With nods to my fellow blogger, Wisdom Weasel, I have decided to do my part to promote the World Cup. I admit my utter cluelessness about one of the greatest sporting competitions in the world. Just because my fellow Americans choose to remain ignorant of the proceedings, doesn't excuse their jingoistic fixation on baseball, basketball and a few hockey bandwagon riders in Raleigh, N.C.
During the previous World Cup, in 2002, I was working for one of Maine's insurance giants, occupying my time, Dilbert-style, while plotting my writer's escape from the corporate merry-go-round. I had the good fortune of working a few rows away from a Brit, named Andy, who was a huge Arsenal fan and kept a wealth of soccer paraphernalia tacked up on his cubicle walls, including his own handmade World Cup bracket. I enjoyed learning about the matches from him, especially the nuances of the sport, which I knew little about. I'm sure some of my questions were stupid, but he never let on.
Thanks to Andy, I learned a little bit about the 2002 World Cup (won by Brazil, 2-0, over Germany), as well as the finer points of British politics.
Actually, my knowledge of soccer isn't as anemic as I'm letting on. While in high school, public television used to broadcast English Premier League soccer and my best friend, Greg, and I, got hooked. We even used to go up to our local high school football field and play some pick-up soccer with friends. My 6'3" frame and the fact that I was a woefully slow runner, convinced me that I'd never be a soccer star. Nevertheless, it was fun to kick the ball around. Greg, on the other hand, could have been a good high school player. Sadly, our high school didn't begin the sport until a year after I graduated, which was two years too late for Greg.
My son, Mark, actually played soccer for three years in middle school, and was an excellent goalkeeper. He played freshman soccer for Greely, as a fullback, before focusing on baseball and hockey. His coach, Mr. Hutchins, was a legendary figure at Greely, having led the Rangers to numerous championships as the varsity coach. During Mark's freshman year, "Coach," as everyone called him, was semi-retired and enjoying the laid back atmosphere of teaching the game to future varsity stars and others, like Mark, who had never received much proper instruction in the finer points of the world's most popular sport.
Unfortunately, the U.S. drew a very tough Czech team today, as their first opponent and went down to defeat, 2-0 (edit-actually 3-0), extending their European World Cup losing streak, to seven games. The loss does little to increase the paltry interest and U.S.-centric focus that is par for the course, anytime a U.S. team is entered in any international competition (ala the Olympics).
So Weasel, and all you other soccer fanatics, I'm giving the World Cup more than a passing nod and will try to watch some matches and become a bit more sophisticated about the sport.
Here's an article, by Tony Karon, about the World Cup that takes a somewhat different tack than the standard sports piece.