I am riveted to the World Cup.
Soccer. Yes, there I said it. I can’t get enough of it. Put two teams on a pitch, break out the face paint, the flags and those left over noise-makers from New Year’s Eve, and let’s go.
If you’re not watching World Cup Soccer, you are missing a spectacle, a once-every-four-years event built around drama, and nationalism, almost to the point that the game itself is secondary.
Yes, there is no Team USA in the mix. But I take that as a positive, don’t you? We don’t have to be No. 1 in everything, you know.
The great news is that while the past few weeks have provided a vast array of thrills and heartbreak, the best is yet to come.
The quarterfinals or “Last Eight” begin on Friday with Uruguay and France at 10 a.m. and Brazil vs. Belgium at 2 p.m.
This is the heavy hitters side of the bracket, if you will. Brazil is soccer’s New England Patriots, fans either love them or hate them because of their amazing talent. France is always there, while both Belgium and Uruguay, see Luis Suarez, carry serious star power.
The other side of things kicks off Saturday with Sweden and England in the 10 a.m. tilt, followed by Croatia and the host team from Russia, at 2 p.m.
Russia is riding the crest of the home-field wave of emotion, along with an attitude that old Bruins coach Claude Julien would admire. They want to beat you, 0-0. Croatia has its hands full here with the former Big Red Machine.
Sweden brings a dogged determination that can only be spawned in those long, frozen Scandinavian winters. You may be thinking England, with all its “Premier League” cockiness is the team to beat. Don’t bet on it.
You would think what we did for them in World War II was enough payback for the savage beatings we unleashed in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, right? Nope. We delivered a pre-July 4 gift in the Round of 16.
With the help of American official Mark Geiger, the Brits beat Colombia in penalty kicks. Colombia scored the lone real goal in the game, but a phantom “holding” foul gave England its goal in regulation via a gift penalty kick.
Yes, Harry Kane made it count, but the world saw Geiger’s gift for what it was.
They are amazing athletes, and if you watch Brazil’s Neymar, even better actors. That guy takes more dives in a game than Greg Louganis did on his way to four Olympic gold medals.
But the drama is more than just repeated independent performances when a helpless hero feels the wrath of his opponent’s “studs up.”
These teams have their nations entranced, their emotions ebbing and flowing with every swing.
Check the ratings, the world is simply mesmerized. And the true beauty of these games lie in their flow. For 45 minutes, plus stoppage time, each half there is action. The ball is moving, or the players are whining, one or the other.
No commercials. No drop-ins by some announcers, imploring me to check out how much weight he’s lost by using a certain fat-loss method, no color commentator letting me know that a supermarket has steak tips on special this week for $4.99 a pound.
Action. Emotion. World Cup soccer. Don’t even think about calling me Friday morning. I’m busy.