It’s summertime. I’m American. Baseball is my nation’s pastime, gearing up for the 77th installment of its midsummer classic and my hometown heroes, the Chicago White Sox, appear fit to defend their title.
But soccer is the world’s game. And I’m finally beginning to understand why.Never, not once, in the long history of my channel-flipping expertise, had soccer ever passed the Bill Simmons Remote Control Test, that states simply: “you can’t deny someone’s or something’s appeal if you can’t change the channel when he/she/it is on.”
(O.K., once. But that had NOTHING to do with the game itself, and EVERYTHING to do with Brandi Chastain’s sports-bra-slide to the Sports Illustrated cover.)
But my Fourth of July fireworks began long before the Portland river walk exploded in myriad colors. They started at a friendly barbeque, huddled around the Italy-Germany World Cup semifinals.
In fact, it was a REPLAY of that game (played earlier in the day), a subtle notion unbeknownst to me until regulation time had nearly expired.
When it did, and the mania of overtime firmly gripped the entire room, I found myself engaged in my first real argument about soccer: the validity of the “golden goal” rule. A profound lack thereof. Only after Italy hammered in TWO goals almost on top of each other as the second overtime roared to its climactic ending, did I realize my error in futbol Americano machismo.
That said, it was only one game. Two hours of my television-engrossed viewing lethargy weighed down by hand-rolled burgers and an assortment of fiery steak shish kabobs.
But this morning, the e-mails started. “Watch the World Cup here,” “download a gamecast there.”
And I did.
I watched (in horror) as Portugal was called for a foul; it’s not often that you get to watch the semifinals of a world sporting championship AND the Academy Awards at the same time.
But when France’s Zinedine Zidane lined up for the penalty kick, beads of sweat cascading down his barren crown, the world witnessed greatness. In the 33rd minute, a 34-year-old legend ripped home the deciding goal.
On Sunday, in Zidane’s final game, those kinds of heroics could bring France its second World Cup title in eight years.
I’ll be cheering merrily, munching omelettes and sipping mimosas.
On Monday, I’ll tune in to the Century 21 Home Run Derby. And go back to being American.