Monday, June 30, 2014

Fanaticos de futbol? Or people cheering for anything on a television screen?

We’re in the midst of the World Cup, and the computer-related technical difficulties I have experienced during the past week have prevented me from sharing the interest and excitement I have felt during that time.

To the point where I have to admit to getting a kick out of the television spots for the Kia Sorrento automobile that have been airing recently – the ones in which a sexy, Brazilian-type woman comes sauntering into a bar where allegedly “all-American” guys are watching NASCAR racing on television.

AFTER CAPTURING THEIR attention to the point where they can do nothing but watch her, she goes over to their TV set and flips the channel from auto racing to soccer, while excoriating them to “Watch futebol!”

An offensive thought to some. But one that will wither away with the passage of time. Which is what I think truly offends those people who want to rant and rage about soccer not really being a sport worthy of our time.

Their time is over. The ‘beautiful game’ is here and has its place in the U.S. sporting scene. Even if people who have spent too much time watching auto racing have numbed their sensibilities to the point where they can’t recognize it.

In my case, I was one of those kids back in the 1970s who always enjoyed when gym class turned to playing soccer for a few weeks (it just seemed more interesting than the constant start/stop/start again of “phony football”), and I always found the international aspects of the game to be intriguing.

I MISS THE Chicago Sting of old to the point where I can never truly claim to be a fan of the Chicago Fire franchise of Major League Soccer – even though I have gone to the occasional match.

But nothing quite matches the spectacle of the World Cup every four years. One of my life’s regrets is that when the cup came to the United States in 1994 and had opening ceremonies at Soldier Field, I was living elsewhere – and had to watch the whole thing on television.

Just like I’m watching this year’s tourney on a combination of ABC, ESPN and Univision.

As I write this, it is half-time of Mexico versus the Netherlands. Nobody has scored yet, largely because the Netherlands goaltender has made several spectacular plays to prevent El Tri from getting on the board.

THE FAN IN me remembering the birthplace of my grandparents is appalled, but the sports fan in me wonders how good a baseball shortstop Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen would be – nothing got past him!

At least not until Giovani dos Santos managed to get a goal past him early in the second half of Sunday’s match.

I get my kick whenever the television broadcasts feel the need to show us the Zocalo in Mexico City – that downtown gathering spot similar in spirit to Daley Center and the Picasso – to show us Mexican fans cheering on the national team.

Because the scene looks all too similar to what we have seen in Grant Park in recent weeks where local fans are given the chance to be a spectacle in their cheering on of the U.S. national team. Although U.S. fans aren't quite at the point of being able to sing anything like "Cielito Lindo" in unison the way Mexican fans are capable of doing.

ALTHOUGH I DO believe that many of the young people gathering there would easily find some other place to be a spectacle if the World Cup weren’t taking place. About the time these people are grandparents is when the sport will be so deeply entrenched in our pop culture that people will look back at those Ford advertising spots and wonder how anyone could ever have thought auto racing was more intriguing than activity on the pitch.

That, and somebody is going to be able to look at those ads, see Adriana Lima, and realize just how “hot” grandma was, back in the day. Wow!


EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm still in denial about the last few minutes, and the stoppage time, of Sunday's Mexico versus Netherlands World Cup match. Excuse me while I go crawl into a hole and wimper. Although I promise not to be as insufferable as Chicago Cubs fans get when they whine about the 2003 playoffs, Moises Alou and THAT foul ball!

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