last for up to 10 minutes — there’s only one line left in the opera, sung after her death. So, the prolonged show is truly over when she sings.

Incidentally, Brunnhilde is supposed to be the inspiration behind Broom Hilda, the famous comic strip’s title character. The witch with green skin and a wart on her nose is the conjectural ex-wife of Attila the Hun who is forever looking for a new husband, but never succeeds for obvious reasons.

Now that the EPL’s ‘fat lady’ has sung, there’s nothing more to say until the next one begins. In every competitive sport, there will be winners and losers.

Real fans accept this and bind their emotions into the destiny of the teams that are dearest to their hearts.

They don’t engage in what Susan Krauss Whitbourne, professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst describes as “BIRGing” and “CORFing.”

BIRG is “basking in reflected glory” while CORF is “cutting off reflected failure” and distancing oneself from a losing team.

Understandably, with City’s win and current strength of team, the numbers of gloating “BIRGers” have risen, never mind the fact that and many of them are actually ABUs and “CORFers” whose real teams remain as perpetual underachievers.

Looking at this humorously can be a salve in dealing with disappointment, the third most frequently experienced human emotion, after love and regret.

Fortunately, unlike the usual years when fans have to face withdrawal symptoms in dealing with football-less days until August, there are plenty of kicks in store over the next three months.

Euro 2012, hosted by Poland and Ukraine, is set to provide the thrills between June 8 and July1. Then it would be the London Olympics from July 27 to Aug 12.

Two animals — a pig and an elephant — have already hogged the headlines before the start of the 14th European championship.

A ‘psychic pig’ and a ‘mystic elephant’ are ready to take over from where Paul the Octopus left off at the 2010 World Cup.

The boar, known simply as the “Soothsayer Hog”, would predict the result of games by choosing between two plates of food bearing the flags of the playing teams.

The pig has been billed as “a unique oracle hog and a psychic which knows the mysteries of football.”

According to government spokesperson Svetlana Bovkun, the pig, described as “very kind and friendly”, watches all football matches with his owner.

The pig will have “his own little house” built for him at fan zone in the country’s capital of Kiev.

It is not known if it would be made of straw, sticks or bricks, but it sounds like the perfect place for losers of bets to huff and puff and try blow it down.

Not to be outdone, Poland trumpeted its own animal soothsayer — Citta the mystic elephant.

Unlike the hog, Citta would predict the outcome of group matches by choosing one of three apples to signify a win, lose or draw.

By the way, Citta emerged as country’s choice of oracle after beating Katherine the ass and Jacko the parrot by correctly predicting Chelsea’s win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final.

> Associate Editor M. Veera Pandiyan likes this quote by George Orwell: Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible.

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