Our summer has been dominated by the World Cup. We have not watched every game, but we have scheduled our weeks around the games we wanted to see. Now that it is over, Isaac and I will have to be more creative about how we fill our time.
Even though Isaac has played soccer with the YMCA since he was five, we are not a soccer household. American football has firm roots here and always will, I am sure. But I discovered over the past few weeks that I really enjoy watching soccer.
I don't know that the World Cup would have even been on our radar had our favorite coffee shop not advertised that they would be showing the USA group matches. Isaac saw the poster on one of our weekly visits early in June and immediately decided he wanted to watch them. Since we do not have cable, going to Geeksboro or a sports bar was going to be the only way to do it.
At the first match, I was barely tuned in, but after the win over Ghana I got caught up in the excitement. We went back to see the second match and then I even planned to go watch the Germany match despite the fact that Isaac was in camp and wouldn't be able to go with me. I had to be able to give him an update, right? We watched the USA lose to Belgium in the Round of 16 and Costa Rica pull off a win after being down a player and making it through extra time to come through on penalty kicks. Then there was their loss to The Netherlands in a similar scenario, and Netherlands loss to Argentina again on PK's, culminating in Argentina's loss to Germany in the final. My track record held through it all -- ultimately the team I was routing for met its demise. But it was still fun to watch.
As I told friends who talked me through some of the finer points of the game -- why the goalies' uniforms are a different color, what the yellow armbands mean, why they get a goal kick rather than a throw-in -- I know enough about soccer to sound stupid. I love watching the constant action, but I don't yet understand the finer nuances of the game -- what will get a yellow card vs. a free kick, when the players are off-sides, though I do finally at least understand what that means, whether or not the player writhing on the ground is really injured or just buying his team some rest time.
I marvel at the athleticism of the players on the field and am amazed at their running stats at the end of the games. Watching the game without interruptions, without ads, without stopping after every play pulled me in and let me get caught up in the rhythm of the play. So much different than football with its stop and go motion and TV time-outs and halves that last twice as long as the clock says they do.
What really pulled me in, though, was being part of a community of soccer fans. Watching the games at Geeksboro, many times in their intimate basement theater, cheering with a crowd, and catching the other fans' excitement is what brought me back game after game. For a few weeks, we were part of a larger soccer family. Even after "our" team lost in the finals yesterday afternoon, I smiled to see the Germany fan running up the Geeksboro stairs waving his team's flag and cheering.
Last fall Isaac chose to play flag football instead of soccer. This fall he wants to play soccer again and I look forward to watching his games, though my heart will be in my throat if his coach puts him in goal again.
And the Women's World Cup is only 326 days away!