One of the times I miss living in Brazil the most is when the World Cup rolls along. Over there, soccer is almost like a religion that even die-hard New York Yankee fans are unable to match.
When the national team plays in the tournament, offices close early so everybody can watch the game (and workers get paid in full for the day, mind you).
Also, soccer fever is everywhere during that time, and people seem to forget that there are problems in the world. The talk of the town are always the games, and everywhere you go there’s a TV on showing whatever match is going on at any given time.
In the US, things are quite different. A few days ago, I watched passionately as Brazil beat North Korea 2×1, and as I walked down the street to go teach my evening class, it was like nothing had just happened.
At my workplace, few even talk about the World Cup, and though local newspapers do give some coverage to the games, much more attention is paid to baseball, which is the national pastime here.
Today, as I watched Mexico beat France (yes!!!!), I believe I was the only person in my building that was watching the game – or who knew there was something going on in South Africa.
The reason for that is that the US never really warmed up to soccer, no matter how much promoters have tried. I watched the US x England game at a pub in Alphabet City, where most present were rooting for the Brits, not the US.
And as I stepped outside to answer a phone call, a group of people wondered what was going on there, as it was standing room only (I actually saw that game in three different places – the last few minutes in a Mexican bar).
Most Americans prefer their homegrown sports, making events out of finals like the Super Bowl (football) or the World Series (baseball) even if the teams they support are not playing. Here, soccer is a foreign game appreciated mostly by immigrants – specially Europeans and Latin Americans.
As for US sports, I really have no interest in them. Blame it for living abroad for so long and to having a father who was not interested in passing along baseball and football culture.
I was never taken to ballgames as a kid, and I was never taught the rules of these games. Today, when I sit at a pub and people are watching the Yankees or say, the Giants, I pretty much ignore it. But show me a soccer game, and you have my attention for those 90 minutes.
So during these thirty days of soccer, I will be obsessively following each and every game, and annoying the heck out of friends. Oil spill in the Gulf? Obama’s tanking popularity? The mess in Albany? Sorry, guys – I got a game to watch. Even if you don’t care.
Ernest Barteldes is a freelance writer based on Staten Island, New York. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.