Vancouver Whitecaps: In the Land of Pain

Julian Barnes once wrote this about grief

“…you do come out of it, that’s true. After a year, after five. But you don’t come out of it like a train coming out of a tunnel, bursting through the downs into sunshine ……. you come out of it as a gull comes out of an oil-slick. You are tarred and feathered for life”

That’s far too elegant a description of far too important a feeling to cheapen by employing it in a blog about a soccer club but if recent world events have taught us anything it’s that class gets you nowhere and crass gets you everywhere so let’s go with it.

And anyway, Barnes’ words can legitimately be applied to things other than grief.

Because we’re tarred and feathered by everything in one way or another.

Even the mundane inanity of living in a society where commercial transactions can be regarded as both sacred and profane leaves a mark. The simultaneous celebration and denigration of commercialism can’t help but seep inside us.

And the strange thing about sport is how it somehow manages to fall somewhere in the centre of the sacred and the profane.

Or rather, it somehow manages to occupy both states at once.

Nobody can attend a Vancouver Whitecaps game at BC Place and not feel the cloying clasp of commerce on their shoulder.

But neither can one watch a game and not sense the spirit of something more intangible. The joy at a moment of magic, the laughter at a moment of farce and the sense that those around you, in that instance at least, feel the same or something similar.

And perhaps that’s why a football team can leave us tarred and feathered by their faults far more than something like a cable company or an airline.

We’re happy to accept the latter as purely monetary transactions while the former, for many of us, is closer to (pick your own word here) community, art, religion, history etc. etc.

So when it goes wrong for a football team we feel it more because it means more.

If we were to play a word association game with regard to the Whitecaps season thus far I think “dislocation” would fit the bill.

The sense that things aren’t quite aligned correctly.

Like watching a 3D movie without the glasses on we see that all the characters are in place but their actions are blurred and without focus.

To the extent that when things happen we really can’t say for sure whether they are for good or ill.

Every result seems to have a multitude of meanings because no single thing can ever mean more than the dislocation of the whole.

And that sense of dislocation begins to manifest itself in strange forms.

In the same way that in any domestic relationship the arguments about who should have bought the milk and how the dishwasher should be loaded aren’t really about milk and dishes but simply ways of dancing around bigger issues without embracing them then so the Whitecaps now find their supporters bickering over posters and apps and player Tweets and things the coach has said.

Perhaps things can be turned around?


But the sense of an ending that’s been hanging over everything almost since the season began means they won’t be turned around with minor adjustments to formations or using different words in post-game interviews.

Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and fly straight through that oil slick if you want to get back into the light.

One thought on “Vancouver Whitecaps: In the Land of Pain”

  1. A true fan puts the club above niceties and the fear of hurt feelings. We need to sweep this culture of complacency to the shit bin where it belongs and demand the owners get serious about winning. Why support a club that spits in your face with half-hearted performances? I’ll go watch Aunt Rose play bridge instead, at least she gives a damn.


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