John F. Russell: Cheering for the red, white and blue
Steamboat Springs — Aaaah, the July Fourth holiday is finally here.
The Fourth is a time for family, friends and celebrations. A time for hotdogs, burgers and parades. There will be fireworks, rodeo and soccer, of course.
When I was growing up, July Fourth was a time to take a trip to the ballpark to watch baseball — after all, what’s more American than baseball? For those of you who have been living in a hole this past month, this July, it is all about soccer. It’s not only soccer, but women’s soccer to boot.
These days, the names Carli Lloyd, Christen Press and Megan Rapinoe seem to have replaced baseball stars like Matt Holiday, Mike Trout and, believe it or not, in my family, Troy Tulowitzki. Well, the word “replaced” may be a little strong.
However, it is safe to say the stars of the U.S. Women’s soccer team and the squad’s 2015 World Cup run have at least diverted some of the attention for American’s favorite pastime. Especially in my house, where we cheer for the lovable, but always hapless, Colorado Rockies.
In the past month, the U.S. Women’s Soccer team has given us plenty to cheer about with wins against Australia, Nigeria, Colombia, China and Germany. The American team advanced to the knockout rounds and thrilled us with close games all they way through.
It’s been a fun journey for those of us who have turned on our televisions. We have watched as the players inspired us all and provided role models for my 13-year-old-daughter and her friends who live to play the game.
Sunday, the Americans will face Japan in the World Cup Finals. The storyline is one that should grab our interest on the most patriotic weekend of the year. The U.S. Women’s team is taking on Japan, the reigning World Cup Champions. It is pretty much the same team that beat the Americans at the 2011 World Cup.
The World Cup format is exciting even for those who don’t fully understand the game. I’m not sure my dad will tune in, but he grew up in a time when few Americans paid attention to the most popular sport in the world. Sure, he’s a die-hard sports fan, but soccer, for some reason, seems to be lost on him, and a large portion of his generation.
It’s hard for me to understand that a man, who can spend the entire afternoon watching grown men hit a little white ball around fairways and greens of a golf course, can’t seem to grasp soccer. He’s tried but still insists that the game is boring to watch. The funny thing is he feels the same way about hockey.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to play the game of golf, but I can’t believe a man who watches sports 24 hours per day would say watching soccer is boring while he plans his days around watching the Masters on television.
Of course, soccer in the United States has its critics. I can still hear my dad arguing that there isn’t enough contact, there isn’t enough scoring. Sadly, he is not alone in his opinion.
But when the home team is wearing red, white and blue, a fan’s understanding, even his or her love of the game, doesn’t really seem to matter. And when that team advances to the finals, its guys like my dad who will switch on the television and pull for the American team.
It’s proof Americans are more than willing to stand up and cheer for their country, and the timing of this year’s World Cup Finals, couldn’t have been better.
The day after our national celebrates its independence, the U.S. Women’s Soccer team will take the field to play a team that beat them in the finals of the last women’s World Cup.
Thanks to this group of talented women there will surely be a boost in the popularity of soccer in the United States. These days, children in our country have grown up with the game, and youth soccer leagues continue to pump out not only players, but new fans of the game that the rest of the world loves.
Someday I’m sure every American will tune into the World Cup to watch our country take on the world. Truth is, it shouldn’t matter if the Americans win or lose as long as they continue to play the game and inspire the next generation of players.
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Sunday, April 11, 2021