There are still a lot of Americans who don’t get it when it comes to World Cup Soccer, the Beautiful Game. Oh, they understand the rules, you use your head, feet and knees but not your hands and you try to get the round ball into the big rectangle at the end of the field.
But a lot of us still have trouble coming to terms with the avalanche of emotion that comes out of the fans every four years.
For many Americans, especially football fans, the game appears too soft. For those who like the up and down action of basketball, soccer can seem a bore.
I know. I was one of you.
But something happened to me in 2006. I was assigned to follow a trade delegation to Germany as they tried to persuade the government into an air link between Erie and Cottbus Germany. The visit, quite by accident, came as Germany was hosting the World Cup Tournament around Berlin that year.
“We need to meet with you about an exciting business opportunity” is the paraphrased opening line from the group. “How about Friday?”
“Germany is in the World Cup” they answered cooly.
“It will just be an hour or so, it’s an exciting proposition” the pitch continued.
“Germany is in the World Cup!” came the puzzled response.
As perplexing as it was to us, it was obvious to the Germans, since much of government, indeed much of society came to a halt when the German team was on the pitch.
When we were out the rabid national pride and emotion was infectious. When I returned home I had to watch the rest of the tournament and have been hooked ever since.
To see a tiny country like Costa Rica make it to the final eight or see the huge tears roll down the faces of the Brazilians as their team was dismantled by the Germans, on Brazilian soil, gives us a tiny clue into the pandemic that is World Cup fever.
To watch a penalty kick at the end of a tied game and realize that the hopes of millions in two nations ride on a face off between two men, it’s hard to understand complaints of the game being soft or slow.
The United States has as much national pride as anybody but Americans have too many options and NFL football is too entrenched for this country to ever reach the fervor that has gripped the rest of the world.
I don’t know where I’ll be Sunday when Argentina tries to win the Cup from those powerful Germans but I do know one thing.
It’ll be in front a TV.