Northampton Press

Saturday, December 7, 2019

American World Cup experience

Thursday, June 26, 2014 by PETER CAR pcar@tnonline.com in Sports

It was the most picturesque landscape anyone can ask for to watch a sporting event Sunday night, as the USA took on Portugal in the World Cup.

Seated on Copacabana beach in Rio, over 15,000 people marched their way onto the sand in Brazil to watch soccer at the FIFA Fanfest.

A giant, big-screen was the focal point and a massive beach was it's accent. It was the most surreal sporting event I ever endured and it's part of the reason I love attending the FIFA World Cup.

This year's trip to Brazil now marks the fourth time I've found my way to the World Cup and it's taken me to places in the world I would have never experienced if it wasn't for this sporting festival.

Those places also include the emotional roller coaster you ride rooting for your national team. Sunday's 2-2 draw with Portugal brought moments of jubilation among thousands of American fans, only to be concluded by one giant punch in the stomach that left you numb following the Portuguese goal with seconds remaining in stoppage time.

As tough as a pill it was to swallow, I will always remember that night in Rio.

To see so many Americans together was a surreal experience in itself for a country, whose media would like you to believe that nobody cares about the sport.

The 200,000 plus Americans that made the trek to Brazil provide a counter point to that argument.

It's a wave of support that has been growing over the last decade that I fully realized on Sunday night. There were so many American flags on the beaches in Rio, you would have thought it was the Fourth of July at the Jersey Shore.

These games have always meant more to me than just soccer. They've been an opportunity to celebrate being an American, which is something this country struggles with more than any other land on the planet.

As thousands of people gathered at Bethlehem's SteelStacks to watch the USA play while I was gone, it's fair to assume that was part of their motivation too.

As I return from another long flight in a distant country this week, I hope that this American dream keeps marching on when we take on Germany Thursday afternoon. It's just too much fun to not have the Yanks keep playing, as we all celebrate being countrymen together.

But if there's anything these World Cups should teach anyone, it's too not be afraid of the world around you. I scared myself into thinking I would get robbed at gunpoint in Brazil because of what I read in the media.

Instead, the only thing that was taken from me was a nightcap of fun because of a nightmarish Portuguese goal. It's a big world out there and you don't have much time to enjoy all of it.

I'm glad I've rolled the dice in life to create memories that will never go away.

Go USA.