World Cup knockout round time is upon us. Unlike 96% of residents in the Ozarks, I don’t hate soccer. I’m not threatened as a citizen by the international game, and this is heavily influenced by having The Lyin’ Dutchman as a father. My brothers and I grew up watching soccer on Telemundo, playing soccer in AYSO and watching the old man play in a league he insisted was “semi-pro” until a broken arm as a keeper turned him onto a new career path as a fanatic referee. There’s nothing quite like getting yellow AND red carded by your own father, who would only address me by number on the field.
But soccer as a sport was just one aspect of being the child of an immigrant. It wasn’t all-consuming, we (the offspring) weren’t obsessed with it, and really, we disappointed the old man greatly when we chose channels other than Telemundo. But soccer will always be the background noise that reminds me of my youth. I half expect Aunt Viper to come in every time I have World Cup on, screaming racial epithets, chain smoking with a fury.
With all that being said, I’m really only a fan every four years. Unlike my friend Erik, another son of a Dutchman, who can get away with wearing a jersey since he can name more than two players, I am lazily casual about it. And in no way whatsoever am I ashamed of it. I love the fact that teams from around the world are actually competing, unlike a “World Series” that should be re-named “United States Plus Some Canadian Teams Series”. I love watching fanatical fans who look to be on the verge of full scale rioting with each game. I love being a part time fan.
I feel that way about every sport. I become a fan of baseball in October, football in the fall (since it represents a change in seasons and the beginning of hot finger foods as “meals”), and hockey for about the first 67 games of the season and the Stanley Cup finals. I respect the devotion that some people have for “their” sport, slavishly following each aspect of “their” team, reveling in the minutiae and oblivious to any other sporting competitions. My short attention span mindset can’t do this, but I respect it, nonetheless.
This time every four years, I, too become a part time superfan. I cheer the goals of obscure countries as though I were a citizen of each. I share in the outrage of outrageous calls and I feign incredulity at the high drama that soccer players employ. I’ve found a couple of other firemen who are fans, too, and we talk about the games and highlights as though we actually know the intricacies of each team (“I mean, really, who expected that out of the South Korean keeper? After his atrocious play in group, no one is surprised”. Total bullshit statement, but we nod our heads, anyways).
So, here’s to the soccer fans out there. I’d like to see a little more drama than just the French team unravel-fest that played out earlier. More cars set on fire in the streets, more insane costume-wearing, less vuvuzela. Of course, I’d like to see my country go far in the competition, and I’ll go predictably nuts if they can beat Ghana in the knockout round. But really, I’m just happy they let me be a fan, even if only once every four years.