Tempest in a World Cup
Picture it: You’re at your favorite watering hole, and somebody comes in and tells the bartender to change the channel from whatever ballgame is on. “ESPN 8 is showing the International Tiddlywinks Championship Final!” You probably roll your eyes or groan, right? And then he says, “It’s USA vs. Russia!”
Double take, right? Within five minutes, a roomful of sports fans who have never watched competitive tiddlywinks is chanting ‘U-S-A! U-S-A!’ at the top of their lungs as some corn-fed tall kid from Iowa and a scrappy kid from Brooklyn square off against a pair the finest genetically-engineered mutants that former Soviet bioweapons labs can produce. One day after the surprise American win in the Tiddlywinks championship dominates the front pages and brings in the biggest ratings in the history of “The Ocho,” there’s talk of the much-discussed professional league finally forming. Yet Tiddly-mania dies down within a week; no one at the bar cared about the sport, we care about watching Americans beat other countries with everything on the line.
This is the cycle that seems to occur every four years with soccer and the World Cup. If Team America is good, like in 2002, Americans will tune in and watch. (Tying England seems like a good start.) If they’re bad or ‘meh,’ like in 2006, the interest will die down quick.
Andy McCarthy notices that in his neck of the woods, only one person cared to watch “one of the Koreas against Germany.” John J. Miller was among the first to offer what will be a ubiquitous observation of these games: “does it sound like these games are played in beehives?”