World Cup Friday!!!

18 Jun

I’ve discovered a new love in my life. And it might come as a surprise to some but I have to say that I’m in love with soccer. Well, the World Cup at least. I can’t say I was ever a huge fan of soccer.  Not because I didn’t like it, just that I wasn’t really exposed to it until college where I played with my college radio team (Go KCOU!). Even though we sucked, well I sucked, it’s there that I discovered that even though I considered myself athletic, this was a game of intense stamina. And foot coördination. And devoted fans.

Now I’m not what you would call a sports fanatic. I am from the midwest where if you’re not hunting or fishing, or talking about hunting and fishing, you’re either playing sports or watching sports. Sports, is a big way of life. And I played lots of sports growing up, and enjoyed it (mostly because there weren’t many other options). And playing sports taught me a lot. I have a naturally competitive nature (thanks Dad) so it came easy to me for the most part. Plus, I loved the sense of community and “team”, the confidence and high it gives you, the discipline, and just being active. It was also a way that my father, a baseball and basketball coach, and I bonded. Not to mention the feeling of winning. Ah winning. Nothing like it.

But now, not really belonging to a team, I have a hard time being one of those people who follows a team religiously. I am partial to Mizzou of course, (Go Tigers!!) but I’m not someone who follows sports regularly. I never really got that aspect of it. Why people love, say the Lakers so much? Or the Cardinals? Or Notre Dame? I understand you support the teams of the areas you live in or in my case your college but how and why do you connect with a team so intensely if you don’t have a direct connection? What does a fan get out of it? I mean, don’t get me wrong I love going to a Yankee game with my Dad, who is a huge fan (his Dad was a fan, then he became a fan, and so on and so on) and it’s exciting to watch them win–because I know how much my Dad loves them. But for me, it’s just a team, who won a game. I have no emotional attachment to it.

At first I thought maybe it was the stereotypical “guy thing” but my friend Lorena is about the biggest Raider fan you’ll ever meet. Well, all sports actually. She even goes with me to Mizzou games and sports gold and black, because she’s a good friend who supports the team I like if she has no one else she’s linked to. That’s pretty loyal. So, when I started hanging out with her and her teams were playing I found myself doing the same thing. Supporting her team. Or I’ll support the Yankees, because that’s my Dad’s team. And after going to watch USA this morning I started to understand this need for loyalty. For solidarity among fans. The excitement for your team to win. It was fun. And thrilling. And I was invested. I also had a thought while watching these guys manuever on the field, their hearts racing, all their hopes and dreams on the line for this game. I never really considered it before but just like a singer, actor, painter–these athletes have trained their whole lives for a certain moment, a game, a place in time to achieve greatness. And just like an artist, watching their skill and natural talent is a thing of beauty. Watching someone at the top of their game is just like watching someone in their oscar worthy performance. And in that way, I think I’ve found a new appreciation for sports. I think I might have discovered the pleasure behind being a true sports fan.

I guess that’s what I really like about soccer. The fans. The camaraderie. The chants and sing-a-longs. Just feeling like the world is watching with you is stimulating. And, with the drinking, it makes for a pretty nice start to my Friday. I find myself not minding that I had to get up at 6:30am because, here I am, enjoying a delicious bloody mary, cheering with people from all over the world, making new friends and feeling connected. I even found myself sincerely disappointed that we didn’t get that third goal and that there weren’t any penalties called.

Now, I’m not saying I’m going to go out, buy jerseys and put banners all over my walls but I’m also not going to say I won’t maybe watch more ESPN or attend more sporting events. Because lets face it, belonging to something and cheering people on is always good for the soul.  Even if it’s only a tiny bit, when your team wins or your friends team wins, you feel like you’ve won too.  And winning feels good. Real good. So let’s go USA . . and Chile . . And South Africa . . and England. Because as a wise bartender I know once said, “Winning makes my friends happy, and I love to see my friends happy”. Well said, bartender, well said.

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