World Cup is hot, beautiful mess
RIO DE JANEIRO -- We've always known sports bring people together. But the World Cup brings the corners of the globe together like nothing else -- a hot, sweaty, chanting, beer-soaked, beautiful mess.
It is what I love most about this game. Germans, English, Costa Ricans, Chileans, Cameroonians, fans of all ages, flags and jerseys embrace and sing together for a month-long shared drink of humanity. And for Americans, many pour in the dual love of country and ancestry. One day they're in a U.S. jersey chanting "I believe" and the next they don an Italian jersey to watch everything go wrong for the Azzurri. (Astonishingly, I refuse to make a Suarez joke here.)
The melting pot that is our country -- that is this event -- serves up its best blend of national connections on a daily basis.
It is just one of the many reasons Thursday's U.S.-Germany match brings such intrigue. U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann not only grew up in Germany, but he also played for the national team, won a World Cup (1990) and then coached his homeland in the 2006 World Cup. His family still lives in Germany, most on the same block in Stuttgart. (I spent time recently with his older brother Horst, who runs the Klinsmann family bakery.) Jurgen, though, has lived in Southern California since 2003 with his American wife and two children. He has gone from Jurgen the German legend to Jurgen the California family man. I am fairly certain his kids use the word "dude" more than "danke."
As we have seen over the past two weeks, World Cup matches provide dependable theater, and right from the start with the singing of the national anthem (bless Colombia, Chile and Brazil -- the entire stadium finishing the song after FIFA's mandated 90-second limit).
In that moment before the U.S.-Germany game, when both national anthems play and emotions runneth over, what will Klinsmann do?
"Many have asked me if I will sing the German one. I'll sing both," he said without hesitation. "The German one because I am German and I represented that country more than 100 times in games. At the same time, I feel very, very deeply American too. So both will be full of pride and emotion."
The five German-Americans whom Klinsmann named to the U.S. World Cup roster have echoed his sentiments. They too spoke of the pride of dual emotions. I don't know if they sing both anthems, but the words Deutschland, Deutschland will understandably be ringing in their heads. That's the beauty of our wonderfully distinct nation.
And it doesn't stop with the German-Americans. The U.S. roster also has an Icelandic-American and a Norwegian-American. Tim Howard's mother is from Hungary. Jozy Altidore's parents are from Haiti. Alejandro Bedoya's are Colombian. Omar Gonzalez's are Mexican. Nick Rimando's father is Filipino and his mother Mexican. Chris Wondolowski's mother is from the Native American Kiowa tribe from Oklahoma.
It's the deepest of roots all coming together to play under the red, white and blue. Underdogs, unknowns, but believing maybe, just maybe, this unified U.S. team can defy the odds. Because that is what Americans do. We celebrate the impossible, cheer for the improbable and wrap our arms around a team that is as beautifully diverse as this World Cup.