I've never been a sports fan. Quite the opposite. But somehow, with the World Cup 2006 hysteria going on all around me, I've found myself becoming a bit of a soccer fan lately. It's that peer pressure thing again. My cooler friends are all excited about it, and that excitement is contagious.
My friends all call it "football", as if it's the only game deserving of the name. You know you've been hanging with a multinational crowd a lot when it becomes second nature to call that other game "American football".
My friends and I have been watching parts of the games together as our schedules allow, which has been fun, but I've even been finding myself watching some when I'm at home by myself. I keep checking myself to see if I've broken out in purple spots from some hideous contagious disease!
But there are pleasures to be found in watching soccer, particularly World Cup soccer. For one thing, it reminds me of what an amazing place I live in. I've lived most of my life in places with a very diverse population: Los Angeles, Boston, and now the San Francisco Bay Area. I've grown up seeing a wide variety of faces around me all the time. My elementary school in LA boasted that it had kids representing 45 different countries! I grew up with blacks, whites, Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, Philipinos, Mexicans, and many others. My college in Boston drew a very international crowd to its doors. Even though I'd describe my tastes as being truly "color-blind", I'm very conscious of race. That is, I notice it, and I celebrate it. The diversity in cultures, and shapes, and colors (there's that fascination with colors again!) never ceases to amaze and dazzle me.
So when I'm watching these World Cup games, every now and then I notice the races of the players: "Whoa! That whole team is Korean! They all have the same color skin!" or (explaining to my kids) "The black guys are trying to get the ball past the white goalkeeper, and the white guys are trying to get the ball past the black goalkeeper". Every now and then my mind boggles when I realize that a country having just one race and culture is and has been the norm in many areas. I'm used to seeing a variety of colors and distinct cultures side-by-side, with some blending at the edges. Certainly there are multiple races on several of the teams. Many countries besides the US have become "melting pots" over time.
There are other pleasures to be had from watching soccer, but that's enough for now.