It's been a while since so much has been owed by so many to so few, but for the next month millions of people will be running their lives around the 352 men who make up the first team squads of the World Cup soccer teams. England's eleven are being followed by the vast majority of their fellow countrymen, a third of whom will apparently be skiving off work to watch them, according to Sky News. In England, as in most of the rest of the world, the Cup is an obsession.
The build up is enormous. It's difficult to overstate how much media is dedicated purely to the endeavors of that group of temporarily god-like men, who for this brief month are pardoned the excesses of their vanity and philandering and elevated far above their weight in the national interest. This is bigger than the Olympics, bigger than sex, and for one couple, who will take a break during their wedding to watch England take on the USA, bigger than matrimony.
But in the United States it's business as usual. Americans are just starting to show interest, as lists of teams and venues are popping up on websites, and ESPN has dedicated more time than ever before to World Cup coverage, but as a Brit in New York City, I am amazed by how few flags, drunks stumbling out of bars in novelty hats (admittedly this might not be something you would wish to emulate), and painted faces there simply aren't. The U.S. has never been a big soccer country, but it is baffling quite how sedate it is out here when it seems the entire world is perched on the edge of their seats, from Buenos Aires to Belgrade via Lagos. Even North Korea, the last country you'd ever expect to play nice with its international neighbors, is keen.
Every four years an official England World Cup song is released; for weeks before the first whistle is blown, pundits on sports channels, and frequently not even on sports channels, discuss whether this is the year we'll finally claim victory; radio is streamed live from restaurants and bars, and during each England game the streets are eerily silent as everyone sits wide-eyed infront of the nearest television. This year the Mayor of London held a public opening ceremony party attended by thousands, screens have been erected in offices across the country, and one school was recently lambasted for rescheduling classes so students could be sure to catch every England game.
We aren't going to win, and neither is the United States, and only the Wall Street Journal knows what's going to happen. But when the entire world gets a free pass to take a month out of their lives to talk about some men kicking a ball around a country that can't win but will have the best June it has ever had, who cares. Pass the Powerade.