Why the World Cup Matters

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  As I lay slumped over on my couch last night, exhausted from watching victory snatched from our grasp by the Portuguese, I began to reflect. Now mind you, this was after self-medicating with my favorite antidepressant + mood stabilizer (made by the fine folks in Shiner, Texas), but I thought I would share this with you anyway.   I am awestruck by how we can get lost in sport so much that nothing else seems to matter. Honestly, my kitchen could have been on fire last night and I wouldn’t have noticed. For 90+ minutes, 30 seconds too long last night, we are enthralled in every move on the pitch by these men representing the best our country has to offer, and it seems – at least we like to think so – that they are truly playing for our honour. So why does the World Cup have it figured out? I mean, it can’t be those geniuses at FIFA (soccer’s governing body) who sold the world cup to Qatar – yes, that’s right Qatar. You think it’s hot in Brazil, try 110 degrees in the desert, not to mention navigating the political and religious customs.   Processed with VSCOcam with b3 preset   How does the World Cup mean so much, and spark such nationalistic pride in even the most casual of fan? This morning I couldn’t help overhear several people on the way for my morning coffee discussing how we can still qualify for the round of 16, scenarios we probably don’t want to get into, but rest assured the US has a 76% chance of moving on, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to wear your lucky shirt, socks and rub the rabbit’s foot 3 times before corner kicks – we still need Lady Luck!! I think it’s because you can see how much it means to these players. They really care, so why shouldn’t we? They're leaving everything on the pitch, and we must respect that. We don’t typically see that kind of effort on a day-to-day or game-to-game basis in sport, we certainly don’t see that in basketball, not even Olympic basketball, not in baseball, especially not in the World Baseball Classic, which most players don’t even play in for fear of getting hurt! But we see it every game in the World Cup. Hell, I even found myself rooting for Iran against Argentina – how could I find myself wanting the country that held 66 of our countrymen hostage for 444 days to win? Pure effort! I watched them defend their goal for 89 minutes with the strength of the Republican Guard (until that genius Lionel Messi broke Persian hearts – and mine for a minute or two) before I remembered that knucklehead Ahmadinejad and his constant denial of the Holocaust, and I was brought back to reality…Go Argentina!   It truly is the world’s game. Everyone plays it and seemingly everyone loves it (at least every 4 years), and I think the players really care. You can see it in the renditions of their national anthems, their sweat, their tears. They seem to try just a little bit harder in playing for country, and I am moved by that. In fact, anytime pride is more important than a paycheck I definitely take notice. I think a lot of these guys would trade their personal riches for World Cup glory – how else can you explain a personal apology to the entire UK from all-time World Cup disappointment Wayne Rooney, and that, 16 years later, David Beckham lamented the red card received during the '98 World Cup in a recently made documentary? It is truly the biggest stage of their lives – and why this game really matters.

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