Oh what a game last night! Tell me you saw it.
Tell me you watched the World Cup soccer match between the USA and Portugal. Tell me that you cringed when the Portuguese striker with stars carved into his head bopped one past the US goalie in just the fifth minute of the game. Tell me your living room popcorned into wild celebration when father-of-five Jermaine Jones blasted one in for the USA to tie the score in the 64th minute. Tell me you nearly floated to the ceiling when Clint Dempsey scored another late goal for The Stars and Stripes—this time in the 81st minute—to give the US the lead and a fantastic chance at improbable victory. And tell me…go ahead, admit it…that, on the last play of the game, your balloon popped when Portugal’s star Cristiano Ronaldo floated a beautiful pass that his buddy headed into the net to force the game into a 2–2 draw.
Do you mind if I get up for a moment to go get a drink of water? Excuse me.
Ahh. Okay, I’m back. Seriously. That was intense. What a game.
Now I’m not a soccer nut. A sports nut, yes. But growing up in southwest Minnesota, we didn’t even have a school soccer team, much less a soccer field…or even a soccer ball. But that hasn’t stopped me from taking note over the last 20 years of what a fine game soccer can be. It’s got the great “fastbreak” quality of basketball, the outdoorsiness and lovely green grass and spacious field of football and baseball, and the crazy foot-eye coordination necessity of hockey. And they don’t take timeouts—meaning no commercials, if you’re watching on TV.
As far as I’m concerned, soccer first “appeared” in the America in 1994 when the USA hosted the World Cup for the first time in the history of the Cup, which goes back to 1930. I remember watching soccer matches on TV for the first time ever, and I remember Alexey Lalas’s crazy red goatee. In 1998 France both hosted and won the World Cup, and as chance would have it, I visited the country soon after and was amazed at how the entire nation still seemed abuzz from the soccer splendor. By 2002 I was watching World Cup matches in the middle of the night since Japan and Korea hosted, and in Ought-Six, I couldn’t believe it when the Clint Eastwood of soccer, Zidane Zenedine, lost his cool and headbutted an opponent in the Final as France lost to Italy. The 2010 World Cup in South Africa was memorable to me for an inspired American run and those annoying vuvuzela horns.
Which brings us up to speed. Adding an extra dimension of interest to the 2014 World Cup for me is that I’ve got two kids playing rec league soccer this summer. They’ve been watching the World Cup games right along with me—cheering, learning by watching, practicing in their minds. No coincidence either that I’ve lately been bringing home a couple of soccer-themed books on loan from the Capstone library. As I’ve mentioned before in this space, the range and quality of kids’ sports books available at Capstone is outstanding.
So, even though an appreciation of soccer hasn’t come naturally to me—like many things we learn, often by reading…wink, wink—over time, I’ve really learned to enjoy something new.
-by Nate LeBoutillier, Editor