Recently Will Groeneveld was checking his pea acres in north-central Alberta — and chatting about the upcoming World Cup of Soccer.
He was chatting about it with me, by phone, as I sat in my minivan after getting an oil change.
We met through ag Twitter and discovered our joint passion for English and World Cup soccer.
That’s the fabulous modern world we now live in. Odd little interests of disparate people can form communities in ways not possible 20 years ago.
Watching European soccer isn’t an odd little interest in Winnipeg or other North American cities now. It’s a wildly growing passion in urban areas across North America, with English Premier League football sending throngs of supporters to pubs on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and Champions League matches seeing people sneaking out of their offices on midweek afternoons.
But it’s still an extremely rare passion out in the countryside.
“You don’t find many guys to talk to about it,” said Groeneveld, who has had a lifelong interest in soccer that grew greatly when his daughter got heavily involved in Edmonton.
“I can think of one or two guys around here who might acknowledge my interest, but nobody that I could sit down and have a discussion with.”
I’m wondering if that reality will change now because communications technology is making it so much easier to follow distant interests and sports.
The World Cup of soccer in Russia from mid-June through July will be a big test of this, for me anyway.
Will farmers be following the World Cup more than in the past?
It’s a spin on an old economic and sociological question about where social and economic development comes from. Do the right conditions naturally create certain specific social and economic outcomes, or are those outcomes mostly driven by the existing nature of the people, affected but not determined by the conditions?
Most farmers today have great access to a plethora of sports channels on TV. Many have satellite radio in their trucks and cabs. Live streaming feeds of foreign sports are easy to find on anybody’s mobile phone. I can sit in church and see a live text feed of whatever’s happening in a Liverpool match unfortunately scheduled for the same time as the service. (I’m hoping God can forgive me for the furtive glances at my mobile.)
This year it will be exceptionally easy to follow the World Cup anywhere a farmer has data access.
So, will they?
I’m guessing that more will tune in, but most will only pay slight attention, perhaps watching a match or two, but generally just hearing about and reading about the main results and highlights while they are checking out what happened in the worlds of hockey and football.
After all, beyond the general Canadian fixation with hockey and football, Canadians always have baseball to think about, and basketball has an ever-growing cultural power.
How much more sports-caring room will farmers have for an occasional event like the World Cup?
Probably not too much.
But I’ll be sneakily watching on Twitter and Facebook and other places people chat today to see if there’s much interest out there in farm country. I’m willing to be surprised.
Is Groeneveld suddenly going to find himself surrounded by neighbours excited by the prospects of Senegal making it out of the group stage, or whether Mo Salah can drive Egypt towards the final?
Or will it stay a particular lonely passion for him and those few farmers out there who care about the beautiful game?
If you’re one of the isolated soccer fans out there in farm country, let me know. You don’t have to be alone.