I don’t hate soccer.
But I don’t particularly care about it either.
So we’re in the midst of this World Cup and I see it taking over my beloved ESPN. Mike and Mike talk about it in the morning, followed by some commentary on “The Herd”. Our local sports guys can’t seem to get enough of it. I mean Jurko is going nuts AND he actually understands what’s going on. But I don’t. The only football I’m interested in starts in 68 days and I’m pulling my hair out strand by strand in anticipation. The only kicking I want to see is a “kickoff”, a punt, a field goal, or an extra point to cap off a 59 yard TD pass from Peyton Manning.
I can watch a baseball game, basketball, even hockey and golf.
I mean, that’s just a lot of running and getting stopped at the last minute by guys that don’t even wear the same color clothes as the rest of their team. Hell, the U.S. team has a dude that looks like Common as the net guardian.
I’ve tried to ignore it. I’ve turned past it. I’ve even turned off my sports radio a time or two. But then, it occurred to me, that this is The World Cup.
This isn’t just soccer…or Futbol. Much like the Olympics, it’s much more than that. It’s more than individual players, cool colors and guys who are in better shape than I could ever hope to be. It’s not even about bringing a sport into the spotlight that largely goes unnoticed…or just flat out ignored. Although that always seems to be a great by-product.
No…The World Cup is about pride. Pride in your country, in your heritage, in the land that keeps you, holds you and hopefully loves you. The World Cup is an opportunity for men and women across the globe to put aside their angst toward their respective governments and showcase their patriotism, their ancestry, their history. It’s a time to put aside our ethnocentric ways of thinking and our feelings of global supremacy to recognize that we are all a small part of something bigger…something greater…something…meaningful.
There’s no capitalism, socialism or communism on the soccer field. Geopolitics and religious hatred are afterthoughts. There are no drones in the air or talks of nuclear disarmament. There are no accusations of espionage or assassination attempts. There’s simply a group of the best soccer players in the world, representing their countries, strengthening the pride spectators have in their respective lands…and in some cases igniting or RE-igniting a dormant, lethargic love of country.
Last Sunday, I found myself watching Team USA versus Portugal. I don’t really know or understand the rules despite having played it as a child. I know you can’t use your hands, run out of bounds, or kick people in the face. And…apparently…you absolutely CANNOT bite anyone! Despite my ignorance, I watched. I watched kick after kick. I watched Common’s doppelganger stop many attempts by Portugal to score. I watched a group of men, men who had to be weary and weakened by the physicality and heat, continue to put their heart and soul into a match that meant…in the big scheme of things…nothing.
My heart raced when the U.S. team attempted to score. A kick forward, a quick shift of the feet to confuse the opponent, a pass to the left, a long kick toward the center seemingly going nowhere only to bounce off the head of a player toward the net and…
…and I cheered. I smiled. I laughed. I felt pride as hundreds of Americans in the stands and dozens of fans in the restaurant cheered with me. I was a part of something bigger. I cheered for my country, just as millions of spectators did for their own and for that moment, we were all a part of something bigger. During this time, just as we are during the Olympics, we are all a part of a global village. We are all singular parts of the human race. For one moment we can all come together to realize that we can truly come together for something other than anger, hate, fear, famine, disease and war.
Now how can we not care about a sport that does that?
Because when you open your eyes and really look at it…it means more.