My family is not particularly close. It’s not that we don’t much care for each other, it’s that we actually don’t particularly much care for each other; a subtle but vital difference. Most of the things we have in common are the result of living in the same house and as such don’t serve as suitable material to bond over. We are actually of varying and opposite opinions on a wide range of subjects; discussions are more than likely to end badly. So we keep to ourselves so that we may be perfectly polite and well-mannered when unavoidable encounters pop-up, as they are bound to.
This changes for about a month every four years when the FIFA World Cup finals start. Suddenly a wide range of material becomes available for discussion: favorites, final scores, bad calls by referees and coaches, rumors, physical properties of the official ball (including elasticity and hardness), best goal, upcoming games, hot women in the stands, and on a related note, the Brazilian Samba dancers who we have been privy to seeing live on a few occasions, political implications of Mexico’s victory over Iran, etc.
The fact that we (yes, you) are the only idiots that call the game Soccer and reserve the term Football for a game in which the ball is kicked into an upside down goalpost a couple of times per game in a desperate attempt to gain a few lousy extra points is bound to come up.
We watch, we cheer, we bond.
After the national team lost 3-0 to Czech Republic last week, I had a particular observation to share and a prediction to go with it. Before the game came on I switched to Univision (the local Spanish station), which I feel has the superior commentators. There was one distinct difference about this game than those before it. When referring to the U.S. team they said “our team”. The players were “our boys” and the coach, “our coach”. The pre-game host even waved a USA jersey at some point.
Tired of those proceedings, with the game still a few minutes away, I flipped to ESPN. They use the familiar talking-heads approach to pre-game commentary, with a couple of the usual suspects plus one Women’s World Cup winner from the US team who’s name I can’t recall and a uber-annoying retired MLS/US player, Erik Winalda. These guys stiffly refer to our national team as the “U.S.” and can’t summon up an ounce of emotion. What are they so serious about? Compare them to the guys over at the BBC who work themselves up into a frenzy before, during, and after any English national game (and, let’s face it, the British aren’t particularly known for getting worked up over anything). You could argue that this is technically a “newscast” and should be unbiased and fair but I’d laugh in your face; first, for thinking that the news is unbiased and fair, and second, for calling a futbol (sorry, soccer) game news. You don’t have to cheer them on during the broadcast, ESPN, but at least admit those guys out there have some relation to you. The rest of you (born and adopted Americans) shut up and cheer for our team! If you truly don’t care or can’t be bothered by it, fine; but if you are going to watch the Cup, please allow yourself to get excited. This is a truly international competition at the highest level (I'm sorry, the World Series!? What world is that? The World of North America minus Mexico?).
The prediction I had and will probably not see tested this time around is this: if the U.S. team would miraculously (and I do mean miraculously) get past the group games and somehow past the Round of Sixteen, everybody and their mother will also miraculously become a soccer fanatic. Oh, how fast you jump bandwagons, America.
Oh, and watch the game on Univision; you might not understand most of it, but nobody misses:
As a last minute comment, I am convinced that the US cheering section has the best-looking women despite the previously mentioned Brazilian Samba dancers. At least we have that going for us.
See you soon,Ja.
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