Find a reason to leave work early. Get to a sports bar or some sort of gathering for the USA/Belgium World Cup match today (4:00 EDT—ESPN). Even if you’ve never seen a game, go.
Even if you don’t understand a single aspect of the sport, go. Not because you will fall in love with soccer or you’ll somehow become complicit in soccer taking over America. Soccer is America’s sport already. For one month every four years. Your participation tomorrow won’t affect that either way.
Not to “prove” soccer as an immensely entertaining sport. In fact, there’s a decent chance of an attritional affair. It could easily end up 0-0 or 1-1 with few opportunities for either side (“You mean like every game,” you smugly quip). Knockout rounds typically lack the open-ended adventurism of the group stages, more so this time considering the goal-fest that 32 nations treated us to the past few weeks.
In addition, the United States faces a tough, tough match against a quality Belgium side that has yet to play to its full potential. Simply put, the Yanks may play it safe and ugly if they want to advance. But the quality of the game itself takes a back seat to what will really matter: a sporting and fandom experience you won’t find anywhere else for some time. Just search “USA ghana reaction” on YouTube.
Yes, college and professional football can provide similar opportunities. So do some Olympic events and most professional sport championships. Crowds gather to watch those games and events. However, you won’t find another occasion that brings together hundreds and thousands of people across the country, be it at a concert venue, sports bar, or park, to root for one team…their team. Every American’s team.
Even if you hate soccer or can’t understand it, go. Just accept all the premises and flaws of the sport. Accept the diving. Accept the fact that the clock counts up. Just roll with it this one time.
Don’t let the nuances of the sport bother you. You can’t change them and worrying about them won’t add a minute of stoppage time to your life.
Instead, get lost in the crowd, reacting in unison to every shot, foul, goal, and save. Sing the national anthem with the people around you. Revel in the experience of bankers, lawyers, doctors, and other grown-ups dressed and painted in red, white, and blue in the middle of a work week. Soak in the chanting and singing that comes not from a marching band or a Jumbotron, but from the guy next to you wearing the American flag as a cape. Even better, soak in the beer that’s sure to rain should the United States score.
You may dislike soccer. You may have avoided everything about the World Cup so far. Or you may know too little about it to jump in now. It does not matter. Just go. You won’t regret it. And, if the United States pulls out the win, you’ll never forget it.