Westporters live in a bubble. Whether by choice or circumstance, our lives are disconnected from the overwhelming majority of people on the planet.
We don’t know how they live, or what they think. Their concerns have nothing to do with ours.
Starting tomorrow — and continuing for the next 30 days — Westport has a golden opportunity to join the world.
The World Cup kicks off this morning in South Africa — the 1st time the global event has ever been held on that continent. Whether you love soccer, hate it, or never think about it, you should join the magic.
For a month, the eyes of the world will focus on a country that less than 2 decades ago was banned from international sports competition. Uruguyans, Koreans, Serbians, Cameroonians — fans of the 32 nations lucky enough to be competing for the trophy — will watch game after game, cheering and agonizing and laughing and crying as the long tournament (think March Madness on steroids) unfolds.
Fans of the nearly 200 nations that did not qualify (fun fact: more countries try to win the World Cup than are members of the U.N.) will be equally transfixed.
Tomorrow afternoon in Westport, hundreds of soccer fans will jam the Staples auditorium to watch the US take on England — something that has not happened in 60 years. (Fun fact: In 1950 we pulled off one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history, beating the Brits 1-0.)
Win or lose — and a win, though unlikely, is possible — the excitement will build. Our next opponents are Slovenia and Algeria. Though minnows in global politics, they have the potential to derail our soccer team. In Brazilian favelas, Dutch head shops and Ivory Coast villages, people will talk about our games.
And in Westport, we’ll talk about theirs.
In 2002, people I barely knew stopped me on the street to ask how I thought our team would do. (Poorly, I said. Unfortunately, I was right.)
In 2006, hundreds of Staples students — athletes in all sports, musicians, debaters — gathered around TVs in the cafeteria and hallways to watch. They knew the US players — and those on Argentina, France and Italy. Some even followed countries like Angola and Japan.
Interest in the World Cup is at an all-time American high — and for once, Westport is not bucking a national trend. (An added bonus: ESPN radio and occasional TV analyst Kyle Martino is a Staples graduate, a former professional and national team player — and a good friend of David Beckham.)
I said it before: Whether you love soccer, hate it or never think about it, give this World Cup a chance.
Watch this morning’s opening match (10 a.m., ESPN, South Africa vs. Mexico). Thrill to see 91-year-old Nelson Mandela in the stands, fulfilling a lifelong dream.
Listen to the joyful vuvuzelas — South Africa’s horn that will blare joyfully at every match.
And — if you’re still on the fence — click here to watch the most spine-tingling video you’ll ever see. If K’naan’s “Waving Flag” doesn’t make you want to leave your Westport bubble and join the world in watching The Beautiful Game, you may not be human after all.
(Click on the Westport Soccer Association website for registration information on tomorrow’s USA-England telecast at Staples. Click here for an amazing interactive calendar that tells you all you need to know about the entire World Cup tournament.)