There is no reason for me to be enthusiastic about the World Cup. I'm not a sports geek (I was officially the last kid to be picked for grade school kickball events), and If I can relate to any sport, it would be baseball, for both it's high percentage of Puerto Rican players, and my being raised in the vicinity of (the old) Yankee Stadium. As far as world tournaments go, the WBC is the one I follow and can speak to the best. For most US Citizens, Soccer is so far removed from our identity that we made up a completely different name for it than the rest of the world.
But the World Cup is undeniably fun. You don't really need to know the players, just root for the your favorite country. Unlike some of the stat snobs who won't look at you unless you have memorized the career ERAs and batting averages of every team in the MLB, you don't have to minor in accounting to have a decent conversation about the game.
The People at LATISM (Latinos in Social Media) asked me to share my views on this tournament. So, for a lighthearted change from my usual posts, here are my 5 Reasons I Like the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, AKA El Mundial. Feel free to enjoy and/or comment.
1. The Colors
My sincerest apologies to the colorblind, because they are missing out at some serious visual stimulation. It's amazing to see how many different ways people can wear the colors of their country's flags, from face and body paint, to wigs, to all types of barely appropriate attire. Only at the annual Puerto Rican day parade in NYC can I see the same type of creativity in mixing national pride and practical (or not so practical) garments.
2. The Fans
Which brings me to my next point. While I am not big fan of soccer or El Mundial, I love watching those who are. They scream. They laugh, they cry. I mean, literally, they cry. You don't see crying at the end of games like this outside the neighborhood pee wee league. Some get so distraught, you'd think a bookie was waiting for them outside the stadium. The emotional connection to the game is something we as Americans experience very rarely, and only under limited, historic situations, or during Hollywood movies.
3. The Simplicity
Unlike football's special teams or baseball's fielding protocols, the soccer novice can pick up on the game as easy as they can say "GOL!" That's great to know because with all the different languages spoken on the field, having to call out plays or use complicated gesturing for game strategy can cause embarrassing or potentially violent misunderstandings.
4. The Latinos are GOOD!
Unlike the Olympics, where the games are dominated by the global superpowers of China, US, Russia, etc, El Mundial is all about the scrappy "3rd world" teams with a lot of heart and leg muscle. Sure, the Beckhams and Ronaldos of the world are uber rich superstars, but it's great to see a team from Honduras or Cameroon get into it with the French or the Germans and have a decent chance of winning. On a personal note it's great to see Latin America dominate in representation at a global tournament such as this. I mean, do you remember any athlete from Latin American even placing during the Winter Games?
I'm sorry. I meant to write the entertainment. El Mundial is known for making global hits out of their theme song music, because music is as much a part of the game as the balls and cleats. Ricky Martin's The Cup of Life is still heard at every wedding and karaoke bar I've ever been to (mostly because I request it), and Shakira's Waka Waka (Esto es Africa/This Time for Africa) song may also stand the test of time. So much so, Univision has made it their official summer theme music, and are playing her video in movie theaters nationwide. Shakira will be everywhere. Who wouldn't like that?
So while the rest of the Mundial-crazed world is not working, we American's have an opportunity to join in the fun by picking a team (perhaps our own?) and catching the games on TV or online (rare plug for Univision here -- they have the best stream at http://www.futbolunivision.com) or at least set up that DVR to catch the games at home. Mundial fever is catching on, and I am feeling a little hot!
"Waka Waka," baby!