Pickens' Perspective: Let's all get excited for the World Cup
Football in America is at an all-time high.
No, no, I don't mean American football, although, the buzz that this area will get when the Super Bowl comes in 2014 will be massive.
I'm talking about what we, in the States, would call soccer.
The sport has grown in leaps and bounds in this country in the last 20 years. The 1994 World Cup in the U.S. was a tremendous boon to the sport, and the USA team's improvement in the world standings (we're currently ranked 14th in the world, according to FIFA) only makes the sport grow greater in our country.
However, you're probably reading this saying "international soccer is stupid" or "I only watch the World Cup" or "My kid plays and that is when I watch soccer." I get it and I agree (to some degree) with you guys.
But so does USA Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati.
"We're not the same as England, Germany and Brazil," he said. "The country is not going to shut down when we win or lose a game. That will not happen in my lifetime."
Gulati is hoping for growth, and that is exactly what he's getting. At Rentschler Field in East Hartford on Tuesday night, a crowd of 36,218 (a state record for soccer) turned out to see the Men's National Team's 4-2 loss to the Czech Republic as part of the USA Send-Off Series for the 2010 World Cup. Gulati cites record growth in TV and merchandise and the fact that the MLS is expanding as positives for soccer.
"We are the No. 1 in ticket buyers in the world, No. 1 in TV rights in the world," Gulati said. "We hosted the most successful World Cup in history in terms of attendance."
The USA Men's National Team has achieved rock-star status as a part of this Send-Off Series. The squad was in Hartford on Tuesday, met with President Obama and former-President Clinton on Wednesday and will play its final game in the States, before heading to South Africa for the World Cup, tomorrow at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
"It is part of it," USA Head Coach Bob Bradley said of the numerous appearances. "It is something that we think is important."
All the while it seems that the country is following. ESPN cared enough about the final roster for the World Cup that it carried the announcement live on "Sportscenter" on Wednesday. ESPN and ABC will air USA games live, including the opening game showdown with rival England on June 12 at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time.
"We can go out on a limb and say we'll break some rating records this summer," Gulati said.
And this is the way it should be. The World Cup is the biggest sporting event IN THE WORLD. It is bigger than the Super Bowl, bigger than the Olympics, bigger than World Series and we need to realize it and embrace it.
We, in Fairfield, have a number of successful youth soccer programs, and very good high school programs as well. There is an interest in the sport locally and that should only carry over to the national level.
If you all think I'm crazy, maybe I am. But big-time sporting events get me fired up, and there is enough star power on this roster to compete with the world powers in Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore and New Jersey-native Tim Howard.
And if we advance to any level of competence, or heaven forbid, pull off a stunner and reach the finals (as we did in the 2009 Confederations Cup) these men will become household names. Gulati has high hopes, so why shouldn't we?
"I'd like to win seven games," he said. "Six and a tie would be OK."
Mr. Gulati, it certainly would.