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Despite US loss, the World Cup never disappoints

by: MATTHEW SHERMAN - Hundreds of fans gather to watch the Mexico vs. Netherlands knock-out game of the World Cup on Governor's Island in New York.For the fourth World Cup in a row, I find myself out of town for at least some portion of the competition. Four years ago, I was in rural Eastern Oregon and drove nearly an hour to Baker just to watch the U.S. vs. England opener and ultimately ended up in the middle of an enormous biker rally.

We ended up in a sports bar at 10 a.m., seated in front of a group of middle-aged women in town for the rally who also just happened to be English and were mortified at the prospect of drawing with the U.S.

It would be hard for me to draw up a more opposite locale than where I sit presently, vacationing (and working) in Manhattan.

On Tuesday, I watched the United States' rally fall short against Belgium at a standing-room-only bar in Harlem where the air conditioning either wasn't working or was simply overwhelmed by the mass of fans who belted out the national anthem at the start of the game and later erupted in chants of “I believe that we will win!” and “Thank you, Howard!” in deference to the national team's heart, soul and MVP, goalie Tim Howard.

The World Cup is a sporting event without a peer. In this country, we love our Super Bowl and it's terrific in its own right. Two weeks of build-up leads to one glorious, economy-bolstering day of American excess.

But the World Cup truly lives up to its name. In Times Square, updates of games scrolled across the ticker, contests were shown on the large screens as people paused to watch, many adorned in jerseys ranging from Algeria to Uruguay.

On a venture to Governor's Island, an enormous screen was set up as hundreds watched Mexico battle The Netherlands.

Another big screen was set up at a park in Brooklyn and, as seen on TV, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in public places all over the country and the world, including dozens of hangouts in Portland.

Back in Harlem, the emotions of the group gathered to watch the United States ebbed and flowed with the momentum of the game. Complete strangers bought drinks for each other and discussed each others' Premier League allegiances as well as US coach Jurgen Klinsmann's tactics.

When the United States blew a golden opportunity to take the lead in the closing moments of regulation, the roar was deafening and the noise only increased when Julian Green's overtime goal gave the US new life.

This simply doesn't happen at any other sporting event.

Every four years, the talk leading up to the World Cup often centers around whether or not soccer will catch on in the US as much as it has around the globe.

The talk is always silly, of course. Soccer doesn't need the United States' approval to be validated. The sport has steadily grown in this country and interest and viewership of this year's World Cup is at an all-time high. It simply doesn't matter if Major League Soccer never reaches the level of popularity of baseball, basketball or football.

It doesn't take away from the fact that, for one month every four years, we get to experience a truly spectacular and energizing event.



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