It was a Marv Levy moment.
Two-plus hours of them, actually.
The place was Claddagh on the South Side.
The event was the U.S.-Portugal World Cup match.
And what unfolded was pure patriotic bedlam, to the extent that I kept thinking to myself, “Where would you rather be than right here, right now?”
At least, I was thinking that when I wasn’t chanting “I Believe That We Will Win,” or jumping up and down, or spilling beer while celebrating a goal, or high-fiving a total stranger, or agonizing over another U.S. near miss.
God Bless America.
I’m still not a soccer fan to the degree that I’m going to start watching the Barclays Premier League when this World Cup extravaganza draws to a close.
I’ll admit I’m warming up to the game, particularly when it’s played at this high of a level by world class athletes. And since diving, embellishing and flopping have likewise invaded hockey and basketball, one of my biggest previous criticisms of soccer as a sport is no longer applicable.
But I’m already immersed in the NFL, the NHL, Major League Baseball, college football, college hoops and college hockey, and that much isn’t changing. I just don’t have the time or energy to add another game.
So when this is over _ for me it might be over when it’s over for America _ it’s probably going to be another four years before “the beautiful game” is back on my radar.
But that doesn’t mean what’s unfolding in this opening round of group play isn’t something special, something to be embraced and appreciated and celebrated as one of those rare occurrences that actually transcends sport.
No, it isn’t World War III.
But it shouldn’t require that for a bunch of Americans to get together every now and then and celebrate being American.
That end result every once in a while is what matters, not the catalyst.
The scene at Claddagh was almost indescribable. The place was packed, seemingly every inch of space occupied by someone who was emotionally invested in what was taking place. Everyone was geared up; even the bartenders were wearing Red, White and Blue. There was cheering and flag-waving and singing and screaming from start to finish.
It was a beautiful thing.
It’s just a sporting event, but this one brought people together and has all across America.
If you have a problem with that you’re missing the point, and the party.
You’re also missing an American team that has so far been as resilient, as resourceful, as resolute and as competitive as any of us had a right to expect.
I still don’t know who these guys are, but they’re representing us in a manner that’s reminding me why I'm proud to be an American each time they play.
Based on the outpouring of support and enthusiasm this team is generating, apparently I’m not alone in that regard.
Up next is Germany, and then, presumably, the Knockout Round.
See you at Claddagh.