USA! USA! Suddenly, This Soccer Stuff Isn’t Half Bad

To say that I definitely wasn’t looking forward to the 2010 World Cup is an understatement. In fact, I actually was dreading it.

In the past, it seems that Joe Soccer Fan has been attempting to tell the rest of us that soccer is the world’s sport and that we’re ridiculous for  not liking it. Despite the presence of the MLS and their attempt to make soccer mean something to the mainstream here in the States (David Beckham, anyone?), it just hasn’t caught on like it has with the rest of the globe.

But that’s ok. We’re an attention-fractured society and we just don’t seem to care like people in other countries, similar to how we can’t understand how other countries don’t understand American football. Believe me – if the citizens of Luxembourg had a clue, Tom Brady would be HUGE there.

So whenever the World Cup comes around, those old feelings of being told why I should like something even though I don’t come emerging from the depths. I was concerned that we’d get a month of people banging that familiar tune on the drums of how this would be the tipping point of soccer becoming big in the U.S. when we all know in a month, it may gain some popularity but it’ll fade like it always does.

However, something strange has begun to happen to me over the past few weeks. It began at a TGIF in Poughkeepsie, NY, several weeks ago and continued Wednesday while I was at work. What was it? Doctor, I….I seem to have become a U.S. soccer fan.

Disclaimers: I still can only name one player (Landon Donovan) and learning about things like FIFA’s policy on officials following GoalGate drives me crazy. (How can an organization not force an official to say why he called a foul? It’s insane!) I’m not going to run out and buy New England Revolution tickets or set my DVR to watch a Manchester United match from across the pond.

But what I will continue to do is cheer for a group of guys representing our country in athletic competition. In a very Miracle-style way, I don’t really care about the names on the back but I do care a great deal about the name on the front. I’ve learned to appreciate that the few goals per game aren’t that bad and actually create an air of anticipation anytime action flows to the net. I also now understand why my friends got frustrated when I so flatly disregarded the sport so frequently so often.

At least for a day, Donovan and the US soccer guys in South Africa mattered and overcame that bunk no-goal call from last week. This Saturday, they are in knockout play which means win or go home. Even if you’re not a soccer fan, it’s hard not to root for them as they battle Ghana. It’s kinda like your national obligation…can you do no less?

For the first time in my life, I’m actually looking forward to watching a soccer game. What’s happened to me?

Josh Nason is a freelance journalist who has penned pieces for FIGHT! Magazine, Apollo (Australia) Magazine, Manchester Magazine and more. While he loves to write about mixed martial arts, blogging about music and observations on life are passions as well. Follow him at Twitter.