From my mid-20s Midwestern vantage point, I’d venture that the world’s most important sport has finally arrived on our national stage.
It started when some girls at work mentioned they were getting up at 7:00 am on a Sunday to watch a World Cup game at a local bar. Then I went to a wedding where my Mexican husband, a college girlfriend from Minnesota and her Madisonite boyfriend carried on a passionate discussion about the pros and cons of Ronaldo and the then-upcoming Argentina v. Mexico match. A related conversation arose later in the evening among different guests.
The fact that the U.S. team has been eliminated and performed marginally at best has not even dampened people’s interest in the World Cup. At my parent’s annual Fourth of July gathering yesterday evening, my dad, Uncle Mike and I were conversing when someone realized the close of the Italy v. Germany game was nearing. We bolted to the kitchen to see the score, arriving right around the time Italy picked up their first of two late-game goals to finish off Germany. I commented that it was amazing to me how much people cared about these games. Uncle Mike suggested soccer is on the brink of eclipsing one of our big three sports (baseball, basketball and football) and asked which we thought was going down. I suggested baseball because its pace cannot keep up with our changing American lifestyle.
And I have to admit, despite 6 years of adolescent soccer-playing, I have not been the World Cup’s number one fan this year. I enjoy watching soccer, but I’ve been trying to get out more, keep my gardening up, work the two jobs and generally spend more time enjoying the summer, so watching soccer has not been a priority. I caught the last few minutes of Argentina v. Mexico with some of my disappointed Mexican relatives and have followed who has advanced, but that’s about it.
But in my typical journalistic manner, I always function as an observer and commentator (at least inside my head and on this blog) more than as a fan or participant. And I have to admit pride and excitement for people’s interest in soccer. I hope it’s a sign that the average citizen is more globally minded, that he or she cares about athletes in other countries, that we can respect people despite great differences in language, culture and custom.
Even the fact that we call American football (which hardly qualifies as a foot game) by that name sort of bothers me, since we seem to be the only nation with a language based on Latin that doesn’t use the general term to describe what we know as soccer. It seems a bit prideful of us to refer to the world’s game as soccer and American football as football, so if anyone knows the origin of that mess, please enlighten me. I would also like to know if anyone else feels that a lot of people in their life are following the World Cup, especially those who only had eyes for “football,” basketball and baseball in previous years. I think it’s an interesting phenomenon.
In the meantime, we can hope that by the time today’s children grow up, their generation will produce some players worthy of the world’s athletic stage.