Well, we made it.
In the world’s sport, a game few of us follow and even fewer understand, the United States has survived. More than survived. We’ve advanced with honor in the World Cup, making the “knockout round” with a run that went toe-to-toe with some of the best. Now it only takes one more win – yeah, right, “only” – to get us playing on the Fourth of July as one of eight surviving teams, the best of the best.
So, in honor of the achievement, and in hope of things to come, here’s a “lucky seven” of World Cup observations.
1) Is it just me or do professional sports teams now need a kindergarten teacher on the coaching staff? “Remember, play fair, no hitting and absolutely NO biting!” I’m honestly not sure which boggles me more – that there’s a World Cup-level soccer player with three biting incidents in his record, or that any team would keep him on after no. 2.
Hey, Suarez. If you want a quick nibble, why don’t you get it in the boxing ring like a normal person?
2) It’s clear to me that the United States soccer team learned everything it knows from the NBA. In a long game with a lot of back-and-forth movement, always put the most exciting stuff in the last two minutes for the fans at home. The networks will thank you later.
3) Sorry, my English friends. You guys are the ones who actually invented the word “soccer,” as in the old nickname for “association football.” And if you’re still going to get pushy about where the word “football” belongs, may I remind you that our ball looks a lot more like a foot than yours does.
4) It’s kind of fun to watch Americans get excited about a game where no one’s really clear on the rules. (Myself included – I get into it heavily during World Cup time, then sink into blissful ignorance for another four years.) It’s like taking a date to their first ever Broncos game: “OK, what are they doing now? Who’s that guy moving? Why’s Peyton Manning putting his hand there?” (Pause.) “Did we win yet?”
5) Like any sport, the memories that come with it are half the fun. And when I watch soccer, many of the memories are of my English-born Grandma Elsie, who with the aid of my sister Leslie, valiantly tried to explain the game to us in 1994, when the Cup tournament came to the U.S. (We all, of course, surrendered at any attempt to understand the offsides rules … but then, so does everyone else, including two-thirds of the referees.)
In later years, Grandma’s childhood stories often included accounts of going to the weekly soccer games with her dear sweet mother Annie Phoebe, a demure soul who would sit down, take one look at the action and scream “PUT YOUR GLASSES ON, REF!” So the next time you see me holler at a TV set, know that I come by it honestly.
(I might add that Grandma Elsie’s own passion, from the time she came to Colorado to the day she died, was Broncos football. Yes, football. See note no. 3.)
6) Yes, I know. It’s silly to get excited about 20 highly-paid men chasing a ball over a lawn for 90 minutes or so, while two other men try to stop them. (Watching 22 highly-paid men in armor fighting over a squashed ball on a lawn is much more sensible, right?) But you know what? We need a little more silliness in the world. And while it’s not curing cancer or landing someone on Mars, I’d rather see people get excited about this than the latest celebrity trial. If you get a taste for it, it might even bring you some harmless joy.
Just don’t, um, get too much of a taste for it. (See note no. 1.)
7) I know we’re overmatched. I know we’re probably going home soon. I know we’ve got all the chances of a crayon in a clothes dryer and might leave less of a mark.
But doggone it, I still can’t wait for Tuesday’s game.
Let’s have a ball.