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What I Wish I'd Said: An Imagined Dialogue

Frank Foer: Luke, I'm putting together a Euros blog. Are you in?

Luke Dempsey: Couldn’t care less, Frank.

FF: The phrase is “could care less,” Mr. Dempsey.

LD: Not in England it’s not.

FF: You’re not IN England. You haven’t lived there for 17 years. I know for a fact that you missed the whole Jubilee thing . . . Must have been hard on you.

LD: You think I give two hoots about rich Queen Betsy and her husband, Phil the Greek?

[pause; Foer exhales]

FF: Are you still upset that your beloved Manchester United were 45 seconds away from glory, only for the other team from Manchester to pip you to the EPL title?

LD: I don’t have to do this, you know, Frankie boy. It’s not like you pay.

FF: Or is it because you’re English, and you know already your team will wander home from the Euros having scored one goal if they’re lucky?

LD: Could care less.

FF: Come on—you’re going to watch every minute of every game and you’re going to scream like a One Direction fan.

LD: We’ve had this conversation before. You know, and I know, that the best soccer you’ll ever see is no longer played in the World Cup, nor in the Euros. It’s in the Champions League.

FF: But, did you WATCH the Champions League this year? You know that Chelsea won, right? By playing 15 men behind the ball at all times, until Didier Drogba could be bothered to nick a goal. It was terrible stuff.

LD: The standard was still higher than anything you’ll see in the next few weeks.

FF: I don’t agree. Spain is a terrific team, despite no Villa or Puyols. Germany will always make the semis, if not further, and they play great stuff these days. Italy has Balotelli ready to murder racists, so he’s going to be busy. 

LD: If Balotelli’s going to murder racists, the Football Association had better watch out.

FF: That’s funny, Luke.

LD: You know you’re not paying me, right?

FF: Why are you SO bent out of shape?

LD: I’ll tell you why, Foer. Look at that England team. Pretty much every English player who plays for The Dirt—

FF: —who so?

LD:  —red half of Merseyside . . . Anyway, almost all their English players made the squad. Even Kelly was called up when Gary Cahill got injured, ahead of Rio Ferdinand. Racist decision or not (I’m going with not not, by the way), all those Dirty players? Why? Do you know The Dirt finished 37 points behind Citeh and United? 37 points! Meanwhile, no Carrick, no Scholes, no Micha Richards, but most of the Liverpool team were picked. Jordan Henderson. Let me repeat that: Jordan. Henderson. He’s keeping ME out of the England team, but only just. It’s a travesty. And it’s one we’ve seen played out over and over and over again. There’s a reason we never win anything. . . .

FF: What’s behind it?

LD:  “After-comers cannot guess the beauty been,” as Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote about a bunch of poplars that got cut down near Oxford. England is the place where everyone wants to live in some perfect version of the past. A time when all the boys were back from the wars, and we set tables up in the streets, and a bunch of cockneys sang “Roll out the barrel,” and the Morris Minor car ran like a dream, and we ate strawberries at Wimbledon and Dad was alive.

FF: I like strawberries . . .

LD: In soccer terms, what this means is that the “powers that be” still think it’s 1975 and The Dirt are all-conquering. They still think a black player can be excluded on the basis that he’s not white or because his brother was allegedly abused by a white player. They still think we should play with two big guys up front, or that hoofing the ball as far up field as possible (I’m looking at you, Stevie G and Jordan Henderboy) is the way to win at a sport that stopped doing that IN 1975! But it’s not really their fault. The entire country wants to live in the past. Liverpool players; sticky toffee pudding;Morris Minor ;The Jubilee.

FF: So who are you going to root for, given that you think you once lived in the worst country in the world.

LD: Hey, I can say stuff about my mother, but you can’t.

FF: Whatevs. What’s your team?

LD: Duh! Eng-er-land! I confidently predict we’ll beat the French, and then the Swedes, and then Ukraine, make it to the semi-finals playing free-flowing, attractive football around the small motor skills of Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ashley Young, we’ll take the Germans to pens where Joe Hart will both save the final kick, then take the sudden deather and bury it—COME ON! and HAVE IT!—then we’ll beat the Spanish 3-0 in the final, on a second-half, final five minutes hat-trick by John Terry (he won’t actually score them, he’ll just claim he did). The Queen will live till she’s 150. The Dirt will be disbanded. 

FF: “Each man kills the thing he loves.”

LD: Where’s my cash?