Saturday, June 26, 2010

World Cup: Is U.S. A Team Of Destiny?

There probably is little of value that I can add to the tsunami of commentaries on how Americans really seem to be into the World Cup -- and all the more so after the U.S.'s thrilling 1-0 stoppage-time win over Algeria.

This is because my perspective seems to be refreshingly representative of many of my countryfolk who finally are embracing the world's most popular sport in a big way, as well as the denizens of my favorite city -- Philadelphia -- who poured out of bars, office buildings and row homes to celebrate after Landon Donovan's deciding goal.

Like many a father, my
entrée to soccer was through my children, who participated for several years in Saturday morning community leagues well before the term soccer mom entered the national lexicon. Play more closely resembled rugby in their earlier years when 0-0 ties were the norm, but by the time they moved on to other sports they played pretty well -- as well as having gotten a great education in team play, sportsmanship and self discipline.

My first World Cup of note was in 1998 when days of rain washed out a beach vacation with my kids and mother, whom I surely would have smothered in her sleep for insisting that we rent a house in the middle of June and not later in the season when the weather would be better. The redeemer was watching hours of soccer, broken only by meals, low-stakes poker games and moaning about the nonstop rain.

This brings me to the upset-heavy 2010 World Cup, the premier global sporting event as well as the only one that refuses to kiss U.S. network television ass in scheduling matches.

Several of the traditional European super teams already have caved, most notably the reigning world champion Italians and the beyond pathetic French, who won it all in 1998. Having watched perhaps 30 hours of first-round matches I can say with confidence that the U.S. is playing like a team of destiny and could crack the top three since its passage to the semi-finals is less arduous (Ghana this afternoon and then Uruguay or South Korea next week) than it might have been.

That is something that it has not done since it finished third in the inaugural world cup in 1930. That also was the last year that it won two straight matches.

You read it here first. Or thirtieth.

No comments: