- The Washington Times - Monday, June 23, 2014


Every 48 months, certain events produce a fever-like rise in interest among the general populace.

Olympiads create passionate enthusiasts of figure skating, swimming, track and field. Presidential elections lead to exponential increases in the number of people enthralled by politics. Leap years send people scurrying for primers on numerology and the Gregorian calendar.

SEE ALSO: U.S. World Cup hopes on hold after Portugal’s stunning last-second goal

And the World Cup generates extraordinary affection for soccer.

For four weeks (even with the inevitable dip when the United States is eliminated), headers, corner kicks and equalizers are mentioned in a high percentage of sports conversations. Folks who don’t know the difference between yellow cards and green cards become temporary soccer buffs every four years, like clockwork.

Patrick Roder, 21, watches a televised group G World Cup soccer match between Portugal and USA during a watch party in Grant Park on Sunday, June 22, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Sun-Times Media, Chandler West)
Patrick Roder, 21, watches a televised group G World Cup soccer match ... more >

I am one. And I am not ashamed.

Diehard fans know the biggest international stars and the most promising domestic players. They follow the English Premier League, the Champions League and Major League Soccer. They can hold in-depth discussion on different styles of play and tactical strategies, including the pros and cons of using solo attackers versus a duo.

That’s not the case for Johnny-come-latelies and Mary-just-got-heres. We embrace “the beautiful game” momentarily and then proceed with our soccer-free lives until the next World Cup rolls around.

But even with that lack of background and knowledge, our emotional deposits can match any true believer.

Our hearts dropped like everyone’s when Geoff Cameron’s horrendous mistake led to Portugal’s first goal early in Sunday’s match. We were elated when Jermaine Jones tied the score in the 64th minute and ecstatic when captain Clint Dempsey — playing with a broken nose — chest-bumped the ball for a 2-1 lead in the 81st minute.

With less than 60 seconds remaining, the U.S. was on the verge of winning its first two World Cup games for the first time since 1930. But in a flash, Portugal forged a gut-wrenching tie on a beautiful cross and a diving header.

A vacuum hose in our mouths couldn’t deflate us any faster.

Some year-round fans scoff as we dash in and leave just as quickly. They’re torn between resenting our sudden interest and wanting more of it during the three years and 11 months in between. They don’t understand why the world’s most popular sport isn’t as beloved here as football, baseball and basketball.

Whether the game eventually gets there, or it’s destined to be categorized as “other” for the foreseeable future, ill will toward microwaved fans doesn’t make sense.

I don’t hear of 10,000 people gathering for public viewing parties to watch other sports. I don’t see NFL, MLB or NBA crowds display the same passion as Major League Soccer throngs in Seattle, Kansas City or Portland.

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