June 11, 2010

Summer Friday: Hey, America! The World Cup Is Cool!

Every Friday between Memorial Day and Labor Day I'm going to be featuring guest bloggers as a part of my "Summer Fridays" series. This week's entry comes from Kyle G. who is pumped up for the start of the 2010 World Cup.

Having played competitive soccer for the majority of my life, I admit I have some bias (fine a lot of bias), but today marks the beginning of the most amazing month of every four years. I asked a friend of mine what his World Cup plans were. He responded, "the only thing athletic I do is ride my bike." I was somewhat confused by his response, but realized that his, was most likely a common sentiment.

Every four years the World -- outside of America -- shuts down for a month to observe the single most unifying, if only temporarily, event the world has ever known (seriously, this thing has stopped civil wars!) Sort of contradictory calling a competition unifying, but the overall tone and tenor of the World Cup is joy and camaraderie. I think this contradiction is why Americans have had such a problem grasping the importance of it.

The U.S. Men's National Soccer Team with President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and President Bill Clinton. Photo by John Todd/isiphotos.com

So, why have we missed the boat? American sporting mentality (or mentality, period!) is one of superiority. I’ll leave it there, so as not to too greatly satisfy my hippy, anti-establishment parents. This position, needless to say, doesn’t easily ally with the proud-to-participate attitude, and ultimately leaves us out of the excitement.

In the States, the World Cup has frequently and laughably been referred to as the Super Bowl of soccer. This comparison is mostly drawn due to the incredible television viewership, but the Cup is so much more. The World Cup is one of those times where Nationalism isn’t a dirty word. The tournament gives everyone the opportunity to proudly and playfully support his or her country.

If rooting for the good old RW&B doesn’t get your blood flowing, at the very least the World Cup should be viewed as an important cultural and historical event. This year the World Cup will be held in South Africa, where Nelson Mandela himself is set to attend the opening ceremonies.

If nothing else, this year’s tournament is a testament to how far Africa has come. Further, it is an opportunity to show where it can go (see recent article in ESPN magazine.) After an exciting African Nation’s Cup, many believe that several of the African teams have an opportunity to show very well, and draw more attention and funding to educational and infrastructural investments.

So whether you’re a die-hard member of Uncle Sam’s Army, an un-enthused American football fan, interested in seeing Africa in a new light or just want a great atmosphere to get hammered this years World Cup is for you...

...if not, at least ESPN has tapped U2 for the official soundtrack of the tournament’s broadcast, so you can see Bono in his super cute sunglasses.

I recently attended my very first football match on my trip to London in Feb. 2010 and I have to admit that I'm kind of excited to watch the World Cup this year. Click here to read all of the Summer Friday entries.