The World Cup is pretty fun because it gives a lot of people who could care less about it something else to pretend to like. I saw a Facebook status of a girl who couldn’t pick a soccer ball out of a line-up that said, “Sad to be stuck in the airport, but pumped to catch some of this Argentina match!!!” Yep, she called it a “match”—a thing only the soccer savvy, Europeans, and the ultimate posers call it.
As a guy born and bred on soccer—my Aussie father saw it as the nearest thing to rugby he could put his frail son in—I truly do have three exclamation marks in my heart for the sport and for the World Cup. I arrived home yesterday to the sound of it. “I already put the game on for you,” my wife said from the kitchen. And yes, we call it a “game” in our household—that is just another right we won in the Revolution, after all. Sure enough, there on the television was Russia taking on an upstart South Korea team, and I couldn’t take my eyes off it.
Being a World Cup fan, however, has its drawbacks. One of these is the decision to watch or not to watch games in public venues. On the one hand, it is delightful to share magical moments with friends and strangers alike. We yell together and sing chants and make messes without anyone really caring—seriously, attend a big sports watch party and no one will scold you if you throw drink or food into the air at the ultimate moment of ecstasy . . . just BE SURE that it is the ultimate moment first, of course.
But then again, there are the comforts of home which allow one to hear the game and choose not to wear pants—not at all an option in the local public house. Also, from the safety of one’s home, one doesn’t have to put up with the posers who dress all Americana but text during the action or yell things like “BOOT IT!” at every turn. Truly, staying home does have its advantages.
On a whim, however, I decided to opt for the discomfort of camaraderie for the US Team’s opener against Ghana. While Ghana held the sway of play, the US showed staunch grit, and were able to net a late goal and cling to the precious win. In the pub, we yelled and chanted, and yes, when no one was looking I threw some chicken wings into the air without consequence.
But in the bedlam the other drawback of watching in public occurred. As bodies jumped and exchanged high fives and tribal ‘yawps’, I got all caught up in the moment. After chucking some chicken wings and a side of ranch skyward, I had nothing else to throw, so I decided, stupidly, to get in on the high fives. And then it happened. The guy near me, machine-gunning high fives with every human in the joint, happened to look away just as my own hand shot upwards. I stood there, hand-raised, like I was waiting for some kindly teacher to call on me.
In that moment, time stood still, as did my neglected, raised hand. I thought about turning it into a wave, but why in the world would I be waving at this guy’s back. I thought about putting my other hand up, feigning jubilation, but I was too perplexed to pull any such joyous look off.
So what I decided to ultimately do is sit down, arm still raised. My thinking was that if my entire body lowered, my upraised hand would be less noticeable. Once seated, I gingerly reeled my hand back into my body, like a fishing line that hadn’t gotten so much as a nibble. Almost immediately, another nearby viewer extended his upraised hand to me, and I slapped it with conviction. Better late than never, I guess.
I’m not sure where I will watch Sunday’s second USA game or the dozen or so games in between. Sure, I could head out to the chanting crowds, sling some foodstuff, and have a good old time. Or I could just stay in, not worried about the all the high fives I’ll never get. Either way, “united by team, and driven by passion,” even if I just stay home.