The curse of the drinking class
By Michael Davies
Special to Page 2

Day 7: Hangover from Hell, Foot of God

June 7, Room 912, the ANA Hotel Sapporo, 1:05 p.m.

I am awoken by the barely recognizable theme from "Star Wars" playing on my rented cell phone. I don't remember quite how it got on my phone, but I think it happened last night and that somehow it is connected to karaoke. Frankly, it's all a bit of a haze.

It's Taki. "How do you say viciously hung over in Japanese?" I ask him, trying in vain to make my voice sound like I've been up for hours. "Futsuka yoi means hangover." Sounds just like what I'm feeling. I am feeling viciously futsuka yoi.

FLASHBACK: June 6, on the way to Haneda Airport in Satoe Sugie's car, 6:45 p.m.


    To: The Head Concierge, any hotel I have ever stayed at, except the Pan Pacific in Yokohama

    From: Michael Davies

    Re: You suck

    My name is Michael Davies. In my experience, partly formed by my time under your "care," you are a snotty, rude, generally unhelpful person with an unpleasant air of inflated self-importance. You tend to know very little about the cities in which your hotels are based. Like your cousins, the maitre d' at a restaurant that's not nearly as good as it thinks it is and the Prada sales assistant who can hardly repress his glee as he informs you that he doesn't carry trousers with a 36-inch waist, I think you're a pratt.

    What has prompted me to send this memo? I wanted to let you know that I am currently being personally driven to the airport by Satoe Sugie, the wondrous and charming Head Concierge at the superb Pan Pacific Hotel in Yokohama. She and her equally amazing staff have spoken to the airline, reserved my seat and given me two handwritten notes in Japanese for the railway ticket agent at the Chitose Airport and the taxi driver at Sapporo Station so I can safely and quickly get to my hotel.

    Furthermore, Satoe has also checked all the train times for me and highlighted the ones which are fastest. She has recommended three local restaurants -- sushi, steak or Italian -- which stay open late enough for me to dine. She has given me her personal cell phone number, so I can call her if I have any problem. She has even offered to personally take me on a tour of Tokyo on her day off.

    You should be ashamed. Next time I am forced to stay in your overpriced hotel, I will make sure to behave like a royal pain in the ass. The end.

Michael Davies and friends
Before the futsuka sets in: A toast to, from left, Miyuki, Satoko, Michael Davies, Taki, Diego and Gustavo.
Zen Restaurant, Downtown Sapporo, 11:35 p.m.
I'm eating Italian food in Japan with Taki, Diego and Gustavo. It sounds like a sentence from an "English as a foreign language" textbook. But at the World Cup, this is what it's all about -- international harmony. These guys are friends of Taki's from ESPN international. Diego, who is unfortunately Argentinian (screw the harmony), is a commentator and producer for ESPN in South America, but he's just here, like me, for fun. Gustavo is from Colombia and is producing taped features that will run on ESPN all over the world. We start drinking.

We are joined by two Japanese girls, one of whom Taki met earlier in the day. She sold him his brand new khaki, army surplus-ish jacket. With his long hair and high cheekbones, he looks like a model, as does Gustavo. Wow, that sounds gay. No offense to Diego, but we're both clearly there to make up the numbers.

Miyuki and Satoko are sweet girls in their early 20s who speak very little English. Taki is spending his whole time translating for Gustavo, who, like many Latin men, just knows how to turn on the charm. Diego and I are becoming way too friendly ahead of the big game tomorrow between our beloved countries -- but honestly, the whole English thing is feeling less and less important to me every day. I'm cheering just as loudly for Japan, the United States and Ireland. And mostly, I just want to see great football. I've officially become someone I am completely bored by.

Bar Kakure, Susukino, 1 a.m.
Michael Davies
Must ... lie down. ... Room is spinning. .... "Roxanne, you don't have to ..."
We move on to an after-hours bar where Satoko has a coupon that gives her everything she can drink for two hours for 1,000 yen, less than nine bucks. This seems like a fabulous marketing idea, but horrible business. I could drink them into bankruptcy. And we try.

Satoko turns to me and stuns me with, in perfect English, "Would you like some cheese?" Now she's talking my language! I love cheese, I tell her. "It is my favorite dairy product." She tells me I have beautiful eyes. I comment on how small her hands are. It is the world's most pathetic conversation. I am getting drunk. We all are. We eat fried octopus and do shots. It is turning into a rollicking good evening.

Some karaoke bar, somewhere, sometime afterward
I am singing "8 days a week"; it is slurry. Someone sings in Japanese. It's Satoko, I think. Gustavo isn't there anymore. I have to lie down. The room spins. I sit up; it's light outside. Diego and I sing "Roxanne." He's even worse than me.

Room 912, the ANA Hotel, 8 a.m.
My alarm goes off, I am sleeping on the floor, half of me is in the closet. I crawl into bed.

Flash forward
England game
Oxford United's biggest fan in Japan and an unhappy Argentine in the background.
The Media Center, Sapporo Dome, 5:15 p.m.
From the outside, this is the most disappointing stadium so far ... it looks like an enormous silver mushroom. I haven't been inside yet. The media center is packed, tonight's game certainly the most anticipated matchup so far. I am watching Sweden play Nigeria on one of the 100 or so televisions in the press room and Sweden is trying to hold on, up 2-1. Nigeria just hit the post.

England really needs Nigeria to score, or they're in big trouble in Group F. But despite perhaps the greatest goal celebration ever after Nigeria's first goal (Julius Aghahowa turned seven back flips in a row and pretty much stuck a backward somersault landing), I can't help but root for the Swedes. I think of my soon-to-be cousin-in-law, Jakob; he'll be back in Stockholm watching this. As will the rest of my future Swedish family. I must not succumb, I think, I must not succumb as my ancestors must have done (my middle name is Peterson, from my great-great-grandfather, my arm hair is blond) to the bloody Swedes. I have a stormer of a headache.

Sweden holds on for the win. The English journalists sitting around me start writing their stories. "England's World Cup was over before a ball was kicked in Sapporo." What a depressing bunch. So negative. No wonder I left Britain.

Section C, Row 8, seat 28, 8:10 p.m.
England game
The scoreboard tells the story amid England flags at the final whistle.
I am sitting in a section of hard-core England fans. They -- or more accurately, we -- are currently chanting "CHEATING ARGIE BASKETS" or words to that effect at Ariel Ortega, the Argentinian midfielder with the curly 1970s hair who has just committed an appalling foul on David Beckham. Or was it a perfectly clean challenge? I'm not sure we really care.

Three fans really stand out. The Japanese kid wearing, incongruously, an Oxford United shirt (not big in England, but apparently big in Japan) with the George Cross painted on both his cheeks. The guy from Scotland who's come as Pierluigi Collina, the best referee in the world, but looks like the forgotten member of The Addam's Family. And the 300-pound Argentinian who has had the misfortune to end up in the English section. But the truth is, it's all the English section in the Sapporo Dome tonight. The fans are amazing. I am proud to be English again. But I still loathe most of our football writers.

Pierluigi Collina
Pierluigi Collina
But right now I feel like I'm going to puke. And it's not the hangover that seemed to disappear the moment the game kicked off. It's the relentless Argentinian pressure. England is up 1-0 from a first-half Beckham penalty. If England can hang on -- and it can't, surely -- this will be England's biggest victory at the World Cup since it won it by beating Germany in the final in 1966. But more importantly, the pain all England felt that sunny afternoon in Mexico City in 1986 and that awful night in St. Etienne, France, four years ago will be -- if not fully -- at least miraculously healed.

If you don't understand these references, you're reading the wrong column.

Another save from David Seaman. He still looks stupid with that ponytail, but tonight, I love him.

Same row, same seat, different dimension, 8:30 p.m.
I am simultaneously in ecstasy and disbelief. England deserved this victory. They simply wanted it more. You could tell. Though England played almost continuous defense in the second half, the Argentines lacked, of all things, imagination, in the face of an inspiring exhibition of grit and resolve and determination. I wish I had better words, but it was written on the faces of the England players and heard in the tackles. And insane as it sounds, England could have scored a second. Michael Owen hit the post in the first half before he was fouled in the box for the penalty. Beckham hit just wide after an amazing run, and Teddy Sheringham and Paul Scholes contacted with phenomenal volleys that forced superb saves from the Argentinian 'keeper. Scholes was phenomenal tonight, as were Sol Campbell and Rio Ferdinand in the middle of the defense.

David Beckham, David Seaman
David Beckham jumps into the arms of ponytailed 'keeper David Seaman after England's victory.
And Danny Mills and Ashley Cole out wide. And Trevor Sinclair was tireless after young Owen Hargreaves limped off after suffering a second crunching tackle. And the English papers said he wasn't good enough to play at international level. He just played against arguably, the best team in the world, and gave them fits.

Nice one, Trevor.

The press room, Sapporo Dome Media Center, 11:45 p.m.
The English hacks all around me are furiously rewriting their prewritten negative templates. I'm not a professional writer, but tonight I feel more professional than them.

Taki comes over. "What are you doing tonight?" I ask him.

"You mean, what are we doing?" Oh crap, it's going to be another long evening.

Please send more aspirin.

Michael Davies, a native of London, is executive producer of ABC's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." He'll be filing five diary entries per week from the World Cup for Page 2.



Michael Davies Archive

Complete 2002 World Cup coverage

Davies Day 6: I've got your U.S. boys' backs

Davies Day 5: Turning Japanese

Davies Day 4: Satellite Stadium, take a bow

Davies Day 3: Where's the passion?

Davies Day 2: Ga-ga over the boys in green

Davies Day 0 and Day 1: The 'other' football

Take the World Cup quiz: No. 1

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