I've been enjoying watching the World Cup over the last month. After the end of the series "Lost," the viewing of which took my wife and me one year of our lives, it has been great to have a different kind of drama to observe.
I love competition, although I generally don't care for sports. After growing up in the Cleveland area and being a fan of the Browns as a young boy, it has been difficult to enjoy sports, especially to see any hopes crushed year after year.
Yet, the world comes together every four years to watch the world's most popular sport, and I have like many Americans really got into this time. I have watched a few other years (a bit in 1994 and the group of 16 in the 2006 WC), but this time I have recorded and watched nearly every game.
It helped to have a solid U.S. team this year. I didn't particularly care for the first game, in which I felt we got lucky with Green's error as goal keeper. The second game, which I watched with nearly 1,000 others in our neighborhood's theatre, was at first disappointing to watch--at least through the first half. I hoped that the coach gave the team a plan to pull out of the difficult half, and he did! They came onto the field with such energy and focus, and when Donovan shot the jubulani into the top of the net, we celebrated!
In the last game of the group final, after England scored their goal early on against Slovenia, I felt over 70 minutes of excruciating emotion. We got close so many times, and Algerian's keeper deserved kudos for knocking shot after shot away from the inside of the goal. But when the ball came off and Donovan tapped in that shot, I felt such tremendous joy and pride for our team! I have never experienced that before!
Although we did not have a good showing in our game against Ghana, I have kept interested in the remainder of the match. I'm typing this quickly before the final game begins, as I felt the experience worthy of at least a quick story.
The best experience of this whole month is the celebratory atmosphere that South Africa has set for the world. The vuvuzelas were really noisy and annoying at first, and it was a hard to concentrate on the games. However, as I became accustomed to the buzz, it was just one part of the texture of the whole experience.
Sport like this, even though there are some big egos involved, is an antidote to some of the more depressing part of modern times (many deaths in Afghanistan and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico). It's not that I've ignored those stories, but not concentrating my emotional energy on these aspects of life has been a relief. It has an infectious joy to watch a player's face when they head in a well shot ball!
Although in three hours or so Oranje or La Furia Roja will be celebrating, while the other will feel the sting of second place, having an experience that unites people all over the world is a part of the human experience I find valuable. It helps give me a glimpse into the rest of the world.
Thank you, Africa!