ARTICLE OF THE DAY

World Cup Fever
by Brian North
6/21/06

Now that the NBA and NHL playoffs are over, and the College World Series finishes up this weekend, it's time to turn to the World Cup. I am not here to champion the sport of soccer, but to enlighten you to an event that captures the attention of billions of people.

You have probably heard that the World Cup is the biggest sporting event on the planet. Every other country goes bonkers for this tournament that appears on the sporting landscape once every four years. But here in the good ol' United States of America, the majority of the viewing public ignores the World Cup with an apathy or disdain that is usually reserved for going to the dentist.

So why does the rest of the world treat this event with a climactic crescendo while most objectors in the U.S. say it is as boring as watching paint dry? It's just the difference in our cultures. We are an instant gratification society that loves constant action. We like our football because there is a collision every 40 seconds. We love our basketball and hockey because of the fast paced action. We love NASCAR because of the speed and the wrecks. And we love baseball because we invented it.

So why does the rest of the world love soccer? Maybe its because there is so little scoring, that the monumental buildup to a goal results in an orgasmic release of pent up emotion. Watch players celebrate after a score (some antics would make Steve Smith and Chad Johnson jealous), because it takes such perfect passing and strategy to dent the opponents net. The Brazilians are especially passionate and flamboyant and fun to watch.

Goals are so special, they are named accordingly (think Immaculate Reception), and they are remembered for generations. Diego Maradonna's "Hand of God" goal is revered in Argentina and was debated around the world for years until the legend admitted he punched the ball in with his hand to help his country win the World Cup. A Columbian player lost his life in 1994 when he was killed shortly after scoring an own goal against the U.S. Some countries take their soccer a little too seriously.

We may never "get" soccer in this country, but try and enjoy the World Cup over the next few weeks. Some wars are put on hold for this month long tournament. Other bad feelings are brought back up (did you see the Poland match against Germany? There was more than just soccer on the line between these two neighboring countries and their fans). So take in more than just the game. Check out the fans, the culture, the madness that gets some people out of bed and into a bar early so they can watch their favorite teams play. It's like March Madness every day for a month for non-Americans, and you might start to understand what the rest of the world already knows; sports is a good excuse to take a break from your life for a while. And who knows, maybe some day the U.S. will actually win the whole thing, and then everyone will jump on the band wagon. And there is nothing wrong with that.
 
Brian North
bnorth@wcti12.com