I Love the World Cup...

I love soccer.

Basketball is pretty cool. It is full of back-and-forth action with lots of points always being scored. I can appreciate the ferocious power of a well-orchestrated lob dunk. Like many watching the NBA Finals (including the Miami Heat, apparently) I was mesmerized by the flowing offense of the San Antonio Spurs. The motion of Tony Parker, so low to the ground and unpredictable, made me a bit dizzy to be sure. I'm glad I didn't have to guard him on the court.*

*I played basketball in high school. And by played, I mean that I rocked the JV scene for multiple years and clapped my hands off for the varsity group. One time when I did actually get to play, I just happened to get to guard Marcus Walker. It didn't go well. I'm not - how do I say this...ah yes - tall. Marcus scored 40 points that night. 

Baseball is OK. As a loyal Kansas Citian, I try hard to follow the Royals. I could be the umpteenth person to write about how the Royals have never gone to the playoffs since 1985 or how we have made horrific trade after horrific trade or how "I've Got Friends In Low Places" was sung at each and every home game for years. As I write this, the Royals have actually won 8 in a row and can take over first place tonight. I'm sure it will all go up in flames soon...

Football sucks. Players die with such regularity that news stories like this Cal player barely register anymore. Coaches are for some reason allowed to act in ways that defy civility and it's OK because everyone on the football field is apparently so damn tough. 

Deep breath.

I can find beauty and wonder in (nearly) every sport. Watching Rafael Nadal on clay is something I'll tell my kids about. Seeing Tiger Woods do things with a club that seem to defy physics was a joy of my childhood. I've always had a fascination with ice curling at the Winter Olympics! 

You see, I like to watch people who are chasing great accomplishments. I want to see Tiger pass Jack Nicholas so that I can say I watched the greatest golfer ever. I want to see Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer meet at every single major. I want 1-seeds to make it to the Final Four so I can see the best teams match up. 

Which brings me to the World Cup. Some of you may not know that the World Cup is actually just the final stage of a two-year tournament featuring every soccer-playing nation in the world from Brazil to Guam. The really unique thing about the World Cup (and the Olympics somewhat) is that the superstars of soccer still don’t get to choose their country of origin. Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo are widely recognized as the two best players in the world and they play for Argentina and Portugal respectively. Argentina is one of the most storied soccer nations and they’ve only one the World Cup twice! Portugal has never won the World Cup. They can't just choose to play for Brazil or Germany.

The World Cup is an international affair, and this is what I love most about soccer. I speak relatively fluent Spanish. With all due credit to my Spanish teachers throughout my years, I went from someone who could pass a quiz in class to a fluent speaker on the soccer field. Hours of playing latinos on hockey courts in a local park honed my lessons into actual speech. I play in an adult men’s league currently with guys from Romania, Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia and a few born-and-raised Americans.* I root hard for Greece to do well and I’d root for Scotland if they weren’t generally terrible at soccer.

*Although each of these guys talks about the US team using words like “we” and “us”.  They’re as American as it gets. I think we could all take a lesson from this.

I try and teach my students about the world from this perspective. The World Cup is special because we are all soccer players and soccer fans. Much in the same vein, I want to teach my students that we are all part of the same global community. Just as Americans and Brazilians play different brands of soccer, so too do our different cultures provide different things to the world.


One of my favorite parts of the fantastic coverage that ESPN puts on for the World Cup are the shots of the fans in the crowd. They show such incredible passion and excitement. I love going to watch parties like the 10,000-strong one at Power and Light for the USA v. Ghana opener. 

And I love these two guys:

GIFs of US and Ghanaian fans from Monday nights game

But I especially love watching the national anthems:

Keep watching at 1:12 when the music stops

I’m currently watching the Mexico v. Brazil match. In the last 10 minutes of a tightly contested 0-0 tie, Thiago Silva of Brazil dove in for a crunching tackle on Chicharito of Mexico, earning him a yellow card. As both players were walking away, Silva walked towards Chicharito and tilted his head slightly to the side acknowledging the tackle. Chicharito nodded his head in return and put his hand out, which was met my Silva’s hand in return. They exchanged a few words, Silva patted Chicarito’s head and they returned to the battle.

The passion and respect are lessons that I want to pass on in my class.

Find something worth believing in.

Make a plan and prepare yourself.

Fight for what you want every single moment of every single day.

To see my students believe in something and fight for something they way that they players and the fans fight and believe during the World Cup would be the highlight of my career. The thought of that moment somewhere in the future is what motivates me to look for the next great technology, the next inspiring strategy and the next life-changing project.

What drives you?


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