It's a little after 1:15 am as I start writing this. If form holds true to from about Friday on, I will try to get to bed in the next hour and toss and turn until about 330 or 4 am. I will of course primarily be thinking of the fate of the US World Cup team, which I guess is better than recurring dreams of loss and abandonment, right?
All day today I thought about the game, save for two hours when I watched a movie to try to get my mind away from soccer for a moment. I was down at Radio Radio at 9am to watch the Holland game. My mind kept drifting to the USA.
After I got home from watching a movie at a friends house tonight I actually popped in the behind the scenes and highlight video of the 2002 US World Cup team, Our Way. I still was letting out loud cheers, sighs, and virtually everything else one could think of. Watching highlights of games from 4 years ago. Highlights that I have seen more that 100 times, and they still had me on the edge of my seat. Just to make sure, even though it happened this way 4 years ago, I needed to make sure it happened the same tonight.
After the US scored their second goal against Portugal in 2002, Jack Edwards shouted, "Shock the World!!!!!!!" I said to my roomate that we would never hear a call like that again. That after the 2002 World Cup we have expectations for this team that didn't exist before. My roomate referred to it as a "loss of innocence." That's a double edged sword really isn't it?
In 2002, I saw enough of the team to claim that they could beat Portugal. I think I actually predicted a tie, that game. I thought they were good enough to get out of the group. And they did. But collectively, across the country and really the world the feeling was they were not good enough. That feeling was so prevalent that it made the US win over Portugal truly a shock, especially the manner in which it happened. As the goals were going in, even the largest optimist around could not hide shock and glee. Maybe you tried to convince ourself they could beat Portugal, Mexico, and Germany. But when these games were happening, you didn't need convincing, you saw proof right in front of your eyes. It was actually happening. It was still a shock. There was no way around it.
Fast forward 4 years, and you watch those games and they feel like yesterday. You remember all the moments. You know what happened. You can't erase it. You go into this 2006 World Cup with heightened expectations. If the US goes up 2-0 on the Czechs in a few hours there will be no unrestrained "Shock the World," yelp. This is a team that everyone really truly believes is good enough to get to round two. These games have much more at stake now. In 2002, had we lost to Portugal it would have been expected and nothing would have been thought of it, it's a team that should beat us. In 2006, if we lose to the Czech Republic, even though convential wisdom says its a team that should beat us, if we lose it's to a team we could have beat. And thats true. And thats fair. But there is a loss of innocence here as a fan now thanks to heightened expectations.
And I will miss the days when anytime the US beat a European team it was a shock. I will miss them dearly. Beating Portugal was pure delerium. Nothing short of beating Brazil would really match that this time around. (Actually beating Mexico again would, but thats just a hatred rivalry thing. The whole world including Mexico already knows the US is better.) beating the Czech Republic would be nice, but it won't set off celebrations in nearly the same way, instead it just will make us look towards Italy with three points as opposed to one or zero.
But you know what, though I miss that potential for delerium. I am happier that the team is here. This is not yet a nation that can expect to win World Cup's. First it's gotta be a nation that can expect to get out of the group. And by and large, if you talk to 100 devoted US fans, a vast majority expect them to make it out of this group. And they aren't afraid of what those expectations mean. And really, that's just another step. And if that means a little less sleep, I can deal with that.