Forty-six million turkeys surrender their lives so Americans can celebrate Thanksgiving. It is an occasion where traditionally families gather together for a scrumptious meal of turkey and trimmings, numerous side dishes and pumpkin pie, followed by … college football on TV — that is American football, a game somewhat similar to rugby.
The holiday is meant to commemorate the first Thanksgiving when the pilgrims who ventured to America gave thanks for a good harvest. It was a time when a poor harvest could have meant famine in winter. Never now in our sophisticated world where we import grapes from the southern hemisphere (Chile) for consumption in winter and many fruits are available year round.
This year there is the added entertainment of the soccer World Cup in Qatar, being played out in eight purpose-built stadiums, seven new and one refurbished. Most will be converted for other uses after the event, a change from the past.
The US now has a team that held England, where the game was invented, to a draw. The favorites remain the Latin American powerhouses like Brazil and Argentina but the Europeans can on occasion pull off a surprise.
Why certain games are popular in one country and not another is difficult to explain. India and China, the world’s most populous countries, are absent at the World Cup. On the other hand, India is a powerhouse in another British game: cricket. And China remains a top performer at the Olympics.
The crowd turning out for cricket matches, particularly between arch rivals India and Pakistan remain unmatched by other sports played there, even field hockey where the two countries have also been fairly successful.
Leveraging sports celebrity into a political career is also possible but success on the cricket pitch may not always be transferred to administrative competence. Imran Khan’s innings as prime minister led to members of his own party defecting, and ended when he lost his parliamentary majority.
Still attracting large crowds of supporters who are entertained at his rallies before he himself appears, he is asking his supporters to march to the capital — echoes of another leader this time in the US, Donald Trump, who has just announced a bid for re-election.
Meanwhile, Imran Khan has been secretly recorded planning illegal tactics and barred from holding political office by the courts in Pakistan. Exactly how he plans to rule if his party or coalition were to win is not clear — by proxy perhaps.
If all this is not enough, he has become notorious for doing U-turns on policy leaving his party members and supporters scrambling in his wake — a reminder if ever there was of the old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”