England Swings

I published a second post on Basket of Kisses, the premier fan site for AMC’s Mad Men series. This one is a no-brainer, as the episode Signal 30 is set in 1966 and opens with one of the characters, an Englishman, watching the World Cup Final on television:

“And here comes Hurst! He’s got… Some people are on the pitch! They think it’s all over! It is now, it’s four!”

With those words the BBC’s Kenneth Wolstenholme marked a sea change in England’s history, culture, and mood. On July 30, England’s soccer team won the 1966 World Cup, defeating West Germany by a score of four goals to two in match that took place in the pantheon of soccer – Wembley Stadium, on the outskirts of London.

England Captain Bobby Moore (OBE) held aloft with the Jules Rimet trophy by Sir Geoff Hurst (L) and Marttin Peters (OBE, R)

Lane Pryce was a reluctant spectator to the event. He tried to convince his wife to show up late:  “The first half of a football match is just  . . .flirting” but they ended up arriving on time to watch it from the tony confines of a Manhattan pub. The scene from Signal 30 captures the very end of the match, when England’s Geoff Hurst became the first player ever to score three goals in a final, sealing England’s win. The pub goes wild and we see Lane and the other fans breaking into a raucous chorus of God Save the Queen.

Lane is full of Blighty

Soccer in the 60s was a simpler affair than it is now. Players’ salaries, as in baseball here, were much humbler and the game possessed less artifice. It was also harder, with officials allowing tackles that today would result in a red card expulsion for violent play. Coming in “over the ball” (planting your studs in your opponent’s shin or ankle, with disregard for the ball that would be between you) was not unusual. The rules for substitution were also much simpler: none were allowed. The eleven who started were the only ones allowed to play. If a player was injured, he would stay on and do what he could. The legendary Pelé of Brazil was systematically kicked out of their match vs. Portugal and finished on one leg, barely able to move as his side went crashing out of the tournament 1-3 losers.

In this setting, soccer’s similarity to warfare was greater than now. World War II was not far in the rear-view mirror and many in the sports world still remembered serving and fighting. Wolstenhome, the sports commentator, was a member of the RAF and flew 100 missions over Germany. A famous professional, Bert Trautmann served in the Luftwaffe and (for the rest of this post please go to the Basket of Kisses blog)

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