Kevin MacMillan: World Cup a thing of beauty – and not in terms of soccer
This past Friday, I joined some friends on a bit of an impromptu trip to the Bay Area for a weekend of random fun and culture.
During the excursion, I experienced several firsts, one of which was dinner Friday night in Old Town Auburn. I’d never been to this charming little Northern California nook; if you haven’t been there, it’s really fun and worth the quick jaunt down I-80.
Another highlight was attending the Saturday day game between the Oakland Athletics and Boston Red Sox at the O.co Coliseum. A fun game, for sure, with the A’s walking off in the bottom of the 10th, much to the delight of the some 30,000 fans in attendance (and to the chagrin of my three diehard Boston-fan friends).
While I’d seen a handful of games there before, what was new about this one was our interesting interaction with a ticket scalper on the fenced-in walkway leading to the stadium.
We had nine people, and he happened to have nine tickets (each had $15 face value). He originally offered them all for $20 a piece, but after some ignoring and slowly walking away, his offer went all the way down to $100.
The guy was willing to cut what I assumed to be a profit — after all, I highly doubt he bought those tickets — down by almost 50 percent. I’d always wondered how scalpers made money. I suppose, though, in a “sales market” that’s faced with a ticking clock (once that game starts, your product’s value is basically worthless), you can’t be too stubborn to not budge.
Anyhow, while the entire weekend in Oakland was a blast and full of new things, I’d say the most enjoyable part was watching the United States vs. Portugal World Cup game on Sunday.
We watched it at Luka’s Taproom & Lounge, a fairly hip bar/club on the corner of Broadway and Grand that was packed with at least a couple hundred raucous soccer fans.
I’ve been a casual observer over the years of soccer. This is to say that I know all the rules, and if I come across a Real Madrid and Manchester United match, I’ll gladly watch it — but at the same time, I have no interest in America’s league, the MLS, which simply doesn’t boast the talent you see in Europe.
When the World Cup comes around every four years, my interest peaks. Unlike those who feel soccer is boring, I find the 32-team competition to be incredibly enjoyable. The world’s best athletes set aside club team pride to come together as one and represent countries on a grand stage.
I feel the World Cup shows off more patriotism and national pride than the Olympics or any other international-themed event, and that was evident Sunday in Oakland.
Collectively, the mostly red-white-and-blue-clad crowd groaned in frustration when the Portuguese scored so quickly after a terrible kicking error by American defender Geoff Cameron. After several ups and downs, we roared with approval when Jermaine Jones’ David Beckham-esque shot curled into the goal in the second half. And we were downright delirious when USA captain Clint Dempsey put us up 2-1 in the 81st minute. Chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” were deafening.
For those who watched the match, well, you can figure out how we felt at the very end, so I won’t even go there.
Still, watching that game surrounded by so many diverse American neighbors was truly incredible, almost surreal. Never before had I been in a situation outside a team sporting event in which one group of people came together so strongly and so vividly to root for the same goal in such a nonpartisan way.
We might have tied the game — in our minds, considering that ending, it was a loss — but I felt like a winner anyway. Even for a couple hours, we stood together as one. Liberals and conservatives, pro-abortion supporters, anti-gun-law advocates, blacks, whites, Asians, etc. It was just one big melting pot with one common voice.
I would imagine a lot of people felt “proud to be an American” for those couple hours. Despite all the political hullabaloo surrounding troops and Iraq, health care and whatever other flavor of the week is topical these days, I know I was.
Let’s hope for the same Thursday against Germany.
Kevin MacMillan is managing editor of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza; he may be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.