Plastic horns and heart attacks

As you know, for the past couple weeks the world’s been abuzz with futboll mania. Halfway into the World Cup, and we’re already seeing plenty of entertaining news that’s not even related to soccer. To name just a few:

1. The French team’s soap opera, complete with betrayals, broken promises, and angry tears.
2. Controversy over how distracting the fans’ vuvuzelas are to viewers and players.
3. Players complaining about this year’s official ball.
4. Vuvuzelas.
5. Suspense over whether or not North Korea will actually nuke Portugal’s capital for destroying their team 7-0.
6. Those really loud horn things that make it impossible to hear anything from the game. I think they might be called vuvuzelas.

But hey, that’s not why we watch these things. My family normally isn’t huge on soccer, but like good, dutiful Koreans, my dad and I go into a frenzy over it every four years. The women in the house think we’re crazy. But no matter; when that World Cup season rolls around, we are willing to spend hours upon hours reading up on teams, following the news, and making predictions (but I’m usually more willing). This is all good and desirable.

I do admit that sometimes we get a little too into it. The following is an approximate account of our dialogue at various points of the June 22nd match between South Korea and Nigeria. It’s obviously not exact (technically it’s not even close, if you consider how we weren’t speaking in English), but I hope it carries the gist.

12th minute (right after Korea takes a shoddy goal)
Dad: “WHY was he [referring to a Korean defender] just standing out there?!”
Me: “Uh, why does our defense suck? This is so much bull.”

A few minutes later (Nigeria’s shot hits the bar, bounces out)
Me: (Still recovering from heart attack)
Dad: “WHY are we standing around and opening up dribble space?!!!”

38th minute (score 1-1 after a Korean defender scores)
Dad: “Yes!!! He’s our hope! Would you look at that!”
Me (after the obligatory “Goallllllllll!!!”): “Ahahahahaha, I reallyyy wish any of the forwards would score though.”

49th minute (2-1 when Korea scores again). After about three minutes of intense celebrating:
Dad: “That was absolutely perfect.”
Me: “Wasn’t there a guy who got famous after he predicted the first two games’ scores? If it ends 2-1 he’s three for three.”
Dad: “That guy could probably become a practicing psychic.”
Me: “I love him so much right now.”

64th minute (a Korean player who was screwing up the whole time is substituted out)
Me: “Yep, we’re done. We win. Psychic was correct.”
Dad: “This should have happened earlier.”

68th minute (the guy who just got substituted in fouls in a dangerous spot and gives away a penalty kick)
Dad: (expression turns foul) “……”

69th minute (penalty kick goes in, 2-2)
Dad: “……”

Last 10 minutes of game (Nigeria attacks again and again, almost scores on several different occasions)
Me: (gripping seat for dear life, mentally curses the sub)
Dad: (urgent exclamations of “Ahh!” or “Uhh!” every time the Nigerians shoot)

I forget what exactly happened when the game ended a draw and the Koreans were confirmed to advance to the next round, other than posting the result on Facebook. I think I must have been dehydrated or something. It probably didn’t help that I came back from my school’s senior party at 7am before waking back up at 11am to watch this.

The point is, the World Cup, like the Olympics or the World Baseball Classic or any other big international sporting event, is some seriously thrilling stuff. I get animated. Neither me nor my dad are likely to chew anyone out as thoroughly as we crucify bad players, and the closest thing to a swear word that I ever say in real life is “damn”. Written that way, it sounds like they bring out all the bad qualities, but that’s just part of it. Few things make me happier than a victory in one of these games, and few things make me giddier in anticipation than a high-stakes matchup.

If a sporting event gets me this excited, how come I never follow regular seasons of anything? I watch the World Series, the Super Bowl, NBA championships, international sporting events, Starleague playoffs (don’t judge me.), and March Madness, but I hardly ever catch a game during seasons. But I’m starting to see the reason: it’s all in the exhilaration. Perhaps more than the sport itself, I enjoy the drama, the suspense, the excitement of those events. Where that is lacking, I just can’t muster up the effort to see it. When this World Cup is over, and soccer fans revert to watching the English Premier League or La Liga or whatever, I won’t be there with them. The moment would be over for me. But in the meantime, I’ll continue to wake up at 4:30am to catch games, yell my lungs out rooting for teams, and almost die from heart attacks. And listen to those damn vuvuzelas instead of the game. Sigh.