Saturday, June 12, 2010

Soccer Saturday

(**Note: Book contest is still ongoing till Thursday. See post from 6/10 for more details.*)

It’s that time again. The athletes. The competition. The anxiety that has been building for 4 years until this very moment. No, it’s not the Olympics, it’s the World Cup!

Definition of the World Cup: The most popular sporting event on the planet.

Why? Because it is the largest, most competitive tournament of the world’s most popular sport.

Not convinced? Maybe these will change your mind:

My rebuttal to the haters who say soccer is boring is that they don’t understand it. If you did, you wouldn’t feel this way. This is, however, coming from a true believer. I drank the Kool-Aid at a young age and I keep going back for more! So bad, in fact, is my addiction that not even concussions, broken bones (an ankle and collarbone), gashes, bruises, torn muscles, sunburns, grass stains, dehydration, and perpetually calloused feet can keep me away. Yeah, I got it bad.

In truth, if you aren’t well versed in the rules of soccer you’ll likely miss a lot. I believe at its core soccer is a game of nuance. That slight move by an offensive player may be the difference between a breakaway or an offside’s call. To break it down in writing terms, it’s that tipping point between an agent saying they want to sign you or saying they liked the material but it may not be quite strong enough in this tough market. It’s part learned craft, part shear talent, part luck and, when taken together in just the right mix, it’s beautiful. It’s magic.

My friend Mia in Denmark tells me about the shops closing down when the Danish team is playing. The whole community comes together in huddled masses to cheer, to hope, to wish what might be possible. Together they hold their communal breath for 90 grueling minutes to learn the fate of their team and the bragging rights of their country.

My brother in Chile was out in the streets celebrating with neighbors, friends, complete strangers—the whole country—after it was announced that Chile had qualified for this year’s World Cup. And it was all over the papers because the World Cup is BIG news and no team’s entrance or performance is guaranteed. You want a world stage well here it is because soccer is the one sport, the one craze, the one addiction that the whole world can agree upon.

Need evidence? Here’s a photograph of people in Italy celebrating in the streets, their flags visible in every direction for as far as you can see.

And this isn’t just in Italy, it’s everywhere from large urban epicenters to the smallest, rural towns. From bustling tourist destinations to never-heard-of communities tucked away in quiet corners.

In the U.S., however, the World Cup is a different kind of beast. In my opinion, it’s a bit of a re-dress of St. Patrick’s Day. Pubs get packed and people become filled with ancestral pride. Cheer for our national team? Sure but unlike a lot of other countries, we’re apt to also cheer for the countries where our family roots were first sewn.

My soccer experience today will be a mix of pure joy (the World Cup is on!!!!) as well as distress. I’m part English but I’m all American. And today, of course, the two countries face off. There’s no turning back.

Now you have to understand, I love England. I do. I love so many English things: dry humor, their beer and cider, Aerobars, digestive biscuits, their accents, their castles, they have a queen! And let’s not forget the British gave us J.K. Rowling, Ian McEwan, Shakespeare, the Beatles, David Beckham, “Chuck” from Gossip Girl, and none other than Robert Pattison. Oh, so many many loves of mine.

So it is not without distress and much deliberation that I do what needs to be done: Dress in red, white, and blue; head down to the English pub where the game is being televised and pray to God I make it out of there alive and, with any luck, a belly full of my favorite English cider and a U.S. win under my belt.


  1. Oh man, remember when they did that scandalous spread (haha) of a bunch of DC United players? I was one of those girlsportsfans we cannot stand (but only for like 2 months, then I found another imaginary man-crush).

  2. Saturday at the Newseum in DC, the Today's Front Pages exhibit: All of the front pages from the 77 countries (including Canada) around the world -- each of them -- covered the World Cup. Not surprisingly, none of the US papers covered it. Although apparently people dressed in Revolutionary War costumes were front page news in NYC... ;)