Take a chance on me

The movie “Mamma Mia” (2008) – from a musical which premiered in London and toured to New York, written and directed by Britons and inspired by the songs of Abba – is set on an idyllic (and fictional) Greek island. The setting gives the action a glorious Mediterranean backdrop: a deep azure sea, lustrous white houses. The hotel where much of the action is set, owned by one of the main characters, is ramshackle – but that is no more than we expect from the Mediterranean. The blue sea, the white houses, the rundown hotel are local color – grace notes, like the ones sung by the characters. In the film the central characters are Americans – a mother and daughter, long-time expats, who run the hotel. Three men (two Britons and a Swede) pay court to the mother; an equally international coterie of gal pals arrive to support her and her daughter, who is about to be married. The action is driven by spontaneous renditions from the songbook of Abba, the squeaky-clean Swedes who won Eurovision in 1974 and whose oddly accent-free English pronunciation (rumor had it they used phonetic transcriptions of the lyrics they sang), bouncy lyrics and jaunty melodies ruled the international airwaves during the late 1970s.

This is one side of European unification: Eurovision, a celebration of European music – albeit the cheesy side of European music; Abba, Eurovision’s biggest success story; Greece, insistently name-checked as the cradle of European culture (see, for instance, director Manoel de Oliveira crude and clumsy “A Talking Picture“; or Roberto Calasso’s encyclopedic Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony; or the fatuous but irresistible “Mediterraneo“, directed by Gabriele Salvatores). Eurocup 2012 brings a more strenuous vision of the European Union into the living rooms (and pubs) of the world. Recently in this blog Paolo Pasquariello  discussed the will to believe in the future of the EU (despite all the economic evidence of entropy) inspired by the Eurocup. It’s hard to image a more epochal match-up than tomorrow’s game, which pits Greece against Germany. I’m sure there is a cool head somewhere who can vet the two competitors without thinking about what the match means, in some arcane symbolic order …

If you would like to monetize the event, of course, the bookmakers are happy to oblige. European bookies offer 9 to 1 odds on Greece, while the Las Vegas sportsbook will pay 10 to 1 on a Greek win; Germany is favored on both sides of the Atlantic. But who can put a dollar value (or a euro value, for that matter) on a game like this? The match airs tomorrow (Friday, June 22) at 2:45 pm Michigan time, in a sitting room or pub near you.

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