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Why I Watched the World Cup Final (and cheered for Spain)

July 11, 2010

I have watched more soccer (futbol…whatever) in the past three weeks than I have watched in the entirety of my life.  For those who are counting I am 28 years old, and much of my family is from Mexico although to be honest my family was never really into soccer.  And I definitely never was.

But for some reason, I found myself watching the final game of the World Cup this year anxiously hoping that Spain would win the game even though I have no real connection to the country.  I spent eight days there once and thought it was lovely (Madrid was great for nightlife, Barcelona was a beautiful city on the water).  Many people from Mexico refuse to cheer for Spain because of the history of genocide  in indigenous lands.  I had to actively forgive them for having a statue of Christopher Columbus proudly on display in Barcelona and it was hard to keep a grudge when modern Spaniards were really nice and welcoming, even though my accent gave away my Latin American identity.  So out of Spain and the Netherlands, they’re the country I felt closer to.  Especially since the whole Netherlands/Holland geography doesn’t make any sense to me.

But this post is really to investigate how I found myself watching the World Cup to begin with, given my little interest in the sport and the early defeats of two teams I have much closer ties to: the U.S. and Mexico.

There are two reasons I think I was much more interested in the cup this year.  The first is that the U.S. tied England in what was effectively the comeback from an underdog.  We all knew that it was really a win for the U.S. especially given the way we scored from the error committed by England’s goalie.  It was a classic movie moment where the big, bad team became overconfident and the team no one was expecting to get far took advantage.  It created the sense that the American team might actually have a shot at this, and Americans tend to like sports in which we dominate…hence the popularity of summer over winter Olympics.

The second reason is much more mundane.  I knew the 2006 World Cup was happening only because a friend of mine began a petition on our campus to have the grad student bar open at 6am so that people could gather to watch the games.  It worked but the crowd that showed was mostly international students from countries where soccer is a major way of life.  I might be a person who would go if my school/city/country was in an important game at 6am but not a qualifying game and certainly not for a country I don’t have a strong connection to.   In 2002 my British summer roommates were waking up at ridiculous hours to watch and I thought they were crazy and didn’t feel rude asking them not to cheer loudly at three in the morning when I was sleeping in the next room.  That is all to say that having the games start at times like 10am or 1pm has made a HUGE difference.  I watched the US v. Ghana game in New Orleans at a bar during a normal time for drinking and eating with people dressed up like Uncle Sam (white beards and all).  I watched the final game from my couch with my computer in my lap but wouldn’t have watched at all if it had been at a more inconvenient time (say 4am on a Sunday).

I say that if people really want soccer to become a more popular sport in the US (I’m not one of them, but I can definitely see the ridiculous athleticism that it takes to play it well) then they need to support the World Cup being in countries that would allow the times to be convenient for Americans (since other countries will watch no matter what time it’s playing) AND ensure that the American team has a decent shot to make it relatively far in the tournament.  Having it in Brazil in 2014 will definitely help.  And if it every does come back to the States, I would argue that it should be held in one city, instead of having it across the entire country.

Oh, and focusing on extremely good looking players doesn’t hurt either.

It doesn’t take a social psychologist for you all to know that sex (or at least sexiness) sells.

¡Felicidades a España!

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