When it comes to sports, destiny is a very biased concept. Had Brasil won yesterday without the services of their superstar Neymar and their captain Silva, the host nation of the FIFA 2014 World Cup would have been buzzing about how destiny favored this soccer powerhouse. Instead Brasil’s team laid the proverbial egg, didn’t show up for the game at all, and lost 7-1 to a very good German team. Undoubtedly all German fans are now talking about their destiny. I would like to put my own personal spin on the subject of destiny and show how it favors Holland.
Four years ago Holland, The Netherlands, lost in its 3rd World Cup Final appearance to Spain. They began this years campaign with a 5-1 whipping of the reigning champs. In about 4 hours they will face Argentina in the semi-final. Argentina who was the host team in 1978 and defeated Holland, then making their second final appearance. After Germany’s victory yesterday, if destiny keeps to form, Holland will face Germany on Sunday with an opportunity to finally lift up the World Cup as champions. 40 years ago in 1974, it was Germany, then the host country, that defeated the Netherlands in their first ever appearance in the World Cup. Like Holland or not, from the perspective of destiny it could not play out any better.
And then there is my favorite Dutch fan, my mother Sipora Groen. At 92 years old she is enjoying the games as much as anyone else and would love to see Holland finally call themselves World Cup Champions. So I say it again, and hopefully will be making this plea again after today and before Sunday, WIN IT FOR MY MOTHER.
As a Jewish American I felt somewhat guilty focusing my attentions to the triviality of the World Cup. My guilt made me pause before posting anything about my excitement and enjoyment surrounding the efforts of The Netherlands in this year’s tournament. Yes I paused, as I did not wish to be insensitive to the harsh realities facing all of us, but in the end I rationalized or justified my decision, not all will agree on which one it is, and chose to enjoy Holland’s World Cup victory. It made me question the morality of putting importance on those things that clearly do not hold the same importance as our most pressing personal and communal issues.
There are some events or activities no one questions as important nor do they question the joy these events bring to individuals and families. Weddings, childbirth, recovery from illness, even special moments with friends and family, are all occurences no one ever disputes as important. Sure there are people who have emotional issues that may prevent them from getting joy from these moments, but as a general rule people agree that all of these things are important and therefore should bring one joy, even when surrounded by unpleasant realities.
I am one of those people who believes life is made up of moments. Many are good, many are bad. Unfortunately the bad moments seek us out, finding us without mercy or timing. The good moments sometimes do the same, just not with the same persistence. I am not being negative in this statement, merely realistic. I am also using it as a springboard to make the point I wish to make. The moments in life that bring us pleasure, the movies we love, the meals we savor, and yes the sporting events that thrill us, are the moments we need to seek out. These moments fuel us, strengthen us, and yes indeed, even if only momentarily,can make us happy. Brasil is a nation struggling with discontent and yet it comes together in excitement to celebrate the FIFA 2014 World Cup. Do I believe the World Cup matters when mothers are mourning the murders of their teenage sons? Of course I don’t. But I also know that the day will come when they may turn to something as unimportant as a soccer match to bring them some needed joy. Not today, but when the time is right. Maybe that is why we sometimes call our athletes heroes. Not because they live by higher standards, but because they sometimes give people a very necessary respite from the more difficult moments in life.
Just take a moment to think about how much better the world could be if everyone worried a little bit more about those things so many deem as unimportant.
I’ll be brief. Those who watched the quarterfinal game between Brasil and Colombia in the FIFA 2014 World Cup saw one of the most disgraceful performances by a Ref you will ever see. Thanks to his inability or lack of willingness to control the game, Brasil’s best player Neymar was ruled out for the remainder of the World Cup with a broken vertebrae. With fouls spiraling out of control throughout the game, it was just a matter of time before someone got seriously hurt or a fight broke out. Why FIFA continues to allow the degree of incompetence and likely corruption in soccer’s biggest football stage is beyond me, but once again officiating has tarnished a great tournament. It may never change, but I for one refuse to pretend the problem doesn’t exist.
After looking up various sources it appears the U.S.A. National Soccer team playing in the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brasil does indeed have a Jewish player on their team. Whether or not it is both parents, just his mother (which would satisfy all Jews requirements) or just his father (something that would not satisfy the most traditional within the religion’s ranks) I do not know. But I do know he is referred to as Jewish. Good enough for me.
For the record, even if we didn’t have one I’d still be cheering for them to beat Germany today. Just a little tidbit I know a bunch of you out there will appreciate. Maybe he makes it into Adam Sandler’s next Hanukkah song. That might depend on whether or not he helps us win. Go U.S.A! (unless you play The Netherlands).
Quick answer; it could. If only the politicians and power mongers would let it. In a world filled with violence and hatred, I am one of those who truly believes that the majority of the people watching care more about their country scoring a goal than any territorial conflict or prejudice against people. Despite my belief that FIFA may very well be corrupt, a belief somewhat influenced by The Netherlands’ inability to break through and win it all, I truly believe this tournament, FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brasil, can do a lot more good than harm. In fact, I don’t even think it is close. I am not naive. As a Jew and as an American, I know there are people who hate us. But wouldn’t it be great if all the battles and anger could be left on a soccer pitch? I know my prejudices towards countries like Holland, America and England are based on personal experiences that make me root in favor of their success, just as my prejudices against Iran, Algeria and France are also based on my experiences or perceptions. However, wouldn’t it be great if it stopped there for everyone. I wouldn’t gloat over the death of Iranians, but I certainly gloated over their defeat in a World Cup match. When I say I hate Cristiano Ronaldo and I hate Portugal, it is because he strikes me as arrogant and I see Portugal as a villain in international soccer tournaments, not because I hate the country or people. On the contrary, I have Portuguese blood. My mother’s maiden name is Rodrigues-Lopes, a Portuguese name. And my hatred for Ronaldo wants me to see him fail in football, excuse me, soccer, not fail in life. And yes, as a Jewish man and Zionist I would much prefer Palestinians dancing in the streets because Israel didn’t qualify or because the U.S. got eliminated, not because of a successful terrorist attack that killed Jews.
The good news, I believe the majority of the planet would agree with this sentiment. They just need to fight to create governments that feel the same way. It may be a pipe dream, but to quote my favorite line from the movie Flashdance, “when you lose your dreams, you die.”