Archive for June 27th, 2014

Sweating the World Cup: Watching U.S. vs. Germany

June 27, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 27, 2014

I wrote the other day about my sports calendar. That post started out as…well, as this post, only I turned out to have written them in the wrong order!

Anyway, the United States men’s national team played Germany at noon Eastern time on Thursday for a chance to reach the knockout round of the 2014 World Cup. For months, Group G — U.S., Germany, Portugal and Ghana, which had knocked America out of the previous two tournaments — had been labeled the “Group of Death.” Out of this intimidating field of four, only the top two teams could advance.

The U.S. had beaten Ghana, 2-1, in its opening game, but the second match had resulted in an agonizing tie-from-ahead draw, 2-2. (Portugal’s last goal came in the 95th minute, the latest-ever regulation score in Cup history.) The Americans didn’t need a win to get to the tournament quarterfinals, but victory would guarantee advancement. Obviously, the stakes were pretty high.

I left home on my bicycle a little before noon and arrived after the match was under way. My viewing venue was Bull McCabe’s, an Irish (er, Scottish? No, Irish…I think) pub in downtown Durham. Four years ago, when the World Cup was staged half a world away, in South Africa, I’d watched the matches at Bull McCabe’s.

But the bar is now very different from the way it used to be — at least on the outside. Back then, fans packed themselves at tables inside the humid, crowded bar. Presumably, that happened on Thursday, too, but I sat myself down on one of the benches in the small sward beside Bull McCabe’s. This space, once essentially vacant, has been transformed into a sort of beer garden; sometime over the last year, the bar added an exterior patio, and table service is now available outside.

So instead of being hot and sweaty inside a bar, I was hot and sweaty outside a bar — and also exposed to direct sunlight. I later learned that these conditions were more or less diametrically opposed to those in Recife, where the match was played in an ongoing downpour that had drenched the Brazilian city overnight.

And what of the game itself? It was riveting, both because the outcome was so important and because the score remained so close.

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Seasons of sports: One fan’s calendar

June 27, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 27, 2014

I make no bones about it: I become a soccer fan every few years, whenever the American men or women are competing in the World Cup. I have nothing against the Beautiful Game (football or footy or fútbol, as it’s widely known outside of the States) but my sporting agenda is too packed for me to indulge anything beyond this kind of sporadic soccer fandom.

Football, by which I mean American football, has been my top sports passion for years: College football through the end of the regular season, the National Football League after that. My attention shifts to college basketball once the Super Bowl has been played.

Once, I was a fanatical and relatively informed baseball fan; now, spring is a bit of a sports breather for me. I pay minimal attention to the start of the Major League season, even though everyone has a shot at the playoffs at the start of April. (Actually, my interest is low sort of because everyone has a shot at the playoffs at the start of April.)

Come May, I sometimes let the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League playoffs hover on the periphery of my consciousness. Occasionally,  I’ll take a closer look if there are compelling narratives. Such was the case this year, with San Antonio attempting to avenge its loss to the Miami Heat in a rematch of the 2013 NBA finals and the New York Rangers seeking to win their first Stanley Cup in 20 years. (For many decades prior to 1994, Rangers haters would boisterously chant “1940! 1940!,” a taunting reminder of when the boys in blue last topped the NHL.)

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