The professional team which brought Utah a championship was not the Jazz, it was the unlikely first place win in an exciting shoot-out that had Real Salt Lake on top of the MSL. You would think that these factors would ensure Dave Checketts a sell-out season for years to come.
And now it’s World Cup season. The event that slows the rest of the globe every four years attracts viewers who suddenly wax eloquent about poor officiating and questionable off-sides calls. A mere two weeks ago, these same folks couldn’t recognize an infraction on the soccer field if they had to bet a Utah Jazz draft pick on it.
However, as much as Americans faithfully watch luge competitions, steeplechase, and curling during the Olympic games, World Cup captures the imagination of a nation whose “futbol” is played with helmets and pads. And it could be argued that World Cup soccer does as much for world peace and understanding as some diplomatic endeavors.
Understanding what someone loves can give great insight into what drives and motivates that person. For a few weeks, Americans can see the passion of the rest of the world, can join in celebrating victories of small African nations over the powerhouse teams of South America. And for the briefest of times, the U.S. can enjoy the affection reserved for underdogs.
While our passion for soccer may wax and wane with the AYSO season, the opportunity to watch and cheer with the rest of the world is a nice diversion from the political posturing over Supreme Court nominees, the ugly primary season of our recent Senate campaign, and the stubborn unemployment numbers.
My son and I will long remember being in England several years ago during the World Cup. Every evening, pubs were packed with rabid fans, battery-powered TVs were standard at every newsstand on every corner and for a few hours each night, we weren’t tourists far from home – we were soccer fans and we weren’t strangers any more. We were among friends.