A quick note about the World Cup and the USA's thrilling victory to win their group and advance to the elimination round.
It's a given that we Americans don't really appreciate "the beautiful game." True, we ALL play until we are about 12 years old (I still miss those orange slices), and then every four years, become patriotic and root on our boys in the World Cup. But unlike the rest of the world, most of us think of true football as a fun, once-every-four-years respite from our normal sporting schedule. Think about it. If you saw a professional soccer game on television, and the Brewers were playing the Pirates in June, which one would you watch?
Of course, for most of the rest of the world, football is life. And that's what I have witnessed in Africa over the past week. Every night, people of all sizes and colors gather at the local bars to watch the World Cup. It's the best conversation starter there is; no matter who I'm talking to, if I ask who their team is, we instantly become friends. Ugandans in particular are passionate about the game. One Ugandan friend told me that if his home nation makes the World Cup, which it has never done, he can die happy. Nothing else matters. And Red Sox fans call themselves intense.
Tonight, about 25 Americans gathered at a bar in Kampala to watch USA take on Algeria. We were on the edge of our seats for 91 minutes, and when Landon Donovan poked home the game-winner, the place exploded. We hugged and kissed, drank and danced. In other words, we acted like non-Americans.
Heavily breathing, with a beer poured on my head, I escaped the bar and stepped outside to catch my breath. A Ugandan was standing outside. He looked at me, in my U.S. soccer jersey, and laughed. "Now don't you Americans see why it's the best game in the world?" he asked.
Yup, I think I got it.