Wednesday, July 7, 2010

World Cup Fever

“JUST KICK IT! SHOOT IT! KICK IT IN THE GOAL!” I screamed at the television in the crowded bar. The cute girl next to me laughed and egged me on. And then magically Uruguay scored and made it a game. The cute girl gave me a hug which made me cheer louder. And the excitement grew. But even though I continued to insanely shout, the game ended with the Netherlands winning 3-2.

As I walked home, I was disappointed, but also full of adrenaline and excitement. I had my heart set on Uruguay, a country I knew nothing about and pronounced wrong half the time calling it you-are-gay.

So I thought to myself: why am I so into a sport that I never watch?

And then it occurred to me. I have World Cup Fever.  

I should’ve known it when I woke up at 9am on a Saturday (something I NEVER do unless it's to take Tylenol) to watch soccer.  I was wearing a soccer shirt. I was drinking a beer. I was shouting at the TV. I was yelling GOOOOAAAAALLLLL!

I’m not a true soccer fan nor will I ever be. I quit playing in 7th grade after my idiot coach kept making me run laps. But the World Cup has a special place in my heart. Four years ago I was in Brazil and got a taste of a country that was obsessed with the tournament. Life halted during the games, and it was all that mattered. 

And now the US seems to have caught on to this.  People from all over the country are tuned into the Cup. People are rooting for countries they’ve never set foot in, are trying to understand what offsides is, and are begging for those vuvuzelas to go silent for just a few minutes. 

Some of us don’t understand why we suddenly love the World Cup, but we do. 

Here are a few reasons why I love it:


Despite living in NYC, the melting pot of the world, I never felt like I was in another country where I could just walk into a bar and talk to random people. There’s an unwritten rule in the States: don’t talk to people you don’t know. But in other countries, it happens all the time.  This unwritten rule is set aside during the World Cup.

During the tournament, I’ve been surrounded by Israeli, Swiss, English, Indian, Korean, Spanish, and French people. We’ve talked soccer, and it didn’t matter that we were total strangers. There was no pretense; it was a just a group people hanging out and having fun.  We laughed, cheered, bonded, and booed.  People even put away their phones for a while and just conversed with one another.  The World Cup brings people together.


For some reason, you need an excuse to drink at noon on a Tuesday. If you don’t have one, people might judge you and label you an alcoholic or something.

There is no better excuse for drinking than The World Cup. It promotes the consumption of alcohol as early as 9 am. One of the bars I stopped by had an all-you-can drink special for just $15. Drinking enhanced the sport—the ball moved quicker, the game became faster, and the girls next to me looked prettier. And even when the U.S. lost, I still felt pretty good afterwards.  


All my life I’ve been following Boston sports; living and dying on every game. My hair is turning grey, and my lifespan is shortened because of this passion. And even when my teams are out, I spend just as much energy rooting against my hated archrivals like the Yankees and the Lakers. I never have a break to just sit back, relax and watch a game.

Until now!

When the U.S. lost versus Ghana, I was disappointed. But I didn’t REALLY care. I hit on girls during the game, had some beers, and made plans for the night. I didn’t lose any sleep or have to avoid SportsCenter for the next week.

It was pure fun. It was a relief to see what everyone else’s normal life must be like when sports are on. I could finally just enjoy the game for what it was.


I love being in a bar surround by dozens of people and nobody has a clue what’s happening. Wait, what’s offsides again? How much extended time is there…why do they keep on playing? What the hell is going on? Why is that goalie dressed all in white? The unintentional comedy is off the charts. 

Everyone turns to each other and shrugs because we’re all in the same boat. We’ll never fully grasp what’s going on, but our enthusiasm never dwindles…that’s spirit for you.  On a side note, maybe soccer hasn’t caught on in America yet because no one knows what the hell is happening.


We would not be American unless we made fun of soccer just a little bit. It’s the world’s most popular sport yet we’re not very good at it. So as a defense mechanism, we make fun of it. We mock the idea of a tie (what’s more un-American than a tie…even my 5 year old nephew doesn’t believe in ties.)

We make fun that nobody ever scores, the players names are too hard to pronounce, the vuvuzelas sound like swarming bees (or Times Square 30 minutes before the ball drops), and the players flop more than Derek Fisher and Vlade Divac.  

And even though we make fun of soccer, we still love The World Cup. At least a little bit.

But no one has parodied soccer better than the Simpsons. Click here if you wan to check it out (since I'm not smart enough to put the video directly onto my blog.) 


Every day I proudly root for a new team. One day it was Argentina. The next day was Brazil. Why? Because I visited both places and bought cheap knock-off soccer jerseys there.  

As I walked through New York with my jersey, people slapped me five, beeped their horns, and asked me what happened in the games. At the bars, people asked for my opinions on strategies and coaching.

And even though I knew close to nothing, I bullshitted with them. And it was so fun. I brought up names that I’d read in the newspaper and seen on TV. And because I was wearing a jersey, people hung on my every word.

I now have four years to buy every single soccer jersey out there. So when the World Cup returns in 2014, I can’t lose!


The French team hated each other and completely unraveled. So when I met a bunch of French people watching the games at a bar, we all made fun of them. It was funny! 


I’m tired of seeing Jack Nicholson, Spike Lee, and Eva Longoria. Watching Bill Clinton and Mick Jagger embrace after the U.S. scored a goal was one of the best moments ever. Can you think of two more random celebrities celebrating together—absolutely not!


The first round (or the tie-round) was pretty boring. But now that the World Cup has entered its March Madness phase, every game is exciting.  If you lose, you’re out. The last few minutes of these games have been incredibly intense. We’ve seen some great moments this year…I just wish more sports implemented the do-or-die game…it’s the best!


After Germany scored its 4th goal last Saturday, one of the players did a back flip. How fucking cool is that! After scoring goals, players slide, flip, mosh pit, and Hava Nagela. It’s fun! It’s entertaining! It’s fantastic!

If that happened in the NFL (the no fun league), the entire team would be penalized, suspended, and fined. It’s refreshing to watch a sport where players can have a little fun after they score. Maybe Ochocinco should switch to soccer?


The World Cup has been successful despite some of the worst officiating ever. It makes me appreciate our basketball, football, and baseball refs and umpires. Jim Joyce (the guy who blew the perfect game in Detroit last month) must be relieved that he’s not even as bad as these guys.

It’s also cool that these refs are openly getting blamed for their mistakes. Some have been rightfully fired. I wish they did that with American refs/umpires too.


I’ve never seen instant replay used so well on television. With American sports it seems to take 20-30 seconds to see what happened again. In the world Cup, it’s absolutely instant. Within a nanosecond, we get to see 6 angles of a replay, and it’s awesome!

And something needs to be said for the announcers. Although they’re hard to hear over those damn vagivelas, the announcers sound like poets. And the main reason is because they have accents. If Bob Costas said: "The last flickering flame of Slovak ambition has been extinguished” or “Argentina just cannot find the key to unlock the safe”, he’d be teased mercifully. But when said with a British accent, it’s just delightful!


The World Cup is the greatest conversation starter ever. You can go up to any girl, and just say World Cup, and she’ll start talking to you. You can talk about all of the games, and how disappointed you were when the U.S. lost. It also leads directly into the where-are-you-from and where-have-you-traveled-to conversation. 

Normally, bringing up sports with girls is the kiss of death (unless she brings it up first.) But the World Cup is the exception to the rule. It’s not just a sport; it’s an event. And it brings us all together. It’s uncool to say you don’t like the World Cup which makes it the ultimate pick up line.  

I’ve met some beautiful women over the last two weeks (by meet, I mean I’ve conversed with them for a few minutes at a bar), and I owe it all to the World Cup. 

32 Nations, 1 winner!

But in the end, we’re all winners.

Thank you World Cup!

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