Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Cup Blues

On June 5, 2002, I awoke before dawn to turn on the TV, and sat alone to watch the event that millions (billions?) were watching all over the world, the World Cup. The opening match for the U.S. was against heavily favored Portugal, and in quick succession the U.S. scored three goals, then held on for a 3-2 victory. When the phone rang at the game's conclusion, I screamed in joy at whomever had called to share the moment with me (my father). My celebration was fairly jarring to Kathy, as she had been awoken by the call and had picked up the phone to see who was calling. This game began a wonderful journey for the U.S. team, one that ended far later than anyone had a right to hope for, in a quarterfinal match against Germany that many feel the U.S. should have won.

Since that time, American soccer fans (don't laugh -- there are many of us) have been looking forward to this year's World Cup, feeling that even if the team couldn't win, they could show that the results in 2002 weren't a fluke. I considered going to Germany for the Cup, but knowing that Kathy might be pregnant now prevented me from pursuing it (good thing too!). So I put that possibility out of my mind. I put it so far out of my mind that when I scheduled a visit to see my college roommate Pete in Montana, I neglected to consider that I'd be flying back during the U.S.'s first match. Yesterday morning, as I was getting ready to head to the airport, I remarked to Pete how envious I was of the people I knew who'd gone to the match. I thought I'd be able to at least watch the first half at the airport, but Bozeman's airport was devoid of televisions past the security gate (and the only one I saw before then was in a bar that wasn't open).

Upon arrival at Minneapolis, I called one friend while we were taxiing (no answer), then looked around for a TV to tell me the result. It took fifteen minutes, but upon learning of the 3-0 shellacking the team suffered at the hands (feet?) of the Czechs, suddenly I didn't feel so unfortunate to miss watching the match, and the envy for the people I knew at the game had shriveled into pity. Many had thought that the U.S. wouldn't advance to the next round of the Cup anyhow, given that they're in the same group as the Czechs (ranked second in the World, behind only Brazil) and the Italians, and that only two of the four teams advance. After yesterday's debacle, however, it will take a miracle (in case of a tie in the standings, goal differential is a factor in determining who advances). And so, after only 90 minutes of the tournament, four years of anticipation have given way to mourning, as now all the U.S. can reasonably do is play for pride (and for a better result than in 1998, when the team was deemed number 32 out of the 32 teams in the tournament).

I guess it's time to restart the four-year-long timer, in anticipation of the 2010 World Cup.