Some years, the calendar unfolds beneficently. The summer comes wide and open, leaving many hours to peel away from work to watch the World Cup or the Euros. Then, there are other summers, like this one, when you have a new job that chews away all possibility for furtive ventures to the Lucky Bar to watch Poland play Greece. Since I’ve only been back at The New Republic for a few weeks now, I’d be committing professional malpractice to fully cave to the implacable desire to watch every minute of this coming tournament. Yes, even in the world of opinion journalism, you’ll be shocked to learn there are trade-offs between work and pleasure. But there are also the moments when work becomes pleasure. And during my last tour at TNR, some of those greatest pleasures came with hosting our World Cup blogs. (Just for giggles, click here to revisit some of the writing from the last World Cup.)
We’ve never blogged this tournament before. But, dammit, it’s my favorite. It doesn’t have the eclecticism of the World Cup, but it has intimacy and intensity. The overall quality of the tournament is undoubtedly higher than the World Cup. There are no desert kingdoms or East Asian dictatorships waiting to be thrashed by eight goals. Even the worst teams are sufficiently well organized to potentially upset the whales. Then, there are the rivalries—England and France, Holland and Germany, etc, etc. The idea of post-war Europe was the transcendence of ancient intercontinental hatred; the idea of the Euros is for them to unfold with the highest drama, preferably with Frank Rijkaard spitting on Rudi Voeller.
I’m grateful to our cast of bloggers. And, to readers of TNR who hate the magazine’s indulgence of my soccer fetish, I’m sorry to report that Aleksandar Hemon will resume writing his monthly column about the game.
One final order of business: Who do I like? It's strange that Spain is the contrarian pick, given their tremendous and even unprecedented success. But they are creaky in places. Xavi, the essential cog, has played a tremendous number of games and hasn't consistently looked himself. Certainly, the odds are against them replicating their success in a grand tournament, with so many tricky opponents. But their system is beautiful and their system works.