If you ask people in Lexington why they love, say, Kentucky basketball, answers vary.
But if you ask how they developed a love for it, a Lexingtonian’s answer is usually straightforward.
“I was born into it.”
Every region has its own favorite sport; ours is basketball. But few areas in America consider soccer its pastime. So if you ask people around here why they love soccer or how they were introduced to the game, everybody’s bound to have a different answer.
This Friday, a new generation of American soccer fans will be born. And each one will answer those hows and whys the same.
Unless you have a soccer ball for a brain, you know by now that the 2010 World Cup kicks off this week. And the United States start the tournament against England in one of our country’s most anticipated matches in recent memory.
Saturday at 2:30 eastern, you don’t have to be soccer to tune in. Just like the recent US/Canada hockey games in the Vancouver Olympics, many that tune in will not be die-hards. But if you watch, you may come out a soccer fan.
More than four years ago, I didn’t have any clue about soccer. I never played it growing up and, stubbornly, never even gave the game a chance as a fan of (almost) all that is sport.
But in the summer of 2006, I was at home on a weekday afternoon and drifted over to a World Cup match. The US was playing Ghana in group play, and the Americans needed to win or their tournament was over. I don’t remember many details about the game except that Ghana won (a detail I find to be regrettable). But it was the first time that I could personally relate to the drama on the field and compare that experience to sports I grew up watching.
I doubt I’ll ever quite grasp the game of soccer like I do baseball or basketball. But because of the World Cup in 2006, I learned a lot about a sport that can be more artful, more physically demanding and more dramatic than any game I knew before.
A year later, the first beat I covered as a writer for the Kentucky Kernel was men’s soccer. Had I not drawn what I did from the World Cup, I would have floundered. Instead, I managed to provide a season’s worth of somewhat-competent coverage. And I enjoyed it, too.
Since then, I’ve covered some UK men’s soccer, some women’s soccer and an occasional high school game. At each level, the games have provided me unique entertainment that, four years ago, would have impacted me about as much as a jai alai match (no offense, jai alai).
This Friday, I’ll be rightfully locked in to the World Cup over a month’s time.
If you’re not a soccer fan, give it a shot. If you are, watch the match Friday with somebody who’s not. It may be something they’ll always remember.
Find me on Twitter, @pennington_jl.