McGinnis: 2014’s Best Thing: How the World Cup brought people togetherWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Forget about soccer being “the world’s game.” That phrase is usually bandied about by the well-intentioned as if the sheer fact that the sport is popular worldwide should be enough reason for American fans to like it. This makes it feel more like an obligation than a joy. No, the fact that it’s “the world’s game” doesn’t matter to me a whit.
What does matter is that for a month this summer, it was MY game. And the game of an ever-increasing number of people I know, connecting us in a real, emotional way. For that reason, I think the FIFA World Cup was 2014’s Best Thing, period, in pop culture.
Every four years, I start to get an itch. Right around the beginning of May, I start to get an itch. By the time the opening kickoff finally occurs, my excitement is at a fever pitch. The World Cup once more has me under its spell.
I place most of my grateful blame at the feet of my former roommate Ian. One night I came home to find on the screen the 2002 World Cup out of South Korea and Japan. I hadn’t even known Ian was interested in sports, much less soccer. Yet it seemed every four years, World Cup fever took hold of my friend.
At first I was resistant to the point of hostility. “This is dull! The offside rule makes no sense!” But as each game passed and I found myself becoming more and more acquainted with the strategies involved, I began to enjoy the matches.
By 2010, though time and distance separated us, my friends and I could still geek out over the World Cup through the burgeoning advances of social media. I began to notice we were becoming less alone. World Cup fever seemed to be catching on.
This was even more apparent during this year’s tournament out of Brazil, which was probably the most purely entertaining World Cup I have seen yet. United States fans were treated to a roller coaster of emotions, as the men’s national team once more was able to survive the group stage, only to falter in the knockout round.
Even though the World Cup is competition between nations, the overriding spirit — how the love of a game brings everyone together — is what I truly take away once the final whistle has sounded. And every four years I can feel and see that spirit take root among more and more people.
For being a wonderfully entertaining event, for bringing people together, for providing the most expansive common ground in this most divisive of times — the 2014 FIFA World Cup was this year’s Best Thing. Period.