Charles Simic recalls the excuses he offered the first time he watched his native Yugoslavia lose at the World Cup. The poet lists the four universal excuses given when a soccer team loses. “This, as far as I’m concerned, is one of the great unsolved mysteries of the universe: how is it possible that eleven more-than-competent club players, who stand together before the start of the game with solemn faces and even tears in their eyes as the national anthem is played, turn out to be completely clueless during the next ninety minutes on the field? How could France self-destruct, England play such uninspired soccer, Italy be so predictable, Brazil fall apart after some rough play by the Dutch, Argentina, who until that moment appeared invincible, watch helplessly as the Germans scored four goals?”
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