2014: The Summer of Soccer

world cup adidas brazuca soccer ballI knew that there would be a lot of soccer in my summer plans because this year saw the FIFA 2014 World Cup, a month of the beautiful game played beautifully — mostly — and my favorite sport becoming the top of the zeitgeist list, the trending topic, what even Americans paid attention to for a short period of time. It’s weird, really, because globally soccer is by far the most popular sport and in any culture other than the USA big soccer matches like the World Cup are cause for a national holiday as people pile into parks, pubs and front rooms to cheer on their regional or national team.

Here in the USA it’s just not as popular, outside of certain communities and certain events. I watched a lot of the World Cup matches at my favorite swanky café, Amante Uptown, and while the owners are fans, the customers were a fickle lot, with twice as many fans cheering on the Netherlands team as Team USA. And when my team, England played? Yeah, I could hear the crickets when I wasn’t busy grumbling about their (typical) poor performance.

2014 fifa world cup brazilNonetheless, it was a great series of games and now I have to wait four years for another FIFA World Cup to roll around, which is a drag. By then my oldest will be almost done with college, my son will be 18 and heading to college, and my little one will be poised to start high school. Yeesh!

But my summer of soccer wasn’t over yet!

Cricket Wireless kindly stepped in and offered me tickets to go see an exhibition friendly between Manchester United and A.S. Roma, two fabled, wildly popular teams, each with superstar players. Without me realizing, they’d booked us a fancy suite, so the game experience was terrific and instead of sitting in plastic seats with the sun beating down on our heads we were VIPs with catered snacks and everything.

I wrote about it here: Soccer comes to Denver with Manchester United and A.S. Roma.

A wonderful experience and a really fun game, and seeing it live was terrific too, even if the play wasn’t quite up to snuff for either team. Yes, there were star players like Wayne Rooney and epic goals like the 64-yard bouncer from A.S. Roma’s Pjanic, but these teams save their very best efforts for their primary leagues, and for Manchester United it’s the British Premier League, while A.S. Roma plays for the Italian Seria A League. Which makes sense!

manu foul? Or not
Great football action with Manchester United vs. AS Roma

Truth be told, however, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool lifetime Tottenham Hotspur supporter, as just about all of my friends have long since realized, and today, August 16, is a great day on the calendar because it marked the opening of the 2014-2015 Premier League. Booyah!

Now I have my Saturday and Sunday mornings all set: wake up before anyone else, watch the match of the day on NBC Sports Network.

amc premier league fathom events broadcast event ticket
AMC hasn’t figured out it’s the “Premier” league yet.

Fathom Events is trying an interesting experiment with the Barclay’s Premier League and NBC this year too, by picking one match each weekend and broadcasting it live in HD on a movie theater screen. This morning – praise be! – the game they chose was Tottenham vs. West Ham United.

At 8am I dutifully walked into the AMC Orchards 12 movie theater in Denver, almost 45 min from my home, to join a theater full of fans for this opening match at the only theater in the state of Colorado screening the games.

Except there was no-one else there.

Not “there were a few people”, but zero. Nada. I don’t know if it was a marketing issue, whether the timing stinks (the games are live in the UK and tape delay would be dumb for a sporting event) or whether it was the teams (West Ham are a “lower half” team and the Spurs are popular, but they don’t seem to make it into the top four positions in the League very often, and when they do, it’s not for long, so they’re not as popular as Manchester United, Chelsea, etc.).

I was shocked and disappointed. Where the heck were my fellow Premier League fans in Colorado??

On the bright side, I enjoyed a decent opening London Derby fixture — which means that it’s a cross-town rivalry, if you’re not familiar with the jargon — and while neither team had a command performance, it was interesting to see them stretch their legs and begin to find their team strategy, with a final overtime goal by Eric Dier giving us the win and three points to start the season.

premier league fathom events tottenham hotspur on a movie screen
Plenty of seats available before the game started!

And because I was by myself in the theater, I had my feet up and was tweeting about the game at the same time. Yes, I was doing what I hate others doing in a movie theater: playing on my phone. But there was no-one to bother, so it didn’t seem quite as rude as it could have been. 🙂

So far, this summer’s been brilliant with soccer matches and activities. And that’s good!

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