The World Cup tournament has kicked off, and just like we did four years ago (and every four years before that), our family has been following the tournament closely, watching at least one match a day, following the other matches online, painstakingly writing each match's score on our World Cup poster and testing our knowledge of probability to the limits by figuring out possible outcomes for our favorite teams (if Brazil draws with Portugal and Ivory Coast beats North Korea by more than 2 points, can they get past the Group of Death?). As always, there's no shortage of emotion at the World Cup -- this year's tournament is already full of surprises (Switzerland beat Spain!), disappointments (England hasn't won a match yet!), controversies (Why was that third US goal against Slovenia disallowed??) and scandals (Two words: French team). The nicest surprise is how well Team USA is doing; no one thought they'd have a chance, but the team managed to hold England to a tie and came back from a 2-goal deficit to tie Slovenia in the most exciting match in the tournament so far. If they beat Algeria tomorrow they stand a good chance of moving on to the next round, and who knows how far they could go?
If only the rest of the United States would notice. When we turn the tv off and head out into the streets, the lack of interest in the world's most popular game could not be more apparent. This stuff makes headlines in every other nation on earth, but around here World Cup stories get buried deep in the sports pages of newspapers, and our local TV news barely gives the tournament five minutes of air time, let alone gives it a regular spot. When Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and the rest of the US Women's Team won the Women's World Cup in 1999, I thought for sure that football would finally start gaining traction in the US, but I'm not sure I'm seeing it.