Judging by a shift in how my international friends have been condescending to Americans, the World Cup is once again upon us.
Football. Footie. The Beautful Game. Futbalo. Ball de' Fute. Fut en bol el gato. Das Boot mit dem Moped. Die bad ist gross und hell. En Blob-o micro Acropolistica Yogurt. El queso es viejo y mohoso...
Whatever language you say it in, there's no more exciting time to be a sports fan then the beginning of the World Cup, which is probably called something like a kickoff, or a throw-in. Or a throw-off.
The exception of course, is if you call it soccer. In which case you might also call it boring.
We don't want to be bad soccer fans. We see the rest of the world having a blast, and we really, really want to participate. We're really good at being obsessive and yelling loudly about things. It's a little like being sober in a room full of drunks.
As a people, we band together. TVs are wheeled into conference rooms, we come to terms with the idea that the ball can touch the line without being out of bounds (which in footie is referred to as "pitch adjacence"). But just as we learn the names of the players, we get over the flopping intended to draw some sort of colored card, and start to get a feel for the pace of the game and a sense of the strategy playing out on the field, it ends.
Or the US team loses to a country we've only read about in Rudyard Kipling stories.
And then what are we left with? The MLS isn't quite ready for prime time. Literally. Since it's not on television much. And while sports hipsters claim to follow various European leagues, it's hard to find the motivation to cheer for anything at 9am on Sunday morning besides quite kids and good coffee.
Our best athletes grow up playing basketball and American football. Soccer in America is reserved for lily-white suburbanites that are too young to realize what they are doing. Eventually most of them become interested in other sports, and without any kind of apparent future in soccer to keep them interested, they easily move on. Their collection of soccer trophies eventually going in a box alongside other childhood activities like swim-lesson certificates and field-day ribbons.
But regardless of all of that, now that the World Cup is back, we'll once again bring out our best effort, trying to become proper members of the international sporting community. Hoping that our friends from other countries notice how far we've come. Trying not to get caught looking to see if they approve.
We'll get a little further along as fans than we did the last time. Just as we did the time before that. But it'll be a good long while before soccer takes. Please bear with us in the meantime.