I love the Cup because it stripped away all the things about professional sports that I’ve come to despise. No sideline reporters. No JumboTron. No TV timeouts. No onslaught of replays after every half-decent play. No gimmicky team names like the “Heat” or the “Thunder.” (You know what the announcers call Germany? The Germans. I love this.) No announcers breathlessly overhyping everything or saying crazy things to get noticed. We don’t have to watch 82 mostly half-assed games to get to the playoffs. We don’t have 10 graphics on the screen at all times. We don’t have to sit there for four hours waiting for a winner because pitchers are taking 25 seconds to deliver a baseball.
The World’s Reaction to Landon Donovan’s Game Winning Goal. Awesome. That was such a good moment. Goosebumps over and over.
Soccer is a sport perfectly designed to reinforce a tragic view of the universe, because basically it is a long series of frustrations leading up to near certain heartbreak.
Nothing that matters comes without dread. It’s the dread of failure. One team will get to cheat death; thirty-one will meet with the end to end all ends. For that damned lot, their tournament will turn out to have been a series of attempts to delay the mortal coil shuffle for just one more round, like someone joining a gym, or praying furiously. The beautiful cruelty of the World Cup is that it is held every four years, and four years is a purgatory of a time to wait for reincarnation. Every game assumes an unreasonable importance, which is what makes it such fun.
A soccer game is a Wagner opera. The narrative sets up, the tension builds, the music ebbs and flows, the strings, the horns, more tension, and suddenly a moment of pure bliss, trumpet-tongued Gabriel sings, and gods descend from Olympus to dance—this peak of ecstasy. During these moments, I no longer am my usual self, no longer human. I am connected to life. Call it bliss, call it ecstasy, call it what you will. In that moment, I not only see God, I am God. I am not only connected to life, I am connected to my TV!