Before the World Cup started I regretted not being in England due to the lack of enthusiasm in the US for my all-time favourite sporting event. So it has been a real, and wonderful, pleasure to be in New York and see interest leap one hundred-fold from four years ago. One American friend who works for a British firm said she only followed the last World Cup due to the interest of the ex-pats but this time even her mother in suburban America has been following the progress of the US team.
The amount of coverage between now and then has grown exponentially. For example, the photos above are from a World Cup exhibition sponsored by ESPN which includes paintings of each of the 32 competing nations and is in Columbus Circle, an upscale shopping centre smack in the middle of Manhattan, which have been used for posters that are plastered all over New York. Another friend said that four years ago most Americans didn’t even know the World Cup was on, let alone follow the US team.
After the US’ absolutely-last -gasp-time-added qualification for the last 16 The Wall Street Journal wrote that June 23 2010 was the day the football is boring argument finally died in the US:
“If you weren’t completely, utterly thrilled, exhausted and satisfied by Wednesday’s 1-0 Team USA World Cup thriller over Algeria, you’re a lifeless sports corpse.
But if you watched the U.S.-Algeria throwdown, you’re surely a convert. Did you not loudly slap your desk in triumph, hug or kiss a stranger, down a beer (or three) with your boss? Did you flee your desk entirely for the bar, and if you did, do you remember where you work—or your last name? Or are you at the airport without a suitcase, trying to wiggle onto a flight to South Africa?”
– BuzzFeed has the five best videos showing the reaction to Donovan’s goal from around the US. It doesn’t include anything from La Guardia airport in New York. Someone told me that he had got off a flight just before the end of the US-Algeria game and suddenly heard thousands of people screaming when the goal went in;
– The Run of Play posts On Happiness after the game ;
– Landon Donovan’s goal is the first of 43 fantastic pictures compiled by the Boston Globe of the first two weeks which perfectly capture the magic of the World Cup;
– The New York Times writes that a foreign game looks very American (although I would argue the beauty of football is that it looks very global);
– At Salon, an American writes about falling in love with the beautiful game when he was posted to Hong Kong in 1990 and saw everyone watching games involving teams who were from thousands of miles away and he wanted to understand why. I think Andrew Leonard understands it pretty well :
“I don’t know of another sport that can boast the same kind of slowly accumulating tension against a remorselessly ticking clock . When there are ten minutes to go to in a World Cup, there are ten minutes to go, (stoppage time excluded, of course.) It’s not like the last three minutes of a close NBA finals game, where time seems to stretch into infinity.”