A World Is More Fun With a World Cup

Now, I’ll be the first to confess that I’m not a “sports person”. I don’t dislike them, but I just can’t really bring myself to really care about them in the fashion that others do. I never know when the basketball playoffs are on, I vaguely know when the Super Bowl is because the half-time show seems to be exciting (I call them Beyonce/Justin Timberlake/Katy Perry concerts); and I am amazed at how long baseball is. My antipathy towards sports is not personal, though American football has definitely not won a fan in me, I just wasn’t raised in a sports home. That being said, I’ve been absolutely HOOKED on the World Cup games this year. Was it my recent trip to the UK? Was it my love for all things British? There’s probably some of that in there, to be sure. But, me? Into a tournament that plays for a month? This was brand new territory for me.

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There was only one time in my life where I really wanted to play sports. I begged my parents to sign me up to play soccer with the Las Cruces Rowdies, our local children’s soccer team. Looking back, my parents had amazing foresight in not signing me up because I never followed through on anything, and having someone make me run? Yeah, that wasn’t going to work in anyone’s favor. I took one tap dance lesson and said I knew all I needed to know, and I took about 4 gymnastics lessons and decided I’d had enough, so in the end, it’s probably for the best that my parents didn’t listen to me beg about soccer. I absolutely hated the days we had to play things like kickball, or basketball, in PE because I’m not coordinated and I don’t like running towards things that are flying at me. But, for some odd reason, any time we were told to play soccer, I was excited and happy. I wasn’t terrible at soccer. I mean, okay, we were all 9 years old, and only playing for “activity” but I loved it. Put me in on a volleyball court and I’ll protect my face by flinging my arms over my head instead of hitting the ball, but let me run after a tiny ball and kick things, and I was pretty okay at it. Life is weird.

I had never known the power of soccer, or football, until I moved to Portland. Sports were so far off my radar, I had no idea that a tournament such as World Cup even existed, and moving to Portland was really eye-opening to me in a lot of ways. I work at a hospital with a lot of avid soccer fans, and we have our own professional teams, The Portland Timbers and The Portland Thorns, so World Cup was all abuzz in our office. I distinctly remember one year going to get a signature from one of my doctors and walking in and finding the World Cup up on one of the computer screens while everyone was crowded around watching. I was confused but what did I know? A few years later, my entire office high-tailed it to another office that had a huge flatscreen on the wall and everyone piled in to watch the final match. I thought they were all ridiculous and was annoyed as I sat at my desk doing my work. “We are working, people! Do the sports thing on your own time!” Well, that sort of went down the drain this year.

As you’re probably aware, this country is sort of a nightmare right now. The news keeps getting worse and I feel like I’m at my wit’s end most of the time, as I’m sure quite a lot of us feel. So, I made a decision early on this summer to find something that would take my mind off of the madness, and that was watching the World Cup tournament. The excitement in the office was palpable, or rather, the excitement from my cubicle was palpable. I would bring up the matches on my phone (I even downloaded a sports app and the official FIFA app) and put my headphones on while I worked. There was finally something else to talk about that was international but wasn’t about our “president” and whether he had pissed anyone else off (of course he had), and that was fun for a few hours. I started out not really knowing much about football, and ended the series knowing what yellowcards meant, and understanding fouls and penalty kicks. I had a team I was rooting for (ENGLAND!) and I actually cared that Russia didn’t beat Croatia in that nail-biting penalty kick-off ender. It has been really fun connecting with other people who are also into this and talking about games and players and all of that fun stuff that other people have been into for years and years. I get it, everyone.

Truly, I’ve always understood that people love something fiercely. I’ve been a boyband fan since before I was a teenager, so I get it when people are feverish with happiness over something that someone else might deem ridiculous. But, there is something very different with watching football like this. You see all of these people coming together and sharing emotions with each other that they might not ever share in other circumstances. For me, it’s been really fun bonding with everyone about the games and talking about it at work and sending hilarious text messages back and forth during the games on the weekend. I was literally yelling on a bus ride to Seattle recently watching a game, and I was screaming in my own living room as England beat Sweden to move onto the Semi-Finals. Sadly, my team lost to Croatia and didn’t make it to the final round, and I know there are those that are crushed. But, the excitement and feeling of these last few weeks will remain for me.

Allowing myself to find something good in this very difficult time has been really helpful. It allows me to take my mind off the news cycle and to care about something that may seem frivolous but really isn’t. There’s a world out there, and it’s worth saving, and it’s worth caring about. And, though I may never have played for our Las Cruces Rowdies, I can surely go and cheer on my local teams here in Portland. In fact, I purchased my very first tickets to go see the Timbers in a few weeks, and I have to say, I absolutely can’t wait! So, I get the whole “sports thing” now. I still don’t like American football, and I don’t care so much for baseball, but bring on the footie, everyone! And, I really can't wait until the Women's World Cup because those women are fierce and fiery, and we all need a little more of that! Let's grab a pint at the pub and watch a match, yeah?

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