The pageantry. The spectacle. The sight of thousands of fans screaming and cheering for their country. No, I’m not all riled up over the Winter Olypmics. I’m waiting patiently for the World Cup.
It’s the greatest single event in sports, bar none. No other event, international or relative to a country, can come close to matching the sheer aura of World Cup time. It transcends sports.
World Cup brought peace to a war-torn Ivory Coast in 2006. When is the last time any country other than the home country even cared slightly about the Olympics?
What else is there in the sporting world that can even hold a candle to the World Cup? The Super Bowl? The commercialized, advertisement-injected, bloated super monster of an otherwise bland and uneventful championship game? Please, I’d rather watch curling.
Well, what about March Madness? Sure, you get the "Cinderella" upsets a few times a year, but it always turns out almost exactly as predicted. It’s only really exciting for alcoholic frat kids and compulsive gamblers anyway. There’s no representing one’s country, no spectacle of millions of fans coming together on the world stage to watch their country compete in the world’s game.
I remember when I wasn’t a believer in this philosophy. It was my sophomore year of high school and I was a football player. My coaches always told me soccer was for the weak. If I didn’t actively try to break other player’s bones in practice, they would always threateningly point to the soccer field and tell me to go join them. Well in the summer of ‘06, I did.
Even though I was reluctant to do so, I watched the World Cup that summer. Every minute of it.
I had never seen a display of sport so intricate and exquisite. The technique, the passion, the devotion from fans – it was all a unique phenomenon. I actually enjoyed watching random, seemingly irreverent teams play their first round games. Much more so than watching an overhyped, underwhelming game stuffed with beer commercials targeting my age group.
World Cup just captures that essence of sport that so many championship games or international competitions fail to achieve. This is the only sporting event that I can feel good about actually rooting for someone. Sure, players carry just as much fame and importance in soccer than in other sports, but it’s so easy to dodge that as an American and simply root for a country. Individual players are the fabric of basketball, baseball and football in America, but not soccer. Name one player on the American soccer team. Don’t peek at the Internet either. Landon Donovan or Tim Howard might be guessable, but that’s a stretch. It’s all about the country.
All I’m asking is that you try it out. Just watch a game or two; watch Spain pass the ball with elaborate detail and creativity. Watch the Germans power through the back line and rattle off shots on goal. Watch the Americans struggle to find an identity in their own country. I promise you won’t be disappointed.