It’s been a great summer for sports, and while I don’t consider myself a sports fan by any stretch of the imagination, I’ve somehow found myself all but consumed by it. First, it was the NBA Finals, in which Boston lead the charge against the LA Lakers, and the city was swept up in a Celtics frenzy. But it wasn’t just the sports mentality that was infectious, it was how personal the game became as the age-old east west rivalry became a collective source of community pride, and each and every Celtics player seemed to be playing for each and every Boston sports fan.
For seven games, green became the city’s favorite color and everyone tuned in after work wherever they could find a television. I even found myself out with co-workers at the local pub, where Game 5 of the finals was raging in the background and suddenly, because you liked the same team, you were best friends with whoever was next to you. Talking about the game the next day was a way to bond, a good conversation starter, and made for never a dull moment when you were constantly looking forward to the next game. And while the Lakers ended up winning the finals, Boston didn’t seem quite as disappointed as they should have been, which no doubt had something to do with the FIFA World Cup starting soon after.
And while the World Cup has always been the seminal event in soccer (excuse me..FOOTball), I don’t even remember the last World Cup at all. And while I’m not a soccer fan just like I never considered myself a basketball fan, I again find myself watching almost every game, choosing favorite teams and players, and just as on the edge of my seat as I was during the finals.
No matter who seems to be playing, I’m always cheering on the underdog teams, those that go in fighting the odds and sometimes emerge victorious after some spectacular play. And while historically that doesn’t happen very often, this world cup seems to be the year when all those mediocre teams are making their mark and giving the soccer giants like Spain, England, Italy, Brazil, and Portugal a run for their money. First, it was Switzerland that won out against Spain. Germany loosing to Serbia, England unable to score against Algeria, and Brazil only nearly winning against North Korea. Now, New Zealand has tied against Italy, the defending European Champions! This is truly the year of the hardworking, underdog teams, and I can’t get over how exciting it’s been!
The US, who remarkably tied England, almost won out against Slovenia in one of the worst referee calls of the cup so far. The disallowed goal, now being called the “phantom foul” has nearly snatched US dreams of advancing. However, the experts say could this be a good news for the popularity of soccer in the US. Does it take a bunch of outraged fans to finally pay attention to soccer? It’s true that soccer isn’t quite the phenomenon in the US as it is in other countries, but as Nate informs me, the US still purchased more tickets to the World Cup this year than any other country.Perhaps this is an artifact of our wealth and ability to fly to South Africa, although, it should be relatively easy for European fans to trek down. So is everyone a closet soccer fan? There seems to be an undercurrent of anti-soccer sentiment when it seems like one can be either a soccer fan or a football fan, and if you don’t like football then you’re un-American. While I’m starting to agree that soccer hysteria isn’t what it should be around here, I think I have more fun cheering on random teams then just one team every time. If you haven’t started watching yet, you should! It makes for a great Sunday afternoon activity. And while I’m not ready to paint my face different colors and wrap a flag around my shoulders, I’ve definitely turned into one of those who yells at the TV and jumps up and down in the living room.