Because I'm retired, each morning for the past two weeks I've awakened early and turned on my TV to watch soccer. I spend several hours daily watching the live broadcasts from South Africa in HD.
True, the announcers have accents so thick it sounds like they're gargling in Gaelic, but the payoff is worth it.
I know the teams: Brazil, Argentina, England, Germany, Mexico, Italy, et. al.
I know the players: Rooney, Messi, Ronaldo, Kaka, Ribery.
I know the venues: Cape Town Stadium, Soccer City, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Ellis Park Stadium, Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
I also know that the field a "pitch." The same cannot be said of a Beckham "bender," sometimes called a "curve ball" — but definitely not a pitch!
And I know that this "June Madness" stuff overshadows "March Madness" by a factor of 10.
In the World Cup, it's country against country on a scale not approached by any other human endeavor save a panzer blitzkrieg or an infantry beach landing. Humans take drastic action when their teams win and lose: like flooding the Champs Elysées by the millions and partying all night; burning down municipal buildings; or jumping out of 30-story windows.
I'm beginning to feel their passion.
I'm rooting this year for coach Bob Bradley's gritty, gutsy, never-say-die USA side. They seem to overcome all obstacles, including blown calls. I love Tim Howard, the best-darned goalie on the planet! Donovan, Dempsey, DeMerit, Altidore, Onyewu, Clark and Bradley are amazing.
My second favorite side is the orange-clad Netherlands and their wacky orange-bedecked fans. My wife, Hedy, is Dutch-Indonesian. She spent her formative years in Holland, and speaks Dutch. Her father was a former semi-pro soccer player who taught me much about the game.
Actually, my soccer obsession plays strongly against type.