Archived Story

Call me crazy, but I have ‘World Cup Fever’

Published 6:32pm Friday, June 27, 2014

Twenty years ago, I would have laughed out loud if someone had told me I would be racing home on an early lunch hour to watch a soccer game in Brazil on TV. But it happened twice this week.

So now that we have established the fact that the world does change, let’s explore this phenomenon called World Cup soccer. Unlike billions of people – and I mean most everybody on the planet – I never played soccer growing up. I don’t remember having any friends who played soccer growing up, either. I learned about it in my late 30’s from my children, who all played soccer for various teams, including Benjamin Russell High School. My wife Mary Lyman was a fanatic soccer mom for a decade.

My son James was the most serious soccer player in the Boone family. He played for the University of Alabama’s men’s club soccer team for five years and was captain of the team for a while.

So soccer’s a big deal in my family, but unlike most of the big deals in my family, I’m the least involved/informed/experienced family member in this area.

Still, it seems to have rubbed off on me.

I actually did spend parts of two lunch hours watching soccer on TV this week, and getting excited about a game where 0-1 can be, well, exciting.

I’m not alone.

According to the Pew Research Center, 3.2 billion people around the world – about 46 percent of all humans – watched at least one minute of the last World Cup tournament. That one was held in South Africa. This year, it’s in Brazil.

That’s one of the defining aspects of the World Cup. When it comes to the World Cup, “world” actually means teams from whole world. That’s very different from the “world” events we know and love, like Major League Baseball’s World Series, which involves the U.S. and a little bit of Canada.

This sport is a great leveler, where world superpowers like the U.S., Germany and France can find themselves pitted against teams like Costa Rica, Algeria and the home of cannibals, Uruguay. If you have spent a minute watching World Cup soccer this week, you know what I’m talking about.

The other thing I especially like about World Cup soccer is its ability to unite countries, much like the Olympics.

In the World Series final, it’s usually one U.S. city against another U.S. city. In World Cup soccer, almost everybody in America is rooting for the same team.

You don’t have to worry about who you invite over and what you holler during the game, unlike say, an Iron Bowl party. If you holler when the ref makes a bad call during the Iron Bowl, you’re sure to be sitting next to somebody who thinks it was a great call.

When a ref yellow-cards a player who just cleated one of our U.S. players, everybody in the room cheers. At least that’s how it went Sunday when Mary Lyman and I were watching the U.S.vs. Portugal game in the Pine Head Bar at Kowaliga restaurant. Everybody in the room was cheering – and groaning – in unison.

I, for one, am happy that soccer is catching fire in the U.S. It’s the No. 1 sport in the world, all you need is a round ball to play it, soccer athletes – because they run for an hour and a half without stopping – look like athletes, no big bellies and waddling walks on the soccer pitch, and even though I’m still trying to understand some of the rules it’s one of the few sports that I never played that I enjoy following. It’s time we joined the rest of the world when it comes to soccer.

So join me when the U.S. faces Belgium in the knockout round Tuesday.

Boone is publisher of The Outlook.