wherein DF travels to Deutschland for the 2006 world cup to follow the US men's national soccer team

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Why I'm doing this, or why I'm not (completely) insane

It's ridiculous, in a way. Every moment of the World Cup will be televised, even in the US, in both low- and hi-def. One could, if they were so inclined, watch every second of the tournament from the comfort of home. And those of us who (like me) are endowed with DVR technology don't even have to disrupt their work schedule to enjoy the tournament by recording games and watching them when convenience permits.

In light of all this, one might ask, why go to Germany? It is, after all, tremendously far away (an eight-hour plane flight that I'm not at all looking forward to), expensive as hell (though I'm lucky enough to have a place to stay), and the US is likely to make an undistinguished exit considering their unlucky placement in the group of death (Czech Republic, Italy, and Ghana).

Yet on Sunday, there I'll be, uncomfortably cramped in a coach-class seat in a tin cylinder, hurtling over the Atlantic on my way to Berlin via Philly and Frankfurt, arriving just in time to see the US matched up against a Czech team loaded with more talent in one XI than the US has had in its history.

And perhaps that's just the point: despite the odds and the practical reasons not to go and the irrational choice issues, there I'll be. Being a fan is, all told, more an act of faith than a considered choice to maximize one's emotional well-being. Were this not the case, we'd all root for Brazil (though to be fair I'll be there when Brazil play Croatia in Berlin, sporting the green and yellow, with the flimsy defense against poseur status that being Portuguese somehow requires me to support the Samba Kings).

As I realized today when watching a stadium mostly full of Poland supporters become crestfallen as their pedestrian side fell to a brighter and stronger Ecuador, fifty percent of fans that spend the cash to haul their asses to the World Cup will end up disappointed as their teams exit after the first round. Yet there they are, showing up in the slim hope that their teams will surprise them (and they're there even when there's a virtual certainty that their team will be eliminated--think about the few but loyal Tunisians who went to see their team finish last in the weakest group of 2002 in Japan).

But then one has to consider the fans of, say, Senegal in 2002, who had no reason to think they were anything but making up the numbers. They flew from West Africa to Japan, despite what must have been enormous costs, just to see their team on the world's biggest stage. And once there, they were rewarded with one of the most improbable results in World Cup history: a victory over defending champ (and colonial overlord) France in the opening game. Strange and wonderful, just like life.

The oddsmakers would have US fans stay home. That's a reasonable call, and the pragmatist/pessimist in me (honed to perfection after a year at the University of Chicago) gets the point on an intellectual level. But soccer, blessedly, is nothing if not un-intellectual, so come Sunday, there I'll be, joining the millions who follow their teams in a secular act of faith unparalleled in its piousness. Glory hallelujah!

(Btw, caption on the pic: your bloggers, with mirarchi on the left and DF on the right, at the US-Jamaica Gold Cup semifinal at Foxboro in 2005).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've gotta be disgusted with our showing against CZE. I feel your pain. Who's to blame? What's gotta change?

4:19 PM, June 12, 2006

Blogger SMELLRAT said...

Ohhhh Taaaaayloooor . . .? Where aaaare yooooou?

8:24 AM, June 13, 2006


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