*This blog was inspired by a post on meninblazers.com by Roger Bennet. Check it out here.*
The summer of 1994 I was a nerd. I had started running competitively school just two years before. My glasses were huge because that’s all insurance would pay for. I had the worst version of “the wave” haircut you could imagine. I had just completed Algebra as a 7th grader. Yeah…I was that kid.
We didn’t own a TV. I used to listen to sporting events on the radio. I didn’t feel like I was necessarily missing out on anything. Except in March. March Madness was king in our Hoosier household, so much so, that I would borrow a 13in. black and white TV to watch the games during the tournament. Sometimes we went to someone’s house, or on rare occasions my father and I would end up at some television-laden sports bar & grill to watch the “big game” with the masses. Probably a big part of the reason why I love watching games in local drinking holes today.
Enter the summer of 1994…the United States of America hosted the World Cup. It was a big deal. There was a massive media blitz…newspapers, sports talk shows, late night show scripts, news stories, etc. Upper Deck, a baseball card manufacturer, released a limited-edition set of World Cup cards. Names like Alexi Lalas, Tony Meola, Cobi Jones, Ernie Stewart, Carlos Valderama, Zizou, etc. were stuffed into every pack, along with the obligatory stick of gum of course.
This is when I first began to take significant notice of soccer. I did my best to watch the games. I didn’t have access to anyone with cable television, so I did my best to find ways in front of a tube during ABC’s nationally-televised matches. I remember watching Team USA beat Colombia. This was huge. I remember being proud when we left the tournament after a 1-0 defeat to Brazil.
I didn’t watch much of the ’98 Cup. I was on a mission trip in Honduras. I did get an opportunity to watch the final match of France vs Brazil with a bunch of Hondurans. Probably one of the funnest experiences I’ve ever had. A few years later, the 2002 World Cup was hosted by South Korea. The USA came with a bunch of fresh-faced youngsters who had nothing to lose. We miraculously (it seemed) made it through to the Round of 16, where we faced a familiar foe in Mexico. Two goals and 90 minutes later we were on to the quarter-finals. Today we still chant “DOS a CERO” during USA matches, a seemingly magical scoreline that raises it’s beautiful head time and time again when playing our close CONCACAF rivals. I remember being up in the middle of the night, throwing a fit in the living room while trying not to wake my folks after Torsten Frings’ handball on the goal line was not called. We lost to Germany.
I remember the disappointment of World Cup 2006 in Germany, the beginning of Ghana’s torment of the USA, Brian McBride’s facial work by De Rossi’s elbow…it was a tough summer. I also blew out my shoulder while skating downhill after England going on penalties, again. Let’s not talk anymore about 2006.
Then 2010, the year the U.S. Men’s National Team left for South Africa with high expectations. The cheers upon drawing England in our group. Robert Green’s fumble leading to Dempsey’s goal. Michael Bradley’s magnificent goal. Donovan against Algeria. And losing to Ghana…again.
After all this, you can imagine my excitement this Summer of Copa(cabana) once again. The USA plays Germany in Recife, Brazil tomorrow in one of the biggest matches the US has ever played. Ghana has been defeated. Portugal has been swatted aside with indifference (yes it was a draw, but no one really thought we were going to lose that match). And Germany now stands before us. We have an opportunity to exorcise many previous Cup-failure demons by making it out of our group this year. There are many scenarios that allow for a USA-filled spot in the Round of 16. The simplest to understand is a victory. Over Germany. Jurgen’s motherland. Tomorrow. I’ll be ready. Tired. Anxious. But ready. #NoSleepTillRecife
*The photo above was modified from the original which was taken for the organization Love.Futbol. Check them out the cool things they are doing here!