6/11/2010

Reflections on the World Cup and all its brilliance

With less than two hours to go before Mexico and South Africa begin kicking around the Jabulani, I'm more than a bit worried that I'm not going to get nearly enough into this thing. I'll be watching this first match on a computer screen at work, relatively silently as my boss is not a fan of soccer. He's a lacrosse man, and that's just not a sport I can get into at this time.

The World Cup comes along every four years and takes over. There's a lot of gravity that attracts me to the spectacle of it all.

My first exposure came in 1982 when I was a wee lad. I remember my dad being jealous that some friends of ours in North Carolina were able to watch the final. In Lynchburg, soccer may as well not have existed if you had to rely on the pre-cable media. I knew this was something that was very important to my father, but I didn't really know why.

I may have only been paying attention because I'd played soccer the previous fall. That was the only time I played a team sport and the experience was not exactly stellar. I was very good - at kicking own goals.

I sort of skimmed the coverage of the 1990 World Cup. I believe it was on a channel we did not get in Lynchburg, but I was able to watch parts because I went on a business trip with my dad, and the hotel had better cable than we did back home. I'm kind of hazy about how all this went.

1994 changed everything. I worked at Backstreets Restaurant, and all of us got caught up in the fever that came with the finals being held in the United States. In 1998, I worked for a publishing company in Georgetown, and taped a lot of the matches to watch them later, and went to Ireland Four Courts in Arlington  to watch the U.S. matches.

In 2002, I lived in Roanoke and was self-employed. That city was much more affordable to live in, and my friend Jon and I watched most of the matches, even getting up at 2:30 in the morning to watch them. The entire event took over my life. I remember drinking at a bar in Blacksburg when the U.S. played Germany in the quarter-finals, and losing an entire day's worth of productivity. Oh, but what if we had won? What a glorious day that would have been!

In 2006, I was also self-employed, and watched most of the matches and supplemented my coverage by listening to Baddiel and Skinner's World Cup podcast. The United States was highly disappointing, and I don't have very many great stories as I watched most of it by myself. I did go and see a lot of the matches at my parent's house at Smith Mountain Lake.

That was also the summer when I was in exile away from Court Square Tavern. I had all the time in the world, and worked while I watched the matches. My little daughter was asleep at my feet in her bassinet as the kick-off times for the afternoon matches coincided with her nap time.

And now, it's 2010, and my life is at a very different stage. I appreciate these games because they do tend to mark where I am at fixed points in time. I'm not sure how much I will be able to watch these games, but I do hope to follow them through all kinds of media. I'm looking at new blogs such as this amazing one based out of Richmond

I will also be de-twittering and de-Facebooking for a while, as I will likely tape some of the games and watch them later when I can enjoy them as if they are live.

But, I'll also be showing some of them at Court Square Tavern. As I write this, I'm about to go and research the times for all the U.S. matches. I know we play England on Saturday, and I will be opening up the tavern early though I won't be serving food during the play of game. We'll be showing the games in HD, and I invite all of you to come by. I am excited that the United States may actually win, in the sense that we're good enough to compete, given that we beat Spain last summer in the Confederations Cup.

I thought for so long I was going to have a hard time selecting a team to support in that first game. I remember watching the draw with my intern Tarpley Ashworth, and being kind of nervous that the first match played by both teams I support was against each other.

But, in the past week or so, I've come round to the idea that I am an American, and I must support my team. I want to believe that we can win this. In part, I am excited because my English son is also supporting the Americans. He's American, too, and I'm going to use this as an opportunity to bond with him, even though we're so far away.

And, you know? I support both teams and want both to make it the Round of 16. There's a good chance that can happen, but I like our chances of getting past that stage if we can place first in the group stage. That will mean beating or drawing with England. If we come in second in the group, we'll likely face Germany, who I believe will win Group D handily.

This is it. I've followed the U.S. team now for 16 years, and I'm optimistic about our chances. I want to believe, and see how this goes. I also want to enjoy this, and see teams from all around the world compete. I'm hopeful that a team that's never won before can make a fantastic run at total victory. I'd like to see one of the major powers get knocked out in the group stage totally unexpectedly. I want a team from Africa to seriously compete. I'd like to see how Chile's team does, given that country's earthquake and the quirky nature of its coach. I want to know what North Korea's team is going to do.

I want to see South Africa, both in written accounts and in what we end up seeing on display. I'm hopeful it will all go well, and the world will see a place shining in the glow of what it can achieve.

World Cup 2010. A lot of people have been saying I've been particularly happy this week, and I think it's mostly related to the fact that it all begins in less than 2 hours.

No comments: