Something is happening here. My family is coming together like never before. We are watching TV with the kids more than ever. The iPads and iPods are dark, and there is a sense that we need to experience what we are seeing collectively. In case you’re wondering, it is the World Cup matches from Brazil that are having this magic effect on our clan.
I love sports, but watching the Mets, Jets, and Knicks is usually a solitary pursuit on my part. My son has started to show some interest in the games, but he much rather still play with his toys or watch Disney Junior. During any particular contest, my wife and daughter are too busy asking questions ranging from “What is a first down?” to “How is it a foul?” Sometimes I will explain the basics, but the next time they watch I have to go through it all again. It is better for me to slink down to the basement and watch my games in relative peace and quiet.
Not so with soccer. Since my daughter has been on a team since she was nine, the whole family has been to many games and understands the rules. Truthfully, the game is so easy to understand and, I must admit, infinitely more exciting to watch than nine innings of slow-paced baseball or a plodding American football game. The kids seem drawn to watching these matches, and it doesn’t hurt that all their relatives and friends are into it as well. We are finally watching the same thing on TV as a family and enjoying every minute of the action.
Believe it or not, we are not just rooting for the American team, though when U.S.A. played Germany the other day, there is no question whose side we were on. But as we gear up for the big match between Belgium and U.S.A. on Tuesday, we are enjoying the excitement of other matches as well. My daughter’s piercing screams – as Germany’s Thomas Meuller (my daughter’s favorite) assisted a goal (to Andre Schuerrle) against Algeria for example – actually caused concerns amongst neighbors to whom I had to diplomatically apologize as I explained that she was just getting “emotional” about the World Cup.
Honestly, she is not the only one. We have all screamed our share during these matches. I don’t know what is more encouraging for me – the fact that we are watching these games together or the fact that we are so invested in them that we are cheering with glee or yelling in despair. The last time I got this emotionally invested in a professional sporting event was when Keith Hernandez and Darryl Strawberry wore NY Mets uniforms.
I am thrilled that we are coming together in this way. With the kids off from school, the matches couldn’t have been better timed, and they are actually foregoing park, pool, and other activities because they do not want to miss a minute of all the excitement. Usually, I wouldn’t allow TV to take them away from outside activity, but we have our own soccer net and in between matches we can hit the backyard and kick the ball around.
Judging from the interest in the World Cup by Americans in general, something wonderful is occurring here. It may just be a turning point in America’s attitude toward soccer, perhaps one that will not fade once the excitement of the World Cup is over or if Team U.S.A. goes the distance or not. Since so many young children are playing soccer as are my children, the moment is ripe for something to give on the professional level.
Soccer (or futbol as the rest of the world rightfully calls it) has great appeal in a time and place that calls for simplicity. Baseball, football, basketball (and to a lesser extent hockey) have had a lock on our psyche for so long, but it just may be the time for a new American pastime to emerge. Guess what MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL? There could be a new sheriff in town and it’s possible it may not be big enough for you all.
For now, I hope you are enjoying the World Cup as much as my family and I are. I have joked with my kids, “If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium,” but the kids haven’t a clue about the film that inspired that quote (and then I heard one of the announcers try the same lame joke that also passed right by them). Whether Team U.S.A. wins or loses, we’re looking forward to more excitement to come. I only hope that my eardrums can survive my daughter’s glass breaking shrieks until it’s all over. Now, where are those earplugs?
Photo credits: fifa.com, espnfc.com
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