Let's say it is Friday and this evening your country – one of England, Wales or Northern Ireland, for the sake of argument – is playing in the biggest football game in their history.
It might be the round of 16, or even further along that wall chart you've been obsessing over, but it's definitely a knockout game, and your plan is to watch all the drama at home. Sounds pretty straight forward, right? Don't be fooled – this is a potential minefield. You need to plan meticulously and prepare for every possible scenario if you want to ensure everything runs smoothly.
So given it's a Friday, your first potential banana skin is the commute home. If you're smart, maybe you saw this day coming and booked a holiday.
But for most of us there is rush hour traffic to negotiate. Given it's the end of the week, people will be inclined to leave early anyway, and with the football even more so. That could mean chaos. So think about the worst commute you've ever had and use that as your guide for just how much time to leave yourself.
Commute done and dusted, you're home with ample time to spare. By now you should have made all the bargains necessary on the home front to ensure you have exclusive access to the main TV for the duration. If at this point additional demands are made (painting the spare room, mowing the lawn, etc.) simply agree to all of them on the spot. You can always renegotiate at a later date. But if you've planned properly you should have plenty of brownie points in your favour and such underhand tactics won't be necessary.
So the TV is on, the pre-match punditry is in full swing and you're all set. Everything you're going to need should be within arm's reach for the next couple of hours or so: lucky charms, scarves, flags, comedy wigs – if these things have become important totems during the tournament, make sure they're here now to provide their potent magical power.
Sitting on a sofa for two hours watching a football game can be very demanding physically, what with the nervous fidgeting, imitating the kicks and headers of goalmouth scrambles during the game, performing your own goal celebrations when (and if) you score, persistently shouting at the referee for any and all decisions not given in your favour. To keep your energy levels up you'll need plenty of carbs – a.k.a. peanuts and crisps - not to mention a healthy supply of rehydrating liquids – we recommend beer.
If the whole family is going to watch the game, it's vitally important to set some ground rules. Children need to recognize the solemnity of the occasion and be left in no doubt that disruptions will be met with swift justice, such as the removal of snack or internet privileges. But try to keep them onside, bearing in mind that you may require them to act as gofers for more refreshments during crucial moments of the game.
If after 90 minutes the game is still level (4-4, let's say), you've got extra time to think about. By this stage, younger members of the family might have dangerously high-boredom levels and be inclined to complain. Now is the time to reiterate the ground rules. Or perhaps in your nervous state you have been 'rehydrating' a little too quickly, so take this time to have a strong coffee or a herbal tea – you don't want to collapse unconscious during a penalty shoot-out.
And if it does come down to the shoot-out? Now more than ever you need the power of your lucky charms: rub the lucky badge, readjust the lucky comedy wig. For those less mystically inclined, a stress ball might be of some use, as well as a heart rate and blood pressure monitor. And when it's finally all over and you've enjoyed an unbelievable victory? Well you better start planning, because the next game is going to be even bigger...
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