U-S-A! U-S-A! Uh…What Game Are We Watching Again? The World Cup & the Joys of Fair-Weather Fandom

I can feel it happening again. That un-earned pride. That need to boast. 

“Did you SEE that goal against Ghana?

In the first MINUTE? Yeah, that was Clint Dempsey.

Yup–plays for Seattle. He’s our boy.”

Like I’ve ever been to a Sounders game! Or any pro soccer game! Hey, I mean to, I really do. Just haven’t gotten around to it yet. But that doesn’t mean my pride in Team USA, and its northwestern components, is any less real.

(orig. image courtesy Erik Drost)

(orig. image courtesy Erik Drost)

Most English-language news stories I’ve heard about the World Cup have centered around the fact that this game seems to finally, maybe, perhaps, at last be catching on with TV viewers: a record 11 million-plus watched that first game, according to ESPN and Forbes. And they’re right, that is a story, though I’d be curious to see an ethnic breakdown to find out how much of that viewership is Mexican by heritage. Either way, it is indisputable that soccer is more popular as a TV sport now than ever before.

But that 11 million? It didn’t include me! I was traveling and didn’t even watch the game. A fact that takes nothing away from my ridiculous sense of pride in the victory. What IS up with that?

Personally, I think the real evidence that Americans have embraced the sport will be when our announcers start referring to the teams in the plural, like the English do: “Team USA have fought bravely tonight…” Could be a long wait.

But meantime? I’ll be happily tuning in, or NOT tuning in and feeling just as good when “my” team wins–especially on last-minute headers by 21 year-old bench players. It worked for me with the 2001 Seattle Mariners when they won 116 games, and again this year when the Seattle Seahawks won the Superbowl. My fair-weather bandwagonning doesn’t seem to hurt anyone, and if it’s annoying, well, no one’s told me yet to my face, so I’ll keep on cheering from the sidelines…kinda-sorta.

USA soccer? What’s it doing for you? Notice any changes in your fellow Americans? Please share!


Celebrating World Cup Futbol: You HAVE to See This

I know, I know–whenever anyone emails or Facebooks me and includes “have to see” in the heading, I automatically trash it.

But seriously. You have to see this. I have my reasons.

#1. La Copa Mundial, the World Cup, kicks off (pun intended) this week. Unlike baseball’s “World Series”–please!–or even the Olympics, this event involves a sport that is played by people in every country on every continent–yes, including Antarctica–, and is thus followed, fanatically (again, pun intended) by said person on said continent. Isn’t that worth celebrating?

#2. Young people tend to underestimate, if not disregard, if not disrespect, old people.

#3. You can do THAT with a soccer ball??!!

So here’s the setup for this clip, as explained by KSL.com in Utah:

MEXICO — When an older man invites himself onto a field for a pick-up game, you don’t usually expect him to steal the ball and the show. Freestyle soccer champion Sean Garnier followed the example of “Uncle Drew” and donned an old man disguise to give spectators and fellow players a performance they’re sure to remember. Garnier starts off slow to give the illusion that he is old and feeble, but eventually picks up speed and dances around his opponents with ease. He nutmegs the same guy four times in a row and takes every opportunity to fake the opposing team out — even if it involves stuffing the ball in his jacket. The 29-year-old French man originally dreamed of playing professional soccer, but was forced to change paths after suffering a string of injuries, according to his bio. Eventually, he came to develop his own mixture of break dancing and soccer and won the first Red Bull Street Style World Finals in Sao Paolo, Brazil, in 2008. His newest video was released just in time to get soccer fans pumped up for the World Cup, which begins Thursday. Now watch this:

I KNOW, right???

Your turn: What, if anything, does the World Cup mean to you? Should it mean anything? Spout off, please!