Nobody knows anything
By Michael Davies
Special to Page 2

Day 8: June 8, ANA Hotel, Sapporo, 2:30 a.m.

I have just arrived back in my crap hotel room (worse than the Bristol, Conn., Radisson) from the Sapporo Dome, site of England's staggering victory over Argentina. Taki is forcing me, forcing me, I say (and boy how I resisted, "All right, Taki, see you there, mate"), to join him at a hot new DJ space he's heard about. He tells me to dress casual, so, being English, I have removed the silk handkerchief from my breast pocket and not polished my shoes.

I jump in a cab and repeat to myself 200 times -- "must not get drunk again tonight, must not get drunk again tonight ..." I look out the window as we drive by group after group of reveling England fans making their way back to their hotels. It's already getting light, we're a long way up north, I'm out again way past my bedtime.

"England Rave," Somewhere, Sapporo, 3 a.m.
"A beer, please!" I've somehow immediately found the bar in this dark, grimy basement space underneath a brown concrete office building. I see Taki, Gustavo and Diego, with the girls, Miyuki and Satoko. Diego and I hug; he's taking the Argentinian loss like a man. Gustavo seems more unhappy, and he's only Colombian.

I look around me. A sub-5-foot DJ works behind a massive setup at the far end of the room. About 100 young Japanese ravers, a couple of them Rastafari, move about (tough to call this dancing), facing, trancelike, in that direction. Among them, dozens of pasty, lumpy England fans dance around frenetically, barely able to contain their joy, alcohol and wobbly man breasts.

It's a mellow evening. I think we're all stunned or just tired from last night. Satoko has to leave. She seems very sad. She's bought us all silk handkerchieves. She asks us a question somewhat forlornly in Japanese. Taki translates, "She asks when are you all coming back to Sapporo?"

"Erm ..."

ANA, Flight XXX, to Haneda, seat 8B, 11:45 a.m.
I am seated next to an Australian who has been living in Tokyo for seven years. He works for a large Dutch corporation, running their industrial lighting division. He knows a lot about Japan, he speaks perfect Japanese, so naturally, we talk about cricket. I do, though, ask him what he thinks the lasting effect of this World Cup will be on Japan. He thinks for a moment and gives me two possible answers -- that the failing economy will receive a much-needed stimulus and that relations will improve with South Korea. The latter would be important, he tells me, not only for Japanese business, but for the Japanese conscience, after the occupation of Korea during WWII. "It wasn't quite cricket during the war, if you know what I mean, mate."

Francesco Totti
Italy's Francesco Totti is in disbelief over his team's 2-1 loss to Croatia.
Back in my room at the Pan Pacific, Yokohama, 1:45 p.m.
I was, of course, greeted personally at the door by Satoe Sugie, the head concierge, who had already sent my bags to the room, arranged my Internet connection and ordered me traditional English tea service. As I stuff nine or 10 cakes, tarts and scones down my gullet, washed down by cup after cup of milky, sugary tea, I devour the match reports from the England game in the English language newspapers and on the Internet. Rob Hughes, in the International Herald Tribune, gets it just right, setting the England victory in the context of this already vintage World Cup:

"Yet so many games have transcended customary first round cautiousness, and so many have provided the ultimate stimulus in sports, that we turn up to each game like men and women on blind dates. We have a vague idea of how it might go, but we are open to any surprise."

On television they are playing Game 2 of the NBA Finals. I love the NBA, but despite another thundering dunk from Shaquille O'Neal, it all just seems so small, so insular. The Laker girls come out during a timeout and give it some wiggle. They're wearing "Pearl Harbor" promotional T-shirts.

That will go down well here.

The Press Room, International Media Center, 5:25 p.m.
I sit next to an older Italian journalist in the press room to watch the Italy-Croatia game. "I hope you weel not take the offense," he says, "but weeth that team Eengland can not to win the World Cup."

"I don't care," I reply, "we beat Argentina."

"But you can not ween the seven matches to win the big," he continues. "Only the Azurri, the Italy, can win the seven matches."

We sit and watch as Croatia promptly, if somewhat fortunately, beats Italy two goals to one.

The legendary screenwriter, William Goldman, opened his book about the movie business, "Adventures In The Screen Trade," with the oft quoted, "Nobody knows anything."

Football is no different. France, Italy and Argentina, all three pre-tournament favorites, have all lost during the first eight days of the tournament. Any of them might still "win the big," but anybody who tells you that they know who will win it for sure, well, refer them to Bill.

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 7: Soccer is the curse of the drinking class

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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