Two things have slowed down the posting regularity here on Golden Tornado - a move in progress to NYC and the fact I've been glued to the TV watching the World Cup. A number of better college football bloggers than myself have been providing commentary on the spectacle in Germany, but after this weekend's terrific Argentina v. Mexico matchup in the first knockout round of the tournament I've finally got to add my piece.
I'll preface my comments by admiting I'm an Argentina fan, dating to my college days when a suitemate was an Argentinian national and got me watching every one of their matches (including the epic England showdown) in the '98 Cup. After the disaster that was the '02 Cup for the light blues, this year's team has a lot to prove and a number of young stars looking to make their mark after the generation of Veron and Batistuta has finally moved (or in Veron's case - shoved) on.
What makes college football special to me is the passion and the pageantry, the rabid fans and the uniqueness of each game's atmostphere. In many ways, soccer mirrors this. College football is strongly regional, with many of the residents of each state identifying more with the football team bearing the same name than with anything else. There's a sense of community and "ownership" that all but the smallest of professional teams seems incapable of duplicating. When you think about it, most of the nations in the World Cup are of similar size to US states (Texas has 20 million people, the Netherlands has 16 million) and the deep rooted identification with the local team lends to the same type of passion and energy in the fans and the games. Add in strong nationalistic feelings in many of those countries and give them an excuse to wave flags and get hammered and you have one heck of a loud, exciting and sometimes rowdy crowd.
As the Mexico v. Argentina match drew on towards the end of regulation tied 1-1, you could feel the pulse of the stadium through the TV, and see it on the faces of the players. Many on both sides were completely spent, but they were still playing at an exceptional level. As overtime began, you knew that people around the world were glued to their TV's regardless of rooting interest just enjoying the performance being put on. When Maxi Rodriguez thundered home a goal on a supreme individual effort in the 98th minute it was the only fitting way to end one of the best matches of the past several Cups, anything less would have cheated everyone involved.
Make no mistake, in the grand scheme of sport - that was a tremendous goal. I'm sure thousands of words will be written about it far more eloquently than what I can say (most of them in Spanish), but for the stage and setting you will be hard pressed to find a better performance. It was overtime of a knockout match in the World Cup, an event that only comes along every four years, and involved two soccer mad countries who's national worth is in some ways measured by the performance of their teams in this tournament. Add to it the technical dificulty and asthetic beauty of the strike, and you have a permanent member of every highlight reel for the next decade.
Even if you're not a soccer fan, the chances are that if you are reading this blog you are a fan of sports in general. You owe it to yourself to at least give the Cup a shot - while the rules, players and teams might not be known to you,the passion, pageantry and the pure enjoyment of world class athletes performing on the biggest stage shouldn't be.