By Reneé A. Garrick, Esq. |
Every four years, we are treated to the pinnacle of what the world calls “the beautiful game.”
Like billions of people all over the world, I have been discretely angling my computer screen away from my boss during the day to watch the World Cup.
Here in the United States, many sports fans treat soccer as a second class sport. They eat, sleep and breathe every minute, every stat, and every play of baseball, football and basketball. Though there has been an increase in interest in soccer in the United States in the last several years, the sport is still catching up in popularity as compared to the rest of the world.
Most sports are provincial in nature. Cricket and rugby might be popular in England, but they don’t translate well. North American favorites don’t generally appeal to the rest of the world (save some strong pockets of baseball fans in Latin America and basketball in Europe). American Football is played nowhere at all.
By and large the only genuinely international sporting obsession is soccer. It is the language of the world. In part because of its pure beauty, in part because it is the game of the rich and the poor alike—the collegiate athletes of the U.S. and the street kids of Jamaica, scoring in shiny new goals and old rags held up by a few sticks.
Success in any sport can be beneficial to the psyched of a nation, but the World Cup has been unique in uplifting nations during difficult times.
This year the United States failed to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1986, a fate sealed by its 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago on October 10, 2017. The blow was one of a series of blows the U.S. has suffered lately while our political discord tears us apart.
This year, more than perhaps any other, we could have used some World Cup magic.
For example, in 2006 when the Ivory Coast qualified for the World Cup, the country was in the midst of a brutal Civil War that had torn the country apart. After the team qualified, Captain Didier Drogba led his team’s pleas for peace. Miraculously, after four years of internal strife, the country came together behind the team’s pleas and a deal with signed in 2007 and the Ivory Coast has been at peace since. In 2010, the World Cup provided Greece with much needed reprieve from their economic crisis. In 2011, the Japanese World Cup team lifted the spirits of their entire nation to fuel the rebuild after the devastating tsunamis at the northern coast.
Maybe it would have only been a short term solution. Maybe it would only have been putting a Bandaid on a bullet wound. But maybe it could have been more than that.
Soccer is a simple game that anyone can play, and has the ability to provide hope to people all over the world. It is a game that reminds us anything can happen.
Where else can Senegal be more powerful than France (1-0 at the 2002 World Cup)? Or could Ghana dominate the United States (2-1 in 2006)? Or Mexico or Korea shut out Germany (1-0 and 2-0, respectively at the 2018 World Cup)?
Even though we can’t root for the U.S. team this year, hopefully we can still sit back and enjoy a truly international phenomenon and let it begin to heal us the way it has healed so many nations before. It truly is a game that can do that.
If that isn’t beautiful, I don’t know what is.
Reneé Garrick is an attorney with significant media and sports experience having worked with three of the four major sports leagues during her career. Garrick graduated from Muhlenberg College with a BA in Political Science and Business Administration in 2012 and from Harvard Law School with a JD in 2015.