I recall having previously posted a blog about handball and also recall not many being highly interested. It is a sport not big outside of Europe – not yet at least. In Iceland however it is HUGE and we are very good at it to boot. Which brings to mind the question about what came first – the chicken or the egg. As obvious as the answer to that is (the egg came first of course as egg-laying species far outdate a chicken) – so is the answer to why handball is so popular here pretty apparent, we like it because our players are good at it. Any nation loves the sport which allows them to shine.
This week marked the start of the handball world championship, held in Sweden. To date the Icelandic team has played three games, been up against Japan, Austria and Hungary. We have won all three nations without breaking a sweat. This is not surprising as we won a silver medal at the Olympics in Peking 2008, losing the gold to the current world champions from France. If I am allowed to brag it is pretty amazing. Iceland only has about 315.000 people so to advance within a group sport in the world arena is pretty darn impressive - even though the game is a bit obscure in a big chunk of the world.
Sports are usually not my thing at all. To tell you the truth I don‘t even know how many players there are on each team in a handball match. In my defense it all moves very, very fast. But despite this I enjoy following the occasional national game, all the more so if we win than when we don‘t. If you are interested in how it works I can share the little I do know – namely that it is a bit like taking soccer and basketball and dividing it by two. Having read this description I assume there would be no takers if I were to offer tickets to a handball game but you can take my word for it – this is much more interesting than soccer. To me nothing really happens during those games for 88 minutes, only two minutes per game seem interesting, if you are lucky. Usually it is 89 minutes boring and 30 seconds fun – the score at the end says it all. 0-0, 1-0 and in unusual cases 2-1. Handball is a whole lot more lively, and in addition the players are tough, not crybabies like some soccer players that double as minor role actors from an episode of ER when gently prodded.
My daughter plays handball and loves it. She could most likely tell you how many players are required. Her enthusiasm is genuine despite her having entered the playing field for all the wrong reasons. When she was six the school sent her home with a flyer from the local handball club, enticing kids to join the team. A footnote mentioned bingo and a pizza evening sometime during the season. It was the footnote that sold her the idea and she has been practicing and competing since, despite arriving home really disappointed from her third practice years ago when still six - wanting to quit as there had been no bingo and much less any pizza involved.
I read somewhere that sports, be it direct participation or the on looking fan kind, soothe the human need of belonging to a team, flocking behind a winner or conqueror. This same urge has gotten us as a race into truly awful endeavors involving war and crimes that make one gag. Putting the horror to one side, this theory also explains why so much money is involved in sports, if you find something that fulfills a genetically based need or urge – you have got it made.
On this note of competing and winning – not only am I proud of the Icelandic national team, I am highly impressed and happy for Tim Hallinan who has no less than been nominated for the 2011 Edgar Best Novel Award for his wonderful book The Queen of Patpong. That’s the way to do it – forget Miss Congeniality, go for the one that counts. Rah, rah Tim!
Yrsa - Wednesday