So, today is the big day for the World Cup. Personally, I’m torn as to who should win. At the level of culture, I favor the Spanish over the Dutch; at the level of sports, the opposite. I’ve talked at great length with expat acquaintances in the Benelux about the arrogance of the Dutch and the honor of the Spanish as cultures, and their pragmatism and formalism as teams, respectively.
Well, Paul the psychic octopus has predicted a win for the Spanish, and with an 80% accuracy so far, perhaps the sports gods have made their decision. Can the Dutch defy the heavens as they have defied the seas? We’ll find out in a few hours…
But on a different note, several of my European colleagues have been surprised to discover in me an American who is relatively conversant in football — indeed, who prefers to refer to it by its proper name and not “soccer”. The reason goes back to 1994, when the World Cup came to the United States and it seemed as if the whole world descended upon my home, and most of all to my father, who was an avid fan of the New York Cosmos and would regale me with team memorabilia and stories of watching Pelé play (albeit past his prime). Consequently, I was fascinated by the sport as a child.
Besides, let’s face it: compared to baseball, the drollness of which is rivaled only by golf, and basketball, which was much too indoors for my liking, football is much more dynamic to watch, both as a child and an adult. American football could be just as dynamic, but it’s become much too bogged down by technicalities — a threat increasingly looming over football, by the way. Also, I could play both kinds of football, which is very important for a child to be able to identify with a sport.
As to hockey, my mother was a big fan of the sport, and it’s about as dynamic as it comes, but I never watched it enough growing up. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to my dear friends Karl and Tony debate its history and players back when we used to live together in Philly. What impressed me the most was that of all the American sports, which are, like the nation, very inward-looking, hockey was always very international-minded. It made for a very different outlook among both its fans and players.
Anyway, I think in the end I’m going to root for both teams today. The Spanish are glorious to watch and the Dutch are just fun, and it’s about time that they both finally made it the finals. Hup hup to them both!