The Moment I Knew I Was A Soccer Fan

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The Moment I Knew I Was A Soccer Fan
Miguel Villagran/Getty Images

I've been following soccer for a long time, particularly for an American. I first began following the World Cup closely in 1998. I was recently divorced, and the spectacle and the games were something compelling to take my mind off my personal struggles. In 2002, I was mezmerized by the US run to the quarterfinals and was waking up at 2:00 a.m. to watch the quarterfinal game live. By then, I was a regular soccer watcher. I thought I was a fan.

I realized, though, that I hadn't made that transition until recently. It took a Saturday morning breakfast at the International House of Pancakes to make me see the light. I was having breakfast with my brother, who played soccer but isn't a particular fan. He did, however, watch the Ghana-Uruguay game, and we were discussing the game's dramatic end. He told me about how sad he was that Ghana lost, because they were carrying the banner of Africa in the first African World Cup, and how particularly bad he felt for Asamoah Gyan, who missed the decisive penalty kick at the end of extra time.

Of course he did, I thought to myself. Ghana was a great, heartwarming story, and all right-minded neutrals should have been pulling for Ghana's fairy-tale run to continue.

And that's the moment when I realized I had really become a soccer fan. Because I watched that game too. But I didn't see it the way my brother saw it. All I saw was the team that knocked my beloved Yanks out of the 2010 World Cup 2-1 in the Round of 16, the same way they knocked them out of the 2006 World Cup 2-1 in the group stage. When I saw Gyan striding to the spot to win the game for Ghana, I didn't see a noble man carrying the hopes of a continent on his shoulders. I saw the man who, a few days earlier, hit a thunderbolt of a shot in the 93rd minute over the outstretched arms of Tim Howard to end my World Cup dreams.

And, God help me, I wanted him to miss.

I'm not at all convinced that what's happened to me is a good thing. As I reflected to my brother, I believe I am now a step or two closer from burning tires in the streets and throwing bags filled with things bags should not be filled with at a stadium.

But I'm also feeling, I think, the true passion of the Beautiful Game. I am feeling the ebb and flow, the life and death that occurs every ninety minutes in a meaningful match. I'm thinking that a Captain America costume might very well be an appropriate thing to wear in public (even more than I would before). And I can't wait for the start of the Premier League season, so I can see Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, and Landon Donovan play in the most exciting league in the world.

Is it 2014 yet? Given the progress the US team is making, I can't wait to see them get beat 2-1 by Ghana in the quarterfinals.

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