If you're recording a World Cup game, good luck trying to avoid discovering the result

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During the World Cup, it's almost impossible to avoid soccer fans whose demeanor will instantly tell you whether their team has won or lost. It's not difficult to tell how these US fans in Hermosa Beach, California, are feeling after the winning goal against Ghana.


Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

If you’ve been watching the World Cup, you’ve probably seen a certain TV commercial from Hyundai.

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It features a guy who’s trying to avoid learning any news of a World Cup match as it’s happening because he’s recording it for later viewing. At the office, he plugs his ears and avoids screens of all sorts. He tells a friend to “zip it.”

But then he arrives home where he’s greeted by his daughter.

“Daddy, we won!”

That man might as well be me.  

I thought I’d have it easy at this tournament. There’s a mere one hour difference between most of Brazil and the eastern United States. No problem. The trouble is the matches are scheduled with the European viewer in mind. And prime time in Europe happens to be mid-afternoon here in Boston.

So, like the guy in TV commercial, I’m stuck at work — and I work in a newsroom. It is the worst place in the entire world to try to stay ignorant. There are TV screens everywhere, sports bar style. There are computers spewing out news. There are my colleagues — serious-minded people who normally follow events in Iraq and Israel and Sudan who, all of a sudden, cannot stop talking about soccer. I need a mute button on humanity.

This week’s US-Ghana match took place at 6 p.m. my time. Lucky me. (But not so lucky for people in Seattle, or Anchorage.) I had time to get home and watch live.

The opening game, Brazil against Croatia, kicked off at 4 p.m. my time, and I was determined to shield myself from the result. I acted like the Hyundai guy: I spoke to no-one, shut off the computer, averted my eyes, ignored my phone. It worked like a dream. It really seemed possible to live in an information vacuum while continuing my daily routine. You didn’t have to actually hibernate to avoid knowing the score.

That’s what I was telling myself as I left the newsroom for the day. When I was nearly home, I ran across a street soccer game. A bunch of kids were playing. They all had those yellow jerseys on — Brazil colors. Quite a few Brazilians live in my neighbourhood.

I wasn’t worried. I didn’t feel the need to switch on my spoiler alert radar. Kids play street soccer after big games, win or lose. But looking again at what these kids were doing, I could see this wasn’t a regular game: they were practicing a move — the same move, over and over again. One kid would fall down, then look to the skies as if giving thanks. Then another would shoot the ball at a wall, penalty style. “What kind of game is that?” I asked? One of the kids answered: “It’s the penalty [Brazilian forward] Fred won today. Thanks to that, Brazil won.”

Not only had these kids spilled the result, but they’d showed me how the game was won. And there wasn’t a TV screen or smart phone in sight.

I take it back: hibernation is the answer. Set the alarm for when you want to watch the game.

On second thought, don’t. It’s probably a radio alarm.