The Leadoff: No U.S.A., no problem


It is finally here, the world’s biggest and most watched sporting event. Not the Super Bowl, not the NBA finals, not the Indy 500, not the World Series, no, no, no. It’s the World Cup. When it comes to the beautiful game, America is full of uncultured swine. Americans are about as obnoxious and arrogant as they come — especially when it surrounds the world of sports.

Americans are like that Kobe fan who tries to butt in when two people are arguing about who is the GOAT in basketball, and when you tell him to stand in the corner and let the big boys talk he says something like, “Yeah, so what if Lebron’s stats are better in pretty much every statistical category? Kobe has the killer instinct.” Which is an admittance that even though Lebron is better in every way that we can physically measure, Kobe is still somehow better because this average Joe plays on Saturdays at the Y and watched him on TV, so he or she is obviously the world's foremost expert on basketball. Much like how the belief that Kobe is the best basketball player of all is, for the most part, a regionally held viewpoint, so is the one that football (American) is the best, most exciting sport on the planet. 

While I understand the plight of the average millennial, it must be hard to focus on something for 45 minutes straight when we have been spoon fed everything in bite-size morsels our entire life, but soccer is one of the last places that you can find 45 minutes of uninterrupted television. The drama is never ruined by the referees huddling up and reviewing a play for 12 minutes at the most critical time in the game. You are never forced to cut from the beautiful poetry in motion on the screen to an abrupt close-up on whoever the current Colonel Sanders is while they scream at you that their chicken is still, “Fanger lickin’ good.”

It’s straight heroin baby, from start to finish. Enough with your “there is too much flopping takes,” I know you all watched the NBA Playoffs and there is plenty of flopping in that. I'm so sick of the starch American viewpoint that “flopping is for sissies.”  I know all the men in this country have a complex about how “tough” they are, but enough, your insecurities are showing. It’s a part of the game, it's strategical, and if looking tough is more important to you than winning games then you might want to take a hard look in the mirror and talk to someone because there are much more important things in life than others perceptions of your toughness.

Watch the World Cup with an open mind. I am not very familiar with Russian culture but I can’t wait to learn about it over this month. Remember our beautiful introduction to the vuvuzela in the 2010 World Cup? My best experience ever watching a World Cup came way back before I was even in high school. I was in Mexico over the summer on a Mission trips with my church at the time, and we were building a schoolhouse and a place for worship during the day and during the evenings we were given some freedom to explore (this was obviously a while ago). A couple of buddies and I walked into the town to try and get some food and watch a World Cup game or two, but when we entered the town it was empty. I’m talking tumbleweed rolling through the street in the distance empty. We were so confused, where was everyone?

We saw a restaurant nestled in this little shopping center and walked over to it. As we got closer we saw a sign on the door that read “cerrado para el juego”  (closed for the game) and suddenly it all made sense. It was the middle of one of Mexico’s group stage games and the entire city closed down. Not a single business was open, it was amazing.

As we got even closer to the restaurant we realized that it wasn’t empty at all. It was full of anxious fans and as soon as the owner saw us standing outside his restaurant without faces pressed against the glass trying to see what was happening, he let us in. We watched the entire game with a group of people that we didn't know, in a language I could barely decipher and it was truly one of the best experiences of my life. I’ve never seen passion like this before: these men lived and died on every pass and it was so inspiring to watch. I think that is the perfect way to absorb this mass cultural phenomenon that is the World Cup. If you aren’t a soccer guy or gal, then get out of your comfort zone and go watch the game with some people you don't know.  

By the way, it came out earlier this week that America, Canada and Mexico’s bid for the 2026 Olympics have been approved! The vote passed via a 134-65 margin which is a surprisingly large victory considering all the worries about geopolitics heading into this decision. It also means that you have eight years to get your soccer fandom in order before it comes knocking at your doorstep.

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