A man kicks a soccer ball on the shores of Beira Mar, in Fortaleza, Brazil, Tuesday. Soccer fans around the world are gearing up to watch the World Cup, which kicks off in Sao Paulo, Thursday. (AP Photo)
There have been a million articles, posts and click-bait stories written in the last few weeks about why this kind of soccer fan is annoying, why you're not a "real" soccer fan, why American fans have copied everyone else, and why Americans JUST AREN'T ALLOWED TO HAVE FUN WITH SOCCER.
(That last one is written by a Brit who covers the NFL, if irony is your thing).
I'm here, to completely, sincerely, and without sarcasm (on the Internet, I know) WELCOME you to watch the World Cup with us "real soccer fans."
Some of my soccer "brethren" will try to look down on you, or condescendingly explain the virtues of a 4-2-3-1 over a 4-1-2-1-1 diamond, or tell you all about the scarf they got from Eric Wynalda in 1992 and why Tab Ramos was their "boy."
Just ignore them. Or engage them. Whichever you prefer. Watch the games. Drink some beers. Study team rosters. Or don't. Buy a scarf. Or don't.
The World Cup comes along every four years, and it falls in the middle of a relatively dead time on the American sports calendar. Unlike some years (I'm looking at you, 2002 Korea/Japan), the games will be on at great times of day to watch (and drink beer), and some of the best athletes in the world will duke it out over a month of action.
Lots of people will give you rules on how to watch the World Cup, or how to "sound like an expert," but I'm not here for that. It's a game, and it's supposed to be fun. The more the merrier.
So, come ye, soccer newbies, soccer diehards, guys who insist on calling it "futbol," and everyone in between.
Tomorrow we'll give you some more hot soccer knowledge, as well as predictions for the tournament. And on Monday, we'll focus on the US-of-A before their first match.
Here's a few links and helpful tips to get the most out of the next month. And if you prefer to ignore them all and just watch on your couch, that's cool too. And if you want to pick the games against other 700 Level readers (and me!) for a grand prize of 5 minutes of fame in a future post, you can do that here.
When do I watch?
The World Cup kicks off Thursday with host Brazil vs. Croatia at 4 p.m. EST on ESPN. There are games pretty much every day until mid-July. The most comprehensive schedule comes from Jonathan Tannenwald of Philly.com. Bookmark it. Visit it often.
Games will usually kick off at either noon, 3 p.m., or 6 p.m. Eastern time on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC. There is the occasional 4 p.m. kick, and a 9 p.m.-er this Saturday (4 games in one day!).
The U.S. plays Monday at 6 p.m. (Ghana); Sunday, June 22 at 6 p.m. (Portugal); and Thursday, June 26 at noon (Germany).
This was the scene in 2010 outside Fado.
Where should I watch:
If you live in or near Philly, your choices are limitless. Whether it's Fado, The 700 or Tir Na Nog, there's plenty of options. If you're feeling ambitious, try to find a bar or restaurant, or even a Philly neighborhood that's tied to who's playing. If Germany is in action, you might enjoy the chaos that is Brauhaus Schmitz. But the World Cup is such an event that nearly any place with a TV will have fans gathered around, especially those who "call in sick" on a weekday to see their homeland play.
For U.S. games, there are events planned, including a great one for adults and kids at the Piazza at Schmidts organized by the CASA soccer league, the Union and others. And for the final on July 13, Brauhaus Schmitz is shutting down South Street and showing the game on a giant screen.
If you're in the burbs, there are a few options (a favorite for me is Iron Abbey in Horsham), but any sports bar is fine. If you have any suggestions near your 'hood, drop them in the comments.
And if you like your couch (as I do), there is nothing wrong with putting your feet up and screaming by yourself in your living room.
Who should I watch?
Obviously you'll be interested in the USA, and/or the country of your family heritage, or the place you studied abroad, or the place where your favorite takeout food originated. But there is something to watch in every single match, even if you're rooting for the team with the jerseys you like best.
The "Can't Miss" teams to watch would probably be the United States, Brazil, Portugal, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Argentina. Chile, Uruguay and Belgium are up there too. No one is going to blame you if you skip Nigeria-Iran, but you never know where the highlight of the tournament will come from.
If you want some entertaining previews (some of which might go over newbies' heads), you can't go wrong with Grantland's Men in Blazers. Otherwise, you could do worse for general info on the tournament than this comprehensive preview from SB Nation, or this "guide for people who don't watch soccer" from SI.com. And of course, there was the preview last week from our own Evster.
If you are a newbie and want a little primer on some of the terms you'll hear over the next month, this piece might be a big help.
Should I watch at all?
If you don't like soccer, give the World Cup a chance. If you don't like sports, then you're probably not reading this anyway. And if you just really don't want to ever be caught dead watching soccer, then go play golf for the next month or something.
Plenty of people will tell you that you shouldn't watch the World Cup as a kind of protest against all the chaos and corruption that is behind it, and all the money FIFA will be raking in. Brazilians themselves, the most soccer-mad people on Earth, have been protesting the event.
Listen, FIFA is horrible and nearly every FIFA executive is a complete and total crook and criminal, as John Oliver lays out well in this video (it's worth your time, I promise). I hate that by watching it, and watching an ad for Budweiser, I'm sorta-kinda helping with the very real problems the World Cup is creating in Brazil, and in turn, places like Russia (2018) and Qatar (2022).
But I really like soccer. And I really like drama. And I really like America. So I will watch the games AND be morally outraged at what is going on with FIFA, OK?
But I WILL NOT drink Budweiser. Take that, FIFA.
Seriously though, welcome to the World Cup, whether you're a Union season ticket holder or don't know a touchline from a touchdown. The next month is going to be a lot of fun.