Ole ole ole ole!

There's nothing I love more than the sound of vuvuzelas in the morning.

Unfortunately, tomorrow will be the last time I hear them for a long time. Partially because World Cup is about to end and partially because I will be really, really surprised if FIFA does another WC in Africa in my lifetime. The good news is I think the vuvuzela market had a boom this year, so for all you shareholders, you should be making some serious dolla dolla bills y'all. I personally didn't mind them at all; I think it made everything more festive. I even had one blown in my ear at a Spanish bar one fine morning. I wouldn't mind getting my own so that if someone pissed me off I could just pull out my vuvuzela and blow. I may do it.

It seems like just yesterday I was excitedly filling out my brackets for this event. I filled out two; one allowed me to select how it would all go down from start to finish; you had to fill every single bracket for the entire tournament (on ESPN.com). The other (Yahoo) drew out the pain, having you pick winners for each individual match. Now, there has to be some sort of award for the fact that I came in at the bottom of both pools I was in; and my selections, if you really lined them up next to each other, weren't even consistent. I felt like this accomplishment on my part was actually impressive. Unfortunately my poolmates don't seem to agree.

It's just been that kinda World Cup. Here we are, two European teams going into the final, Brazil nowhere to be seen, Argentina nowhere to be seen, the French and the Italians out after round one? Sacre Bleu! The Americans placing above the English? It's like Bizarro World Cup.

A few takeaways:

1) World Cup teaches everyone a little geography.
You know how many times I heard about Ghana over the past decade? Exactly.

2) World Cup solves world problems.
No one has been able to explain to me what language the referees and players speak together. During an Argentina-Germany game, for example, when the ref comes up and confers with disputing players, what the hell are they speaking? No one knows. But they need to find out, because then everyone else can use it and stop bitching about not understanding each other.

3) The First Law of soccer: the team with the better celebration dance will win. I think the African teams had more potential and that's why I was sure (as demonstrated by the aforementioned brackets) that they would progress; but they were so nervous in the group rounds that they didn't demonstrate a la Roger Milla. They forgot to do it! I sincerely believe this is half the problem. For this reason I believe it's safe to say the Spanish will win based on this video alone. Because, let's be honest, it doesn't get worse.

4) I wasn't going to post about dating in this one, but I'll just make a little note from present me to future me: don't date guys who are psycho about their sports. Future me, I know you're gonna be attracted to a guy who knows more about soccer than you do; you want a guy who gets up to watch the games and stops his day to see what's going on, a guy who is obsessive about it. During World Cup season you are prone to fall for such a guy, but trust present you: it's a bad idea.

Two guys I know absolutely lost it during World Cup. One became drunk sports guy (which is such a sad and pathetic thing to become if you're not, well, one of the players). The other became depressed sports guy (which is sad when, again, you don't play for the team you're upset lost, and oh yeah, you're not from their country either). He seriously became the Droopy of the sports world. This guy actually told me after his team lost that this was the end of the road for him; he couldn't "bring himself to watch any more games, or to even hear about them at all." Did I mention this was the first week of the tournament?

I'm not really sure why I get so consumed by soccer. I love it, but I wouldn't throw myself off a bridge for it, you know? So why this love. Well, part of it is that I love to soak in the internationalism of it. My first match was Norway vs. US Women's soccer when I was about 16 years old. Then when I was 21 I went to World Cup in Lyons, France and saw Iran play the US. A group of American men were running around playing bongos and carrying a "Great Satan" banner, and by the end of the night we were all dancing together (even though Iran had won). There was a good spirit to it that I had never experienced before, and it stuck with me. Yeah, sadly, it took me an international soccer tournament to resolve my biculturalism. What of it? ;)

I love the way World Cup takes over my life. In the summer 2002 I could be quoted as saying "the Bar exam happens 2 times a year; World Cup only happens once every four years!" to justify getting up at crazy hours to catch the games instead of studying my civil procedure outlines. I like to think I have clear priorities.

I love the excitement, the games to look forward to, reading up on them, friendly wagers with friends on them. I want to be that into sports year round, but try as I might, I can't get absorbed the same way by my other options. I gave football a shake, but it didn't take. After attending college football games with season tickets (for 4 years, I migth add) one day I asked why I couldn't see my friend on the field; someone else said he was off, that offense was playing. And I said "No no! He was just there... hold on, I'll find him." Then the people in the room explained to me... in small syllables... that offense & defense aren't on the field at the same time (keep reading when you've picked yourself up off the floor).

World Cup really does take over my life. I'm not ashamed to admit (well, mostly because my colleagues don't read this) that this year, in my thirties, I rescheduled conference calls in order to watch games. I started wearing a knuckle ring (like my hero) and reminding people that I'm half serious about naming my firstborn Maradona. I had in depth conversations about how much Ghanaian player Prince's neck tattoo would have hurt to get. And I waxed nostalgic about the bald ref who used to ref World Cup, and how I missed him.

Basically I become "that guy"; but I'm a girl.

But there were upsides too; at a recent meeting with an older team of male executives and colleagues, I was able to participate in the conversation. Usually the one to sit there and smile, I was able to steer conversation and drop points (sure, some of them shamelessly pillaged from the previous night's ESPN broadcast, but whatever, you all do it too!)

And, in what was perhaps my crowning achievement of the past month, I was able to spin game enthusiasm into a series of bets with a coworker that ultimately ended with me earning a week's control of his Facebook profile. Whether or not you are the gambling type, I assure you this was one of the most rewarding things I have ever won.

At first I thought, hey, it's work, I'll be professional and just post about soccer. But it was like the freaking Stanford Experiments; I became evil; I couldn't do anything but carry out the evil intent of posting worse and worse things. I would send him posts which he had to then turn around and immediately post to Facebook as his status -- no explanation given. It might help to know this guy is slightly older than me, an accomplished and well-networked executive, and that several of his former employees are on his FB page.

It began with posts about how he couldn't wait to see Germany play Argentina, he loves soccer "almost as much as I lOvE MiLeY!!!!"; and his joy at the new Twilight film ("On my way to see Eclipse for the third time...they should have frequent viewers cards for Twilight fans...Team Edward!") Then "he" posted "Can't wait to see Spain play on Sunday. I love burritos and tequila! Yay!"

Then he posted a rave review of the new Justin Bieber album "My World: sweet gym tunes!!!". Most recently I had him describing details of the new Sex and the City 2 movie that no straight man would know or give a damn about ("Sex and the City 2 was overrated. and um WHAT was Carrie wearing on her head at Stanford's wedding?!?"). I almost threw up laughing when I read a coworker's response "M, did you take a purse too? To put your balls in?"

He was a good sport about it, but the personal stakes I was able to add onto each match just made it that much more delicious to watch. I'm telling you, by the end of this month I'd become a complete soccer monster, chattering on about it and spouting trivia like a crackhead at any given opportunity. My sister banned discussion of soccer at the family dinner table. I am sincerely worried that by Monday morning I'll look like that heroin withdrawal scene from The Basketball Diaries.

So I realize this is it; soccer is my sport. Until kickball becomes the international phenomenon I keep hoping for, I will just have to hold my breath and try other hobbies and interests outside the sports realm. As you may realize by now, I always find something new to entertain me; so we'll just have to see what it is.