2014 WORLD CUP: I Wish...

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

I grew up in Oklahoma in the late 60's and 70's. It was football, basketball, wrestling, or baseball. Soccer didn't exist.

The defender stole the ball on the right side of his team's end of the field.

Two quick touches gave him space from two opposing players and a clear breakaway opportunity. He is one of the best "dribblers" on his team and can take off in a straight line with the ball faster than most players in the league can run without the ball.

The best player on his team properly shadowed his movement in the middle of the field, settling down in the top of the box unmarked, awaiting a possible cross.

An opposing defender met him just outside the top right corner of the box and challenged. A quick tap to the right put him clear, and before the 2nd defender could close...BOOM...the ball zipped into the low left corner of the net for a goal.


Such is the excitement of my son scoring a goal for his 2nd-3rd grade team. (BTW...the team has scored 21 goals in 6 matches. This was the first goal scored by someone other than the team's best player, Sebastian.)

If this had been a year ago, as his coach, I would have run to him and scooped him up in excitement, of course scaring him to death and embarrassing him beyond belief.

Not now.

This is semi-serious grade school futbol. Scores are recorded. Records are kept and league standings published. The kids are definitely aware of who's winning and losing. I have to stay on the sidelines. We have refs. You can only sub between periods. Offsides is called. We have throw-ins and goal kicks. Goalies. We trailed by 3 goals after the first period of a recent match, and I told the team they were playing like a bunch of kindergartners. We ended up winning 6-4.

Parents get a little more animated about the activity. I'm lucky. We have some great, well-behaved parents.

My son always says he doesn't care for soccer. Then he gets on the field and that's obviously a lie. He doesn't want to come out when we sub.

We just had tryouts for "travel" soccer, and he said he didn't want to go. He was afraid of not making the team (he tried and failed last year). I coaxed him into giving it a go again, and he did great. There were a lot of more talented kids there, but he gave it all he had and never stopped trying. We got ice cream afterwards.

He's asked me three times this week if I knew yet whether or not he made the team. He keeps saying "I hope I make the team."

I've coached his team, like many parents do, because I like to coach this age group and wanted to be involved. Including indoor (winter), this spring is the 7th team I've coached (fall and spring seasons). I absolutely love it, but I'm reaching the limit of my ability to teach them. It's going to break my heart when I have to stop. It's easy to understand and the strategy is pretty straightforward. My body and my feet just don't know how to cooperate. I can tell them where to be and what to do, but can't show them how to do it.

My friends will tell you that I'm not the kind of person to regret.

I regret not having soccer as a young boy.

I was always shorter and slower than everyone else.

But I had good feet, and I could kick. Alas, there was no sport for that.

Since I began coaching my son's team, I've started watching on TV. I really got into the 2010 World Cup, and I've watched and listened to Andres Cantor's call of Landon Donovan's stoppage time goal against Algeria close to 100 times...no kidding. Here it is for old times sake...

If the sound of this call doesn't excite you, I can't help you. The passion and fury released by one score is phenomenal.

I've watched every game so far in the 2014 World Cup.

I'm an ex-golf professional, and I haven't watched a single shot of the US Open at Pinehurst #2, a course I've played half a dozen times.

Don't get me wrong, I'll definitely watch this weekend, especially on Sunday if it's close.

But soccer has won me over.

I watch weekly on Sunday mornings, and I tape it when I'm playing golf. I love the fact that tens of thousands of people will sing non stop for an entire match. I still don't know the player's names very well.

I'll watch on Univision, even though I don't understand Spanish, because it just sounds so damn exciting.

Took Josh to a Red Bulls game last season (we get discounted tickets through the league) and will definitely look at getting regular season tickets for the new New York City FC squad.

I know it's not for everyone, but I'll forgive you if you've given the rest of the world's futbol a chance and it just didn't light your fire. If you haven't, you should. It's not as boring as you've been told, and the flopping is world class. Along the way you will see some of the most ridiculous athletic achievement using only the chest, head, and mostly feet. Listen to the crowd. Watch the positioning and sublime passing.

Then embrace the singular impact of a goal.

There are no commercials. Play keeps moving, no interruptions except for halftime. It's awesome. Imagine American football without commercials. College basketball. Oh my.

It's basketball using your feet. Spacing. Positioning. Motion. The greatest teams in the world are like watching the San Antonio Spurs in this year's NBA finals.

Poetry in motion.

I challenge you, if you haven't already, to give it a try. Watch the best in the world. The World Cup is the equivalent of the MLB, NBA, and NFL playoffs combined on steroids. Entire nations hang on the results. I'm physically nervous for the USMNT. The only other time I feel like this is for OSU sports.

There have already been some incredible matches, including defending champion Spain getting thrashed 5-1 in a 2010 finals rematch with the Netherlands.

Come with me and enjoy.

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