Today is the first day of the World Cup. I repeat: It’s THE FIRST DAY OF THE WORLD CUP. Host nation and five-time World Cup champion Brazil faces off against four-time participant Croatia and nearly half of planet Earth is really, really excited. I know I am.
So, in order to commemorate the opening day festivities, I spent days trying to think of something really deep, intelligent, and profound to write about the importance of the World Cup. I already did, sort of, at least from the perspective of why more Americans should support the USMNT, but I wanted to do something more universal. Something that captured how important it was on a global scale, while also encompassing the complexities of wealth inequality, economic impact and deeply felt national pride.
Then, I realized I’m not a great writer. Well, at least not as a great of a writer as all the other sports journalists currently going long on the World Cup. So instead of writing anything, I am just going to round up everything that’s awesome on the interwebs about the World Cup for your reading and viewing pleasure. Take five minutes (or five hours) to click around and get hyped for the greatest sporting event in the history of mankind.
- Might as well start at the very beginning, with the first match of the tournament. ESPN’s resident football experts, and English ex-pats, The Men in Blazers will catch you up on the Brazil v. Croatia match. Or, as they call it, the Bananas v Pajamas. Spoiler Alert: Bananas are going to win by no fewer than nine goals.
- Are you an American and still don’t quite understand this whole World Cup thing? Well former Daily Show correspondent John Oliver, another Englishman of course, will explain it to you better than anyone else has been able to.
- Are you an American rooting for the US Men’s National Team? If you aren’t, then not only are you a traitor according to our constitution, but you’re also not alone. A recent survey of people from 19 World Cup participating countries on the New York Time’s Upshot Blog showed that a plurality of American fans rated the USA as the team they think will win AND the team they are rooting against. And that, I suppose, is America in a nutshell.
- Still a World Cup Hater? Deadspin has you covered with it’s typically cynical “Hater’s Guide to the World Cup.” Two thumbs down 🙁
- Okay. Enough with all that “Are you going to watch the World Cup” garbage. You are. Period. So given that’s a scientific fact, you may as well know who statistical warlock Nate Silver predicts will win over on his excellent FiveThirtyEight site. (Hint: They Wear Yellow) This will also aid in your illicit gambling if, say, you made an ill-informed $500 bet on Japan to make it out of their group. (Hint: I might have.)
- Now if you want to really get hyped for the USMNT’s inevitable hoisting of the World Cup trophy in about 30 days (Nate Silver has this at 0.4 percent, but what the hell does he know) then you could do a lot worse than watch ESPN’s salute to The American Outlaws and/or THE GREATEST GOAL IN US SOCCER HISTORY when Landon Donovan scored in stoppage time against Algeria to advance out of their group in the 2010 World Cup. Goosebumps. Every. Damn. Time.
- Did you know that certain teams are banned from having the sex while at the World Cup? Well, now you do, and which ones, thanks to Deadspin’s running list of each nation’s sexing status.
- Of course we can’t talk about soccer, let alone Brazilian soccer, without talking about the “Greatest of All Time”, The King Himself, Pele. Did you know they you can buy diamonds made of his hair? Well thanks to Grantland’s Brian Phillips’ article, that might be my favorite thing I’ve read on the WC so far, you can get insight into how the Greatest Footballer to ever play the game has turned into “an ambulatory MasterCard scanner… a kept superstar willing to slap his name on anything for a bag of cash,” and how that might be the perfect metaphor for World Cup right now.
- Also, if you read Phillips’ article you’ll find out that maybe Pele isn’t the greatest after all. That honor might go to fellow countryman Garrincha. A cripple as a boy who was never supposed to be able to walk, let alone dazzle with the ball the way he could, who drank himself to death by his 50s. A tragic cult hero captured in ESPN’s “30 for 30” series with “The Myth of Garrincha”. Watch it, it’s excellent.
- Personally, I think Maradona is winner of the “Greatest of All Time” label. Want proof? How about a goal so great it’s dubbed as not just “The Goal of the Century” but also the “Hand of God” goal. Still not sold? Well watch 3 min of Maradona warming up that could be the happiest thing ever committed to film. That’s him in a nutshell.
- Want something a bit lighter? How about The New York Times’ Sam Borden being wistful for all-black soccer cleats in a time of “a sort of mottled, fluorescent-lizard-style shoe that blares loud blues and oranges.”
- Not light enough for you? How about a Google Street View exploration of streets Brazil has painted and decorated in celebration of the World Cup. Or, how about this awesome guy doing awesome soccer tricks that you think no one should be able to do but somehow he manages to accomplish.
- Too light? How about some long-form pieces on national soccer teams and their links to national tragedies back home? Great! First is Grantland’s piece on the 2006 Ivorian National team, “Les Elephants”, and how they helped end their country’s civil war…maybe. Then there’s also Wright Thompson’s amazing feature on the 1978 World Cup hosted in Argentina that was played while the Argentine government was simultaneously waging a state sponsored terrorism campaign dubbed “The Dirty War” that included torture, murder, kidnappings, and endless repression of political dissidents.
- Speaking of Wright Thompson, go read his other amazing feature length piece, this one on the universally reviled, racist cannibal who at times might also be the most transcendently beautiful goal scorer playing right now: Uruguay’s Luis Suarez. Wright’s conclusion: maybe he’s not so bad after all?
- Since we’re all about advertising here, you could do a lot worse than watch these fantastic new ads by Nike, who i always stellar, and Beats, who is surprisingly stellar here. Even newly acquired NWA member Tim Cook is a fan of the Beats ad.
- But the World Cup isn’t all roses right now. There are protests, stadiums aren’t finished, and not only is the location of the crucial USA v. Portugal match in Manaus a sweltering “Heart of Darkness” hellhole in the middle of the Amazon, the field is also rec-league level terrible.
- Want something completely different and possibly a bit more “high-minded”? How about novelist Teju Cole’s brilliant novella of a blog about the his specific perspective of South Africa’s World Cup in 2010. This one’s a literary stunner.
- The award for best interactive piece on the World Cup goes to The New York Times Magazine’s illustrated, interactive journey through the great “Curse of the Maracana”. Or why Brazil’s loss to Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup final on home soil in Rio de Janeiro is still an open, festering wound for the nation, despite winning 5 World Cups since. This one will suck you in.
Are there more? Of course! But this should keep you busy for at least the next few days. Until then, prepare for USA to defeat Ghana on June 16! Never forget….
#IBelieve #IBelieveThat #IBelieveThatWe #IBelieveThatWeWillWin