I’ve been watching a lot of World Cup soccer lately. A lot. Maybe too much. I plan my work days around the World Cup game schedule. Anything that needs 100% of my focus better get done before noon, because that’s when I fire up the modest flat screen TV in my office and eat leftovers in front of the first match of the day. If the game isn’t too close, I can press “mute” on the remote and write or grade papers, looking up every now and then to see if Spain has made any gains against Australia or if Croatia continues to trounce Cameroon. More often than not, however, the games are real nail-biters, and there’s no way I’m going to be able to tear myself away from the game long enough to read through one more essay on Of Plymouth Plantation. And if my home team, team USA, is on board, I’m all in, sweating and shouting at my 30-inch television as striker Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones in midfield, goalkeeper Tim Howard, along with the entire US squad, battle it out on the field in Brazil.
One might ask, why would a mild-mannered wife and mom, community college professor and writer, have such an obsession with the World Cup? That’s an excellent question. Sure, I’ve played soccer myself from elementary school through, well, now. At forty-two, every now and then I still strap on my shin guards and lace up my cleats, and spend two 45-minute halves running around like a maniac on the grass in the fresh air, just hoping to cross the ball perfectly from the outside left into our opponent’s penalty box, or to make a clean pass in the midfield, or even a decent touch on the ball on a throw-in. I’m certainly slower and older these days, but I still get the same rush when a play goes right, as I did playing for my club team in high school. And I get a rush when I watch the World Cup, too. These players show us how to fight for it, scrapping for every touch on the ball, down to the final seconds of stoppage time. And for that, I thank every one of them. I can always catch up on work tomorrow.