Sunday 13 July 2014

World Cup final: Late school start for Andy... or Andy's dad?

On Thursday, I received this SMS from my daughter’s secondary school:
“All students are to report to school at 8.45 a.m. on 14/07/2014 (Monday) as SDL will be cancelled in view of the World Cup Final.”
The message raised a few questions.

So I asked my daughter.

What does SDL stand for?

She said Self-Directed Learning, which means a period where students are given worksheets to do.

What time does she usually have to be in school on Mondays? She said 7.55am.

So school will start 50 minutes later “in view of the World Cup”? It makes the World Cup sound like the equivalent of an MRT breakdown.

Hey, since people are going to be late anyway because of the cup final, which kicks off at 3am Singapore time, let’s plan for it. Let’s just cancel the first period.

But why should our children’s education be compromised because of a sporting event that we don’t even have a stake in?

It’s not like it’s a cup final between Singapore and Malaysia. If we were to beat Malaysia, I would even understand if the Ministry of Education declared the next day a school holiday.

But it’s a final between Argentina and Germany... oh, I know who has a stake in the match.

Andy and his father.

At this point, it seems the whole world knows about Andy and unseen father, who bet Andy's savings on Germany in an ad that is supposed to discourage gambling.

The month-old National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) ad went viral after Germany brutalised Brazil 7-1 in the World Cup semi-final.

Even US comedian Jimmy Fallon made fun of the ad on The Tonight Show, although wisely, unlike one Malaysian politician, Fallon didn’t make any Hitler jokes.

Some have commented that Fallon mocking the ad made Singapore famous again.

Actually, I watched the whole show and he never mentioned Singapore.

Before bringing up the anti-gambling ad, Fallon was doing a gag about Brazil’s goalkeeper tweeting during the match.

Then the talk show host said:
“Have you seen this? Before the World Cup started, they played this anti-gambling commercial. Gambling addiction is a serious problem. But obviously, they wrote this commercial before yesterday’s game because it doesn’t really make sense anymore.”

Who is “they”?

In this context, viewers were likely to assume that “they” means Brazil since Fallon had just been talking about the Brazilian keeper in Brazil.

The NCPG ad itself doesn’t mention Singapore anywhere.

And if you have never been to Brazil, you might even believe that the kids in the ad are Brazilian.

Maybe I’m loco, but Andy looks vaguely Latino to me. His father could be Ricky Martin.

But then if Andy’s father is Ricky Martin, who is Puerto Rican, then the singer would probably bet all of Andy’s savings on Puerto Rico, not Germany – and Puerto Rico isn’t even in the World Cup.

Then Andy would really have reason to be sad.

Anyway, my point is, Fallon mocking the ad didn’t make Singapore famous again, but it certainly made Fallon famous in Singapore.

While I’m at it, I also want to correct a Facebook comment about the ad by Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck, who posted:
“Germany beat Brazil 7-1! Brazil need to find out what went wrong and I need to find the scriptwriter for the gambling control advertisement.”
I’m sorry, but as a former TV and movie scriptwriter, I can’t let this pass.

While the actors in the ad may be saying lines from a script, the person who wrote the ad is called a copywriter, not a scriptwriter.

This is an important distinction to me because if I had become a copywriter and gone into advertising, I could’ve made more money and afford to become a gambler like Andy’s father, who is probably not Ricky Martin.

So on the one hand, the NCPG ad is telling us to “kick the habit” and “stop problem gambling” by showing a boy lamenting about his father betting on Germany.

On the other hand, my daughter’s school is cancelling a period because of a football match where many fathers could very well be betting on Germany.

Talk about mixed signals.

Actually, it may not be even for the students. My daughter said that when they were asked during assembly how many of them watched the World Cup, the response was “underwhelming”. She suspects that the later reporting time is more for the benefit of the school’s adult staff.

Of course, my daughter’s school is not the only one.

Serangoon Garden Secondary School is delaying its reporting time to 11am tomorrow. Other schools have gone so far as to organise late night screenings of the cup final and sleepovers.

Is this the new community norm?

So there are parents complaining about a children’s book about gay penguins in the library (Fallon should be making fun of Penguin-gate on The Tonight Show soon), but everyone is okay with this?

I think I know why.

One of the toughest jobs as a parent is getting the kids to wake up early every morning to go to school. So the later they can go, the better.

For parents like us, we wish there could be a World Cup final every night.

We don’t even care who wins. Well, as long as we’re not Andy’s father.

But for one night tonight, we’re livin’ la vida loca.

- Pubished in The New Paper, 13 July 2014

UPDATE: Despite this declaration by "President Tony Tan Keng Yam", the day after the World Cup final is not a public holiday. Sorry.

Also, NCPG updated its website after Germany wins World Cup.