The 20th World Cup is upon us and you don’t care at all, do you?
I know it is going to be an uphill battle trying to convince you, a proud American, lover of freedom, democracy and contact sports, that you should watch the FIFA World Cup. I realize this is a fool’s errand but I am going to give it the old college try.
Because I love the World Cup. And so should you. Here are 10 reasons you should tune in to the 2014 World Cup:
World’s Largest Sporting Event
It’s not called the South American Cup or the European Cup, it’s The World Cup, people. The Olympics is the only sporting event that really even comes close to the international intrigue and passion that this event offers. Futbol — hereto for called soccer — is the most popular sport in the world and is akin to religion for most countries not called America. Fans and teams from 32 different nations all converge on one country every four years to earn the most coveted international trophy in sports. Cultures clash, fans mingle, beverages are consumed and only one nation can stand above the rest after a month-long battle. These are the greatest players in the world all playing in one unified tournament. What’s not to love about that?
The FIFA Commentary
John Oliver of HBO went off on FIFA last weekend. He began, “I want to talk to you about the sausage principle. It says, if you love something, never find out how it’s made.” Oliver then went on to point out the unbelievable layers of corruption that course through the world’s largest soccer organization. The good broadcasters should cover the 2014 World Cup in its entirety and that includes the dark side of FIFA. Among the topics that will likely be discussed at some point are: local economies, bribes, poverty, protests and a $270 million stadium that will be used for four games and can’t be really be reached by car since it’s so far into the Brazilian jungle. So keep your ears peeled for talking heads destroying the international soccer organization. It should be must-see TV and Oliver could be just the beginning:
Because you love your country
The United States is the biggest dog on most sporting blocks. But not in soccer, where we are consistently one of the bigger underdogs in the world. The US Men’s National Team (USMNT) hasn't finished inside of the top eight in the World Cup since the debut event in 1930 (3rd) — the best we've done is 10th (1950) and eighth (2002). Our country has only reached the quarterfinals twice ('30, ’02) in the eight-decade history of the event. Should we emerge from the Group of Death this time around, all insufferable Americans would go berserk — much to the chagrin of every other nation in the world. The United States dominates most major sports on this globe and soccer is the last remaining field (or pitch, as they say) we’ve yet to conquer. We begin the World Cup on June 16 at 6 p.m. ET against Ghana. U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A!
After the US finished a disappointing 12th in 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the USMNT hired one of the most famous European soccer names in the business to be their coach. Klinsmann, from Goppingen, Germany, was a striker on zee West German team that won the 1990 FIFA World Cup championship and went on to coach Germany’s national team from 2004-08, including a third-place finish in the 2006 World Cup. Now, charged with rebuilding American soccer, Klinsmann has to face his own country in group play. The US will play Germany Thurs., June 26 at noon ET.
The people of Brazil love soccer. They also love bikinis, beaches and the sunshine. The Brazilian culture is one of the most vibrant in the world and the images from South America should be spectacular. The crowd shots during every game will be loaded with beautiful scenery in the stands and the cutaways to the local beaches will be even better. Just look at her. Or them.
Uh, hello? We all hate commercials and one of the coolest reasons to watch World Cup soccer matches is that they can fly by free of commercial interruption. There is a short break at halftime obviously that will be full of advertisement, but during the first and second half of action, we will not be inundated with 30-second spots. What a great way to watch a sporting event.
Julian Green and the new faces
One of the reasons Klinsmann was hired was his influence on luring semi-German players to the US Team. Julian Green is a 19-year old phenom who is one of 17 players making their World Cup debut this year. Green is also one of four players with deep ties to Germany, either growing up or being born there. Defensemen John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin are only 21 and 20 years of age respectively. Fabian Johnson (26) is another name to watch as well. However, it’s not just the youth that will be fun to watch as a guy like Kyle Beckerman, at age 32, is making his WC debut. He is second all-time among midfielders in MLS history with 335 games played.
Tim Howard can do this
The best player on the US team is goalkeeper Tim Howard. He has 100 caps and is the third longest tenured player on the team behind only Clint Dempsey (105) and DeMarcus Beasley (116). He is one of the best keepers in the world and this is all you need to know about how good he is:
Corruption and the favelas
There has been no hiding the corruption that runs through both the Brazilian government and FIFA alike. And when millions of fans pour millions of dollars into a corrupt and dangerous economy, anything can happen. No other place in the country will exhibit this strange dichotomy of glitzy night life and extreme poverty than in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Favela is a term used to describe the different slums or neighborhoods surrounding Rio and each is controlled with brutal authority by a different drug cartel. Something is bound to occur that will steal headlines from the best soccer players in the world.
There's nothing else on
The NBA Finals, NHL Stanley Cup Final and the College World Series will all be over in less than two weeks. At that point, the average sports fan will enter the slowest portion of the sports calendar year. Other than regular season baseball games, the World Cup has very little to compete with on the television set in terms of your daily sports diet. So tune in, folks, and cheer for your country.
Please? (I promise, you won't be disappointed.)