Don’t get me wrong here, I got caught up in all the World Cup hype, and I enjoyed watching the HD coverage from South Africa. I was up at 7 a.m. with a cup of coffee and Irish cream in hand (World Cup is a great excuse to drink in the morning) trying to find a way to get my heart and mind into the game of soccer. And as long as the Yanks were alive, I was all in.
Of course, the Yanks World Cup bid started with an overly hyped matchup against England. Two or three months of pure hype. Could the U.S. start off on the right foot? Are we really the contender we think we are? Just maybe, if the U.S. is going to make a good impression on the soccer world, maybe the game will become more popular in this country – the only country where it really isn’t. This was the first big test to see if the U.S. could really get serious about soccer this time of year.
Well, after a long and nervous 2010 World Cup opening game, the U.S. came out on top, even if they didn’t win. They just didn’t lose. Here was the headline after that so called victory: “U.S. Wins…In a 1-1 Tie.”
Victory or not, the momentum for the Yanks and U.S. soccer was rolling forward. This was going to be the year we were all going to become football addicts. All the U.S. had to do next to move onto the next round was beat one of the other two teams in the group. Seemed simple, really. So I set my alarm to make sure I didn’t oversleep. I, the NFL, NBA, NHL, and WPGA junkie, was finally excited to watch soccer. No commercials. The delicate sound of vuvuzelas in my ears. Sweet Irish cream dancing in my head. HD TV quality coverage. Everything was beautiful as I eagerly watched Slovenia and the Yanks go head to head in the second round of group play. I could feel that this was going to be the game for the Yanks – but it just didn’t seem to work out. Final score: 2-2. Another tie. But hey, once again they didn’t lose. The U.S. had “won” yet again.
So it was onto the third and final round of group play on June 23 and the Yanks couldn’t afford another tie. They needed a win to move on in the tournament. While my hope and interest in the Yanks run began to fade, I decided to make one more concentrated effort to try to get into this game that everybody seems to love but me. This match was against Algeria. Of course the U.S. could beat Algeria right? While I was confident the U.S. could win this game, I decided to switch from Irish cream to Irish whiskey for an added punch during. I was going to give it all for my country that day.
It was in the final minutes of that fateful game, with a score of 0-0, that I began to reflect on my actions. Here I was at 9:14 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, just two days before I was to get married (by the way). Inebriated. Red eyed. Cranky. Bored. Dejected…It was the very same feeling I had four years ago when I tried for the first time to get interested in soccer during the 2006 World Cup. It was a faint, yet disappointing feeling.
And then, there it was. An extra time rush toward Algeria’s goal, a blocked shot and a goal. The U.S. actually made something happen when things looked as bleak as ever. Instead of a tie, the Yanks actually won. The dream of moving into the next round in the World Cup was a reality. The morning was saved. You could hear excited screams across the neighborhood when that goal was scored (and a collective sigh across the country.) Yes, the U.S. was moving on to take on Ghana three days later in the single-elimination of the tournament.
On Saturday, which happened to be my wedding day, I decided to once again give my all for the country and did my best to drink the Irish whiskey the same way I did when the U.S. played Algeria. (OK, I stuck to beer but that is only because I had to go before 150 people and my soon-to-be-wife and say “I do” later that day). Once again, here the U.S. was, caught up in a late-game tie when Ghana shoved the dagger through the U.S.’s soccer heart to end their World Cup run. Tears across the nation. It was a decent run, but really, it wasn’t good enough for a country that is known at being the best for just about everything, especially fast food.
Now all the sports talking heads have said the U.S. was once again a complete disappointment. They should have made it further in the tournament. But my point of view is that they were ranked as a mediocre team and they made it about half way through the tournament. The Yanks were expected to be middle of the road and ended up in the middle of the road. Disappointing? Not really. The loss was just a good dose of reality.
And as for the game of soccer in the U.S.? It may have grabbed some attention, but that will probably fade very quickly. I have already moved on to minute-by-minute updates on what team Lebron is going to play for next year and how well the Cubs are going to recoup after some tension amongst some of their bad apples. After all, in the four U.S. soccer games I watched (approximately six hours of television), I saw only 10 goals. I drank three bottles of liquor and a case and a half of beer during that time…a price that is way too much to pay to be interested.