World Cup

So when it comes to soccer (or football, as they call it in other parts of the world), I am a fair-weather fan. I don’t particularly love the game, unless it is the World Cup, and even then, I only root for two teams, the United States and Ireland.

I remember several years ago when the Irish beat the Italians in the World Cup in New York. That gave me an excuse to go to the Dubliner and hoist of few pints in honor of my ancestral home (as if I needed an excuse).

Over the weekend, the U.S., by tying the Brits, gave me another reason to celebrate. I am not an expert, obviously, but I thought the Americans gave the English a pretty good game even without the botched stop by the British goalkeeper.

I had the chance to share a few drinks with some Irish friends earlier this week, and they convinced me that the Americans had a real shot to beat the heavily favored squad from England, despite the steep odds. They even convinced me to put a couple bucks down and take the 6-to-1 spread, which I did.

The Irish and the rest of the world were rooting heavily for the American team, which in this day and age is a nice thing. Soccer is the biggest sport where the USA is an underdog, and despite America’s teetering status as the world’s sole superpower, the world still loves us when we are an underdog.

They also still love us to be engaged with them, which is another reason why everybody else wants to America to have a strong presence in World Cup soccer.

When America cares about a sport, everybody in the sport gets paid more. When we have a competitive team, television revenues go up. When the American people care as much for the World Cup soccer team as they do for their local baseball team, that, of course, would be the tipping point for the world of soccer.

The victory Saturday put us close to that tipping point.

Of course, like the Big Wheel, this is all generational. If you are over the age of 50, odds are you probably are never going to care about World Cup soccer. If you are under the age of 35, and you have been playing soccer your whole life, as most kids these days have done, well, then the World Cup is pretty much like the World Series, only cooler.

For me, the game of soccer is still kind of annoying at times.

Most times, the ball is kicked between the 30 yard lines to no great effect. Players take dramatic falls to try to draw a penalty (or a yellow card, not to be confused with a green card), writhe on the ground for a few minutes and then get up after the ruse either worked or didn’t work and run around as if nothing happened.

Those trumpets that buzz in the background are especially annoying. I kept looking around for the bee that somehow seemed to floating near my ear, only to figure out, eventually, that it was from the stupid game on the boob tube.

But it was exciting to see the Yanks pull a tie, and it will be very exciting if the squad can get to the next round, which seems very likely.

The world is getting to be a smaller place, thanks to the beauty of telecommunications and the Internet. America may not always be the lone superpower, but because of the demographics of our society, the Big Wheels are turning for the American soccer community. We have a very good team this year, and we will probably have an even better team in four years’ time. That is probably a good thing for the world community and our place in it.


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