July 10, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


A Britpop and Football Summer (KYLE SMITH, July 10, 2021, National Review)

London theater is, if anything, even more delightful than New York's, and I was being lifted off the surface of the earth by what was billed as a "semi-professional" production of Stephen Sondheim's murderous masterpiece Sweeney Todd in Holland Park, still one of the most transcendent cultural experiences of my life, when I became aware that the audience had something else on its mind. Pre-Internet, pre-smart phones, word traveled . . . organically. Someone was posting the score of a concurrent soccer match on a blackboard near the bar. At intermission, we learned that England was running up a big lead over the Netherlands in the European "football" Championships. I'd played soccer as a boy, but I'd never heard of the Euros. From then on, not getting caught up in the frenzy was not an option. The English nation was hosting the championships of the English game. The biggest games were being played right here in London! Hence The Song.

"It's coming home, it's coming home . . ." I recalled that I am English, ethnically speaking, and everyone knows the U.S. men's soccer team is crap anyway. The England team would henceforth be my team.

"It's coming home, it's coming home, it's coming . . ." I've never been anywhere that was so saturated by a single tune for a moment in time. You didn't just hear it on the radio, or in pubs, or on television, it seemed the country itself was singing it. Suddenly, everywhere, flags, English ones: The English aren't flag-wavers because they find patriotism slightly embarrassing. But this was a form of national pride that absolutely everyone could get behind. The English nation was hosting the European teams in the English game.

"It's coming home, it's coming home, it's coming, football's coming home" were the opening lines of what was intended to be merely a novelty song by two comedians, David Baddiel and Frank Skinner, to hype the first-ever Euros to be held in soccer's birthplace, England. Yet "Three Lions," with music by the Britpop band the Lightning Seeds, turned out to be one of the catchiest pop songs ever written and became the new unofficial national anthem. It would be the soundtrack of England for all subsequent soccer tournaments. "30 years of hurt, never stopped me dreaming," ran the lyric. Could England deliver victory on its home soil?

First, they'd have to make it past the legendary German squad, three-time winners of the Euros. A left-wing tabloid, The Daily Mirror, printed a frightful joke on its front page, a parody of Neville Chamberlain's war announcement declaring "football war on Germany." Then the Germans won the game, a semifinal, when a defender named Gareth Southgate missed a penalty kick, with eleven-year-old Charlie Cooke watching in anguish from behind the goal at Wembley. I found it satisfying that the magical year in English football was the year of my birth -- 1966. Winners of the World Cup that year, they never made it to the finals of either the World Cup or the Euros at any point after that.

Until now. Last week England, now managed by the same Gareth Southgate, finally dispatched Germany, the team that beat them in 1996. Earlier this week they beat Denmark in the semifinal. Sunday brings the championship match against the fearsome Italians. I wish I could be there. If you've never fallen in love with another country, I recommend it unreservedly. "Three lions on the shirt . . ."

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


Black Sea Drills Showcase Strong NATO-Ukraine Defense Ties (Associated Press, July 10, 2021)

ABOARD USS ROSS - Ukraine and NATO have conducted Black Sea drills involving dozens of warships in a two-week show of their strong defense ties and capability following a confrontation between Russia's military forces and a British destroyer off Crimea last month.

The Sea Breeze 2021 maneuvers set to wrap up Saturday involved about 30 warships and 40 aircraft from NATO members and Ukraine. The captain of the USS Ross, a U.S. Navy destroyer that took part in the drills, said the exercise was designed to improve how the equipment and personnel of the participating nations operate together. 

"We'd like to demonstrate to everybody, the international community, that no one nation can claim the Black Sea or any international body of water," Commander John D. John said aboard the guided missile destroyer previously deployed to the area for drills. "Those bodies of water belong to the international community, and we're committed to ensure that all nations have access to international waterways."