I’ve never been a soccer mom, though I raised four healthy Midwestern kids. My son’s lone soccer experience ended after a single, legendary season during which refs had to stop the game to extract his teammate from the net. We don’t own a soccer ball. I’ve never played the game.
Short of flying the largest Croatian flag on our block, I bring no actual street cred to a World Cup conversation.
Still, I’ve been riveted, as I am every four years, by all the drama and athleticism generated by the coolest soccer tournament on the earth.
Among the three of us who watched the U.S. vs. Portugal game in our family room last night, none had ever played a competitive soccer game, though Molly likes to point out the ankle scar she earned during a gym class soccer game last year.
So, I write with absolutely no authority when I list the following 10 reasons I love World Cup soccer. Please feel free to add your own.
1) Patriotism. I’m not talking about the scary, messed up kind of pseudo patriotism that inspired terrifying stories like The Two Escobars. I’m talking about the fill-up-a-bar-with-cheering-fans, cheek-painted-children, raise-the-home-flag, get-a-map-up-and-find-Côte d’Ivoire, #USA kind of patriotism that brings life and pride to countries all over the world.
2) Drama. Don’t believe me? Check out the last few seconds, SECONDS ! of the U.S. versus Portugal game.
3) The jersey exchange.
4) World Cup themed Google Doodles
5) The Croatian team’s skinny dipping scandal
6) The Group of Death
7) The men. For a bunch of guys who hurl their bodies around with reckless abandon and regularly head butt the game ball, these athletes are unbelievably good-looking (see No. 5).
8) Brazil. FIFA could not have picked a more beautiful, more complicated place to host the tournament. From the world-renown beaches to the rainbow waterfalls, the giant country offers plenty of gorgeous scenery away from the soccer stadiums. In sad contrast stand the infamous slums and here’s hoping the World Cup brings in a continuing stream of funds to a country badly in need of increased infrastructure repair.
9) The global appeal. How cool is it that I can sit on my couch and watch a live game I know some little kid in Portugal, or Ghana, or Germany is watching too? These great sporting events can unify a fractured world, even if it only lasts for 90 minutes. The point is that it any common ground exists at all.
10) The games mirror life — practice breeds strength, ability counts, luck does too, rules protect, passion differentiates, it isn’t always fair, but it is fun.