Saturday, May 27, 2006


It is finally here again: the biggest sports event anywhere. In the United States, we seem very dilusional to believe that the Super Bowl and the World Series are the ultimate sports events. Ever. Super Bowl Sunday is heralded as THE Sunday. The World Series crowns the best baseball team on the planet. Supposedly. But now it's time for America to understand real passion.

That World Cup campaign has come to America in the form that we understand best. Flashy media. Four years ago, the U.S. national team had an improbable run to the quarterfinals, playing halfway across the globe in Korea. Now the media onslaught has begun, seeking to encapsulate for us in 10 seconds why all Americans should get with the program and become as passionate about football (the real football) as the rest of the world.

Gatorade plays a commercial with the background music of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and images of American players being ridiculed all around the world. It ends with the tagline: It's a whole new ballgame. ESPN has run a commercial with U2's City of Blinding Lights and Bono's narration that shows and describes the world's passion for soccer.

In 2002, I was grateful to have witnessed what everyone has been talking about. Traveling through Europe after my sister's wedding. My family happened to be visiting Genoa, Italy when the Italians were playing a match. Every store, restaurant and street-side establishment had the TV tuned the game and the onlookers screaming. In a usually bustling historic district, Genoa was habitated only by tourists for those several hours of the afternoon. I finally convinced my parents that we had to watch it. So, after visiting the faux home of Juliet, we snuck into a gelateria and watched as Italy pulled out the win. Immediately, people took to the streets waving Italian flags, jumping on cars and honking horns. I had never seen anything like it.

This year the Cup takes place in Germany. This site was not coincidental as FIFA is very aware of the global political implications of the World Cup. Germany's best player and national hero grew up in East Germany and is now and outspoken advocate for continued political and cultural unity. Iran will be playing its first round match in against Mexico in Nuremberg. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might care to join his predecessors from 60 years ago in claiming that the Holocaust never happened. However, in 2006 that would get him thrown in jail in Germany.

The World Cup will continue to grow and expand in its influential global power as soccer has swiftly become this planet's game. Usually an ardent believer that waving an American flag to make me feel good about toppling foreign governments is a bad thing, I will not hesitate to cheer my own country. Sure we've got some problems, but athletic identification and support is something that I will never shy away from. U-S-A U-S-A!

1 comment:

Julia said...

Go Team USA!! No European country is free from problems either (Czech politicians are more embarrasing than Americans, trust me) but thankfully everyone here separates their politicians from their sports loyalties. Hm...sort of a shame that Europeans can't find it in their hearts to disregard the shenanigans of U.S. politicians as much as they do their own.