A couple of weeks ago, my family and I were on our way back into our house after a series of minor malfunctions cut our bike ride short. As I came up on the front porch, I heard a roar from several blocks away. I remembered this sound from a time, now several years ago, when the Oakland Raiders made their last appearance in a Super Bowl. It was the sound of spectator approval - a crowd of millions coming together in one big rush of enthusiasm, connected by television. As I knew that the Raiders were still months away from playing any sort of meaningful game (the Bronco fan in me wonders when the last meaningful game they played was), I was curious what that sound might be connected to.
When I got inside, I turned on the television and watched the replay of Mexico's first goal against Iran. Only moments later, they scored another, and the cries of approval went up around the neighborhood all over again. Over the next few days, I found myself trying to get caught up in the event that is the FIFA World Cup. One commentator suggested it was a little like having a Super Bowl played every other day over the course of three weeks. The United States' team made a rather hasty exit from the tournament, which left me with a few options, but arguably little "fan" concerns. I watched the progress of the Mexican team, which the kids at my school were rooting for, and the teams from Africa. Little by little, the brackets shrank to eight, then four teams. The world welcomed four European teams to the semi-finals: Italy, Germany, Italy, France, and Portugal (I confess I had to check my map twice to verify the exact location of Portugal, since my memory was primarily concerned with Portugal's role in getting Columbus to the New World).
Today Italy and France will battle it out to determine soccer supremacy for another four years. The amazing this is this: When they talk about a World Championship, they mean it. The Super Bowl is seen across the globe, but make no mistake about it being a celebration of all things American. The World Series might include a Canadian team for flavor now and then, and there is certainly an international flavor to the rosters of many big league clubs, but baseball is still our national past time, along with hot dogs and Chevrolet. The World Cup is a showcase for the planet, and since I can rationalize a connection with the Italian team, and France has won this decade, I will be looking forward to a cup coming to Italy. Will I watch all eleventy-seven hours of coverage? Probably not, but I will be listening for the roar of the crowd.