Ah, the World Cup.
It's another stay at home one for me. The nearest I will come to a Brazilian is if I slip in the bathroom while using my electric shaver. And that has only happened twice.
The first World Cup in my lifetime was Sweden 1958. I did not see much of it because
(a) I was three;
(b) Sweden '58 was in Sweden;
(c) we did not have a telly.
But subsequent World Cups received the same focused stares as those from the pub psychopath when you nudge his pint-holding elbow.
A series of chats with John, the column's resident psychiatrist, has made me aware that my approach to the World Cup is a symptom of a deep-seated neurosis that must be addressed by the adherence to a set of rituals. These are the 10 steps to World Cup serenity.
10. I must accept that I am not going to the World Cup.
This is normally an easy process until one's mate gently reveals that he is going with the rest of the gang. They didn't ask you because
(a) they knew you wouldn't be interested; or, more likely,
(b) they knew you would be interested.
9.I have to create time for the build-up.
This used to involve collecting stickers, gathering World Cup coins and games in the park pretending to be Pele. I only do the last now, much to the consternation of the mums in George V Park, Bearsden. As for World Cup posters, I am still a sucker. Though I need to find a sticker.
8. The schedule for viewing has to be drawn up.
This has complications this year. The kick-off times are roughly 5pm, 8pm and 11pm. I will be working during the first two times and, for the third, stuck to a leather couch by a line of dribble.
7. I have to negotiate the England factor.
This includes organising the office sweep for the first mention of 1966. Favourite is 30 seconds into the opening match, as in: "Yes, it's Brazil v Croatia. Brazil five times winner of the cup, but not in 1966 when England triumphantly grasped the Jules Rimet Trophy. Croatia, who have never won the tournament, unlike England who marched to memorable glory in 1966."
6. I have to negotiate the England optimism factor.
They head out to World Cups as misguided as a lemming heading for a picnic near a cliff. But as it grows ever closer, the pessimism is lost, replaced by statements like: "If we have a bit of luck, we could win this, you know." I reply: "If I have a bit of luck, I could take Penelope Cruz for a Nandos on the back of my Euro rollover winnings ."
5. Making up tactical terms to impress mates in the pub.
As they talk about false No.9s, forwards in the hole or the point man in the diamond, I usually throw in some pseudo-hipster babble. Often something like: "They need a genuine No.8 who links while tracking. They need someone who is more than a mere old-time inside-right, more of an after-eight."
4. Talking up a player that nobody has ever heard. of before the start of the tournament
This also is aimed at impressing the mates. There is no point droning on about the world's best, the likes of Suarez, Ronaldo or Xavi. Instead, you mutter sagely that the Honduran centre-backs may be the key to their progress, adding that Chelsea could worse than look at Jesus Garcia Maria Jesus Santamaria because of his pass percentage rate, the number of throw-ins he earns and how many kilometres he runs in the first half.
3. The anticipation of being introduced to punditry so cliche-ridden you could be forgiven for believing it was a Saturday column . . .
My hope is that the ITV line-up is bolstered by the acquisition of Noam Chomsky who would remark of the lack of development in coaching by telling Adrian Chiles: "If you're teaching today what you were teaching five years ago, either the field is dead or you are." Chiles would snigger and ask Mick McCarthy if he had ever been kept behind at school. McCarthy then steals Chiles' dinner money.
2. Making up words to national anthems.
My favourite is:
Oh Uruguay/ We'll do or die/ We're not Paraguay/We'll always try/Brazil's a pigsty/And so is Argentina and Chile.
1. FInding a team to support among the contenders.
That's easy. Argentina or Italy. Those of us raised on the killing fields of Scottish public parks know they try to play football the right way.