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Nostalgic Patriotism

June 23, 2010

I took last Friday off, which is why there's a lapse in the Latin lesson. That, and I was busy having sex on Thursday night and, while I felt plenty inspired, I also felt plenty breathless. Not to mention warm and fuzzy, sweaty and spent, drunk on the ecstasy of a post-coital glow.

So, I took Friday off.

I took Friday off so that I could watch the World Cup match. I spent ninety minutes sitting on the edge of my seat, hanging on every cross, tackle, corner and free kick. I went from ecstatic to angry in a fraction of a second. I bemoaned our lack of defense in the first half and praised our beautifully synced offense in the second half.

I love soccer. For a moment, I felt akin to our Continental brethren, taking time off work just to watch a soccer match. Sure, there wasn't any drinking, and there was very little singing, but I still felt a connection with millions of other people around the world for a little bit. I even wondered how long it would be before someone blamed the Bush administration for the terrible call that negated Edu's goal, leaving us in a 2-2 draw. I mean, if it worked for why Chicago's political corruption and violent streets lost the Olympics, it certainly must work for terrible officiating in the World Cup, right?

I won't be taking today off, however, even though I want to sit in a bar packed full of dozens of other soccer fans hanging on every play as our eyes dart back and forth between the U.S. match and the English match. Two screens, two outcomes, four teams wondering how it will play out, millions of fans ready to celebrate or bemoan the results.

Since my company has a distinct French flair about it, they relax the rules slightly during World Cup time, even if Les Bleus are the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons. I'm just wondering if they can set up a room where we can watch both the England match and the U.S. match. Nirvana, splayed out on separate projection screens.

Something strange happens whenever the World Cup rolls around: I get nostalgically patriotic.

One of the reasons why I love soccer is I played it in high school. My friend Nate talked me out onto the pitch one afternoon. At the time, soccer was a club sport in Indiana, so anyone could come and play. Practices were considered meetings, and games were...well, activities, I guess. I had never played it other than in Freshman gym class, when I learned that heading the ball--especially an older ball, that was made out of concrete and allowed to harden to the consistency of granite--was a painful experience.

However, when I went out onto the pitch, and ran my first line down the right side of the field, I was instantly and rapaciously in love. It was exhausting, I was soaked both with my sweat and with the misty rain that hung in the air, but I was a soccer convert.

I would go on to play several summers with some friends at various parks and pitches around my home, either at my high school or up the road in Fort Wayne. For a while, I would play over the lunch hour at Notre Dame, but a combination of shin splints, fatigue and my advisor being none-too-pleased that I disappeared for an hour plus during the middle of the day three days a week--and then had the audacity to want to eat lunch, too!--ended my playing career. I played a couple more intramural games for the chemistry department at ND...but that ended badly, thanks to an obnoxious bitch's comments. Anyway, not to toot my own horn (I do have a wife, after all, plus I'm not as flexible as I once was), but I was a pretty decent player. At least by rural Indiana standards. I was even better once I finally got medication to help get my asthma under control and I could build up stamina!

I don't want to say that I'm a naturally-gifted athlete, because anyone who has looked at me recently would burst into tears laughing at that notion, but I have always been able to pick up a game fairly easily. Continuing and sustaining that interest has always been the difficu--hold on, gotta go check Facebook for any updates.

But, when I watch the U.S. competing in the World Cup, I like to sit and fantasize. If I had been given an opportunity to play soccer sometime before my junior year of high school, I think I could have excelled. Could I have made the U.S. team? I don't know. For a while, it seemed like if you had American blood in you and could kick a ball, you were on the team. God knows I certainly have the zeal for it.

This is when my fantasies really start taking over. If I was good enough to play for the U.S. team, maybe I could have played in Europe--certainly not the EPL, but one of the lower leagues perhaps. I could have toured the cities and nations I wanted to, seen the sights and enjoyed myself. I could have traveled with the U.S. team, as well. I could have sated the travel and tourism bug that has always been with me. Oh, what could have been. Nostalgia.

And, when I watch our side, I feel a deep sense of pride for the team. They're representing our nation, and though most people here ignore them--I won't get into my thoughts on that topic, mostly because it will probably offend--they're still out there, playing and trying to earn respect. Perhaps not in the eyes of their countrymen who are more content to sit back and slurp Busch Light and watch stock cars driving in an oval for four hours. But, hey, soccer is so boring, right?


But, win or lose, or draw, I still feel proud to watch the team compete. Herein rests the patriotism. It's an honor to represent your country in a World Cup. It's an honor that, nowadays, I would have loved to experience.

Too bad the rest of the country doesn't feel the same.


Scope said...

Medical science needs to investigate the "magic spounge". I've seen a few exhibition soccer matches, and seen guys apparently killed dead out on the pitch. There lifeless bodies a twisted mangled heap because an opposing player breathed on them as they ran past. Shoo away the vultures that where starting to pick the flesh off the carcass, a trainer would come out and pull a spounge out of a bucket, and touch the meat pile with it. Like JESUS, they would spring to life and amaze the Doubting Thomases in all of us.

Oh, Sponge Bob, you bring out the Patrick in all of us. (I wish I knew what that meant, but it sounds good.)

Anonymous said...

Best World Cup post... ever.

I really have nothing else to say because I would just be repeating everything you just said.


Ed said...

What's soccer?

Jidai said...

Soccer is the only sport where faking injuries is considered the norm. While I do admit, they are very athletic guys, I have to quote the immortal words of Stephen Colbert:

"Why should I go to a stadium to watch a bunch of guys jog around?"

I'm not bashing the sport, well maybe a little, but just like the Japanese, we just don't care too much about it.

Pfangirl said...

I've honestly been very surprised and impressed these past few weeks with the amount of interest expressed towards football/soccer by many American bloggers and Twitterers I read.

There were no snide comments, and many people were surprisingly knowledgeable about teams and players beyond the US squad. Which personally I found awesome! It's so nice to see US interest in international team sports beyond Olympic events - shattering the old "insular nation" stereotype that is usually slapped on America.

As for the diving and injury faking, as someone who watches bone crunching rugby I honestly hate the "acting" in soccer. Although, I must add that it seems certain teams are prone to faking injuries than others - the Mediterranean teams being the chief offenders (Portugal, Italy).

Pfangirl said...

Oh, I just have to add that I'm sure American interest in the sport will suddenly grow with the US making the Top 16 of the tournament. Everyone loves underdogs who defy the odds to become contenders:)

kate said...

I'm still not a huge soccer fan (though God knows I've watched plenty of it over the past few husband has had a constant sports boner since the World Cup started). I know what you mean about the patriotism thing, though. Every time the summer Olympics are on, I get all wheepy and "I love America"-ish and then I start getting mad that I tore up my shoulder and had to quit swimming. I SO could've been the next Michael Phelps...

Amber Tidd Murphy said...

I seriously didn't even know what soccer meant until I moved away from Indiana. I can't believe they had it, even in club-sport form... all the way back in your day.

So, um, did we win today?

red said...


words...words...words... said...

I enjoy any chance to display socially accepted jingoism! Go USA! Kick that ball thingy in that other team's spider web!

LiLu said...

You're not alone! B's obsessed. He has all the games scheduled on his iPad calendar.


SkylersDad said...

I wish I understood anything about the game so that I wouldn't sound like a complete idiot when I try and talk about it.