By the time you read this column, a European country will have bragging rights in world soccer (or more appropriately named, football) for the next four years. Yes, the 2010 FIFA World Cup is compelling television/sport strategy/drama, all rolled into one. For you doubters out there, let me explain.
In what other sport can you find an entire country of fanatics (a great way to describe most soccer fans!) willing to do/wear/say anything to cheer on their team? Sounds incredibly patriotic to me.
And I can assure you that the world truly is watching the World Cup. When the month-long event is over, an estimated 800 million to one billion people will have watched part, or all, of the 64 games. Yep compared to the most popular sporting event in the United States, the Super Bowl, which pulls in roughly 105 million viewers the World Cup is truly a worldwide event.
Now, before you "accuse" me of not embracing more traditional American sports like baseball, football (our version), or basketball, I should let you know that I don't follow much of soccer. My limited exposure comes from one of my brothers who played in high school, every four years when the World Cup is underway and a handful of the highest profile international games played every year. Of course, that will all change by the end of August, thanks to the first Minot State University women's soccer team.
A recent addition to the stable of sports on display at Minot State, the women's soccer team is sure to impress. And I know by saying that I've set the bar high for Coach Jason Spain and his women, but the truth is there are excellent female athletes in this region and beyond who love to play soccer and are excited to be the foundation of a winning soccer team in North Dakota.
Now, one thing that I don't enjoy much about soccer is the extra theatrics thrown in by some of the players. I'm talking about those moments when a player is sprinting down the field, with a defender on their hip. There's a play on the ball by the defender (a clean play) and the offensive player throws their arms in the air, violently tossing themselves on the ground, rolling at least a dozen times and pretends to have been mortally wounded by the opposition.
Everyone knows you simply got beat to the ball; you are completely faking injury, and it makes you, and your team, look bad. I hate it when a player "dives," in hopes of getting a call. Keep the acting to the stage, real "football" players only allowed on the pitch.
In closing, it was a tough loss this year to Ghana, so good luck to America in 2014 when the World Cup travels south to Brazil. I know I'll be cheering for our team to advance past the Round of 16. Good luck to other major American sports, in their endeavor to build their sport and brand into a worldwide challenge. And best of luck to the newest soccer team in town, the MSU women's soccer team. Come cheer them on against the Bemidji Beavers in their first regular season game on Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. Go Beavers (the Minot State version)!
(Mark Lyman is a community columnist for The Minot Daily?News)