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McCollum's Column: Reflections on the World Cup phenomenon

Posted: July 2, 2014 - 6:34pm

Is the recent passion about the World Cup in the United States a growing blaze or a flash in the pan?

Not certain. Too early to tell. But we’ve rarely seen such excitement over a team that went 1-2-1 in competition.

Yet, there were watch parties at small restaurants, bars and larger arenas throughout America. The gatherings, large and small, were amazing. The crowd electricity was contagious.

Red, white and blue were in. Chants of “I believe we will win,” crescendoed from all pockets of the country with collegiate enthusiasm.

Casual diners in restaurants paused to check out the action on big screens. The salon in which my wife has her hair done had several Tuesday afternoon cancellations to watch America’s match with Belgium that ended with heartbreak and frustration.

What many discovered from the experience that soccer, which usually features low-scoring and extra-period contests at the highest level, can be pretty darn gripping and exciting. Every possession or segment of one has its own drama. Once you started viewing, it was hard to stop.

This World Cup has particularly been special because of the number of game-changing goals in extra time and/or penalty kicks.

And it was fun watching U.S. keeper Tim Howard solidifying himself as one of the best athletes in the world with that “swat everything away” effort against Belgium. It’s one of the best individual efforts, particularly in a losing cause, I have seen. That is enchanced by the fact that Howard suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome and plays with twits and twitches that are transformed to amazing calm under intense pressure.

It’s unfortunate the U.S. was eliminated in the first phase of the knockout round of 16.

Ratings will likely go down.

So much for watch parties. In some cases, so much for watch.

“Soccer season is over,” lamented a friend.

It isn’t but it is.

Maybe it’s because the event, the biggest championship on the worldwide stage, occurred during a sports dead spot in the summer.

Maybe it’s because that in a country divided over so many political issues, Americans needed something to bond them together and allow them to experience the glow of community.

Now, the conversation shifts from futbol to preseason football — as it would normally do anyway after the Fourth of July fireworks.

But it was fun and a great rush when soccer was more than just a blip on the radar.

It has some lasting effects.

Another friend says he will refrain from Belgium waffles — for a while.

(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or david.mccollum@thecabin.net or follow him on twitter @dmaclcd)

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