For the press, the World Cup is like Christmas. Half of them write blistering articles attacking the English manager, the other half about their strategies for avoiding any sight of football for the month of June.
Far from a world united - non-footballer Jules Rimet's original dream - we witness a great schism between the Care-an-Awful-Lots (me included) and the Don't-Care-A-Jots. Surely there must be ways of bridging this divide? Here are some suggestions...
If you're among the carers, make sure you store up credits before the game. Now is the time to take your daughter swimming or your partner shopping for that digital washer-drier that will free up more time for watching re-runs of The Office. Note: any trips to buy a High Definition TV will be misconstrued and arguments like "You'll see every blade of grass on Emmerdale" treated with justified suspicion.
If you're an avoider, try holding your loved one's hand during key games while flipping through Country Life with the other. You won't have to do much of this - hand holding, that is - because this limb will usually be punching the air or wiping away tears. You will gain enormous kudos just by nodding sympathetically as they quiz the referee's parentage and eyesight in equal measure.
The phrase, "It's only a game" should not, repeat not, be uttered by either party. For the fan, it's disingenuous; for the football hater, it's the first step toward divorce. Animals and children should not be present in the room unless it's Mexico v Togo when a small amount of light conversation and non-controversial family arrangements may be discussed during goal-kicks.
Above all, remember that in the relative safety of the Western World, football allows an acceptable outlet for repressed masculine aggression and we will all feel better, fans and non-fans alike, come July 9th.
Or will we?
For the true fan, post-final blues will set in for a month or so. We haven't had to consider tricky questions like the meaning of life, gas bills, and the economy for a glorious month. Help us to re-enter gently, and the summer will be worth having. I'm ensuring this by putting a large bet on Germany to win in the ambitious hope that when they do, I can buy my wife something wonderful for putting up with me, Beckham's tattoo, and Wayne Rooney's tender metatarsal.
Naturally, as I've never won a bet before, I'm hoping for some subtle voodoo effect to work in my favour. Then, if England win - as they surely have the potential to - I'll buy the same present and won't mind going broke. Here we go!
Originally published: Thu 08 Jun 2006