I view the World Cup like that movie The Crying Game. We all know about it....just none of us have watched it.
I am one of those people who only care about soccer when the World Cup rolls around. I really want to watch. I really want to be involved. I just can't.
It's not like I am just some dumb American who thinks soccer is for wusses and that we Yankees and Cowboys are too macho for it. In fact, from college to my adult life, I have been surrounded by soccer loving friends. In college, I was friends with many Greeks [not the fraternity "greeks".....Greeks from Greece]. Those Greeks compromised most of my collegiate team. I currently have a friend who played professionally for Serbia when it was part of the former Yugoslavia.
I catch the highlights. I want to be part of the entire pageantry of this event. I just can't. I am an American.
I won't miss work to watch the US team face off against the Czech Republic tomorrow. Heck, I probably forget that it will come on around noon. I have no idea what city they are playing in. And I probably can't name one player on the team.
I wasn't even aware of the World Cup until 1994 when the event was held in America. The only reason it was here was to get us involved in the sports. Since then, we've erected Major League Soccer which still hasn't resonated with most of the country. We also had a very good showing in the 2002 Cup....but that tournament was held across the world in Japan and South Korea. Most of America didn't watch because the games were live when they were asleep.
These games are in Germany....smack dab in the middle of Europe which is soccer central. I can watch them live....but I just don't really care.
Well, I do care....just not enough to watch. I want us to win....and that Czech game is a very, very big game for us. At least, that's what I am told. I probably will watch the Americans play....but have no interest in watching anything else....with maybe the exception of the championship match. I just can't watch soccer. It just doesn't interest me to see the game....no matter how popular or beautiful it may be.
Please don't be too angry, soccer people. I have the same interest in hockey. Well, except that I can watch hockey even if I have no stake in either team. But I love football....and watched maybe 5 minutes of today's Arena Bowl XX. I like baseball...but I think I've only watched one full baseball game all year long [Cubs-Reds a few weeks ago].
Maybe it isn't my fault. It's my upbringing. When I was a kid....we all played Little League. As I grew up, Little League turned into recreational basketball leagues. But now, soccer is the sport for kids. I have no idea why? Well, I have a theory. It is the one sport that even unathletic kids can get away with. You can stick that big lumbering kid as the goalie....or the two left-footed nerd somewhere out in the field. They blend in and just kick the ball when it comes to them. In baseball, balls are hit at you and you have to stand at a plate and hit them. There is no hiding poor talent. In basketball, you have to have some sort of hand-eye coordination out there. In football, you could get really hurt. In soccer....we all have fun!
And that's not a knock at the sport. I am sure that these athletes put many of the other sports' athletes to shame. And I am truly amazed at what they do.
Maybe because, as an American, I can only root for one team. I mean, why do I care about Portugal or Italy??? I did root against Iran today....just because. And I will root a bit for England....since a friend of my dad's from the UK mailed a English soccer hat to my dad to give me. But I don't really care who wins any other match. Just as long as it ain't the French!
It dawns on me that maybe this isn't for us. Sure, the soccer world would love the money that is sitting over here [why else would David Beckham ponder about coming to the MLS]....but maybe that just isn't our sporting lot. We already plunder the best basketball players to come to our NBA. We have an NHL full of players from all over Canada and Europe...despite having just a few of our own American players in a league which 24 of the 30 teams are in this country. Major League Baseball is filled with players from Latin America and the Far East. So why do we need the best soccer here? We have good players and a decent soccer culture.....but there just isn't the national interest in it. There is no shame in having our greats go over to Europe and South America to play in their leagues.
It isn't our sport, anyways. Unlike football, baseball and basketball.....soccer wasn't our invention. It is the world's game. The world's sport. The world's tournament. It would go on even if we weren't invited.
We are invited. And we should care. We should be in awe.
What other sport can have this following? This event will be played and watched by people in America.....in Mexico....in Argentina....in England.....in Poland....in Angola....in Korea.....in Iran. What other sporting event can really claim that? No...not even the Olympics. The Olympics are still dominated by the big countries who can have multiple entries in events [see: USA]. Sure, an occassional small country story breaks thru....but not like soccer. Even for the Super Bowl....you won't find the entire country gathered together to root for one common cause.
And that's what makes this event truly special. Every four years, countries who hate each other can find themselves on the same field in the name of sport. Cultures divided can come together to root for one cause. National pride is at it's highest.
We should be privleged to be part of it.
For real World Cup blogging....go to World Cup Football 2006 - Germany 2006 - FIFA - World Cup Soccer Blog