Emerging from the Wilderness Years (1919-2008) has prompted a bewildering range of emotions about the central role these perennial long shots have played in my life, particularly in my relationship with my father, who passed away last August.Despite the funny aspects, the writer goes on to point out the pivotal role that a long-shot Scottish team (Queen of hte South) has made it to the Scottish Cup final the year his father passed away.
Legendary Scottish soccer coach Bill Shankly (on whom Mr. Duvall's character was modelled) was once quoted as saying: "Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don't like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that."
For Shanks this was a truism -- he was once outraged at having been accused of taking his wife to see an unglamorous Lancashire side, Rochdale, for their anniversary. "Of course, not. It was her birthday. Would I have got married in the football season? Anyway, it was Rochdale reserves," he grouched.
In some respects this was true of my father, a man who took his future wife to a minor English soccer match on their second date, the first having been to a wrestling bout.
I'm left to conclude he was something of a jinx on the Queens. He passed away last August and they have been virtually unbeatable ever since. When they won the quarter-final game I found his e-mail address on my Black-Berry -- I've been unable to delete it -- and sent him a note to let him know we made it. I think he got it -- at any rate, it didn't bounce back as undeliverable.People often scoff at soccer, but substitute Boston Red Sox or Chicago Cubs for Queen of the South and you get how people feel about soccer around the world--with as much passion and as much heart as any american fan.
Maybe it's just as well he wasn't around to watch the semi-final against Aberdeen last Saturday. He had a notoriously nervous stomach and this was a white knuckle ride. Three times Queens led against their more illustrious opponents, three times Aberdeen equalized. Then, with half an hour to go, Queens scored a fourth and Aberdeen had nothing left to give.
So we're off to the final in Glasgow next month, my six-year-old son James and I. We'll both be wearing our Queens' jerseys with pride, just as I did half-a-lifetime ago when I first went to see them with my own Dad. It's only a game but as any sports fan knows, in many ways, it's much more important than that.