Are you ready for futbol?
While Americans are preoccupied watching the baseball standings and counting down the days until football season, most of the remainder of the sports fans dwelling on the third rock from the sun are focused on Brazil.
No, not on the never-ending street party in Rio de Janeiro.
Rather, they’re celebrating that once every four years event, the World Cup.
Yes, I know. Many Americans are rolling their eyes and saying to themselves, “It’s just soccer.”
But you can say that about any sport that doesn’t particularly float your boat.
If you surveyed sports fans worldwide, soccer would reign as the most popular sport. While we’re obsessed with football, the rest of the world loves its futbol.
And why not? All it takes to practice -individually or with others -is a ball.
One of my favorite local stories involved two young men who went on an international sabbatical and made friends simply by handing out soccer balls. While we take such things as having the proper equipment for granted, in many countries a soccer ball is a treasured possession.
The World Cup, like the Olympics, brings together the nations of the world. It’s a reminder that no matter how big our differences -and they’re pretty big right now -we can put them aside in the spirit of friendly competition.
No fans are as passionate about their sport as soccer fans.
Sometimes that leads to violence in the stands and the streets and occasionally even carries over onto the field of, er, battle.
Soccer hooligans, those who start trouble are called. Yet, even though they get a great deal of media attention, they are a minority. Most soccer fans are there to watch what they consider a beautful sport.
I learned a long time ago my enjoyment of a particular sport depends on my understanding of it. If I watch a baseball game, I might pick up on a hundred little things that would escape the eyes of novice fans.
But sit me down in a soccer arena and I wouldn’t understand most of the action or strategy. But I’d yell “GOOOOOAAAALLLLLLL!” if I saw the ball go into the net.
Among the reasons soccer hasn’t caught on in the United States are financial -soccer salaries don’t compare to those in televised sports -and quality of play.
We Americans don’t like to lose but even the best effort of our World Cup team isn’t going to be good enough.
Check out the betting lines and the U.S. is an underdog in all three of its opening round matches, including its opener on Monday against lightly-regarded Ghana. It’s highly likely the Americans will be three and out.
But this is our team and it deserves our support. I won’t give up watching baseball -it’s my passion -but I can surrender a few hours of the thinking man’s game to root for America’s team. So can you.
Contact Dave Poe at firstname.lastname@example.org