World Cup Is Over
When I got my wages
I hung my head and cried.
I could not stop these visions
that swept in like the tide.
--Amazon (River of Dreams)
The journey is over, just like the voyage up river in the classic song by The Band.
It was a wonderful World Cup in many ways -- the first World Cup I ever watched at home, in its entirety, once even four matches in a day, in the early giddy days of group play, when so many things were possible.
Now it is over. Lineker’s Law has actually come true for the first time since the English striker articulated it in 1990.
The marvel is that Argentina did so well in the final, holding off what has been building since the fun summer of 2006. Argentina was tough and smart and perhaps deserved better than the 1-0 defeat, but at least somebody scored, and Germany was the best squad, by far, in this World Cup.
One more thing about Argentina. Please, don’t anybody ever again waste time fretting about whether Lionel Messi is the new Diego Maradona. That is so unfair, and mostly to him. Maradona was a genius; Messi is a lovely player, at his best taking crisp passes from Iniesta and Xavi at Barça.
Messi is a small man, anyway – his modesty comes off in all the commercials; he is Everyman with a superb change of pace. He seemed almost slumped over from the weight of seven matches, plus the weight of expectations. Be like Maradona? No más.
I’ve said enough good things about Germany. Let’s talk about the World Cup itself, one more time. Friends have been asking what it’s like to be home after eight World Cups. (Did I mention I have a book out, called Eight World Cups? I'll be promoting it at the Dolphin Book Store in Port Washington, L.I., Thursday at 7 PM.)
I love Brazil from afar – love the music, love the people, even love the way the fans despaired at the two losses. My feeling was, having chosen a buyout at the end of 2011, this was a good World Cup to watch on television. My pals worked in distant cities, under logistics harder than anything I ever faced. The NYT did great, ESPN did great, Soccer America did great, Telemundo did great.
One thing that struck me was how much better I saw the matches (particularly when I watched at home.) In a stadium, you take in the big picture but you don’t necessarily see and hear the fine points of the replays the way I do at home.
I was happy having Twellman and Moreno and Keller and McManaman explaining stuff. ESPN has been working at presenting the matches and the background for years, and I'm sad it won’t be doing the World Cup in 2018.
I want to put in a plug for my friends at Soccer America, which has been on the story all year, giving us the daily vibrations of the U.S. team (no Soccer America reader was surprised at Klinsmann’s snub of Donovan) and giving us great detail and color, hour by hour from Brazil.
Finally, please check out Paul Kennedy’s top-ten wrapup from Sunday. He praises the Times for its large and talented staff – particularly Jeré Longman’s journeys up river. I told Jeré that when he gets home he needs to listen to the Band’s version of Artie Traum’s Amazon (River of Dreams.)
So many people took us all over that fantastic country. Now it is time for the visions to come sweeping in, like the tide.
7/13/2014 02:34:37 pm
7/13/2014 02:49:55 pm
Dear Altenir: Your country was a wonderful host from all I can see and hear. Personally, my World Cup was already a success when I was with you and Celia and Neo and Fr. Mario and your friends on Carmine Street -- my goodness, was it two months ago? My best wishes to your family and your country. George
7/13/2014 03:45:17 pm
7/13/2014 04:16:14 pm
I don't know Altenir, other than by reading this column, but I have been thinking of him as I read and watched. He clearly is a wonderful gentleman and friend. Thanks for sharing.
7/14/2014 01:33:08 pm
Thank you, Ed Martin.
7/14/2014 02:47:39 am
Thanks to you, George - and to my Middle Eastern born sons - I paid peripheral attention to my first World Cup. Although my team did not win, I discovered some of soccer’s athleticism and drama during a summer when my Mets have been providing neither. Do I hear All Star Game?
7/14/2014 07:13:51 am
7/14/2014 08:46:04 am
correction--I meant third place game, not the semis re Holland...
7/14/2014 08:03:06 am
George - It was great riding on your blog through the World Cup. Thanks!!! Michael P.S. Now I can read your book.
7/14/2014 11:19:58 am
One word description of German World Cup Champs.
7/14/2014 12:54:02 pm
Dear Mr. Vescey,
7/15/2014 02:41:17 am
Dear Walter: What a noble goal, to re-capture the clumsy goonish qualities of childhood. Maybe I will follow you, but in a septuagenarian league, clutching and grabbing like I did my last few years of full-court basketball. Diving is a noble art. Teach the children well. GV
Mike from Whitestone
7/14/2014 04:53:02 pm
7/15/2014 02:45:23 am
Mike, I heard some pedestrians congratulating German tourists near the main library in NYC yesterday. Very cute.
7/16/2014 08:10:21 am
Following World Cup 2014 on George’s site is like putting on an old pair of comfortable slippers, sitting in front of a roaring fireplace or enjoying a good wine with friends. It just feels good.
7/16/2014 11:01:43 am
Amen to that.
7/18/2014 12:18:51 am
7/18/2014 12:19:39 am
7/18/2014 12:20:26 am
this is really pretty cool
7/22/2014 09:31:39 am
7/23/2014 09:27:12 am
Simon, thanks so much for being there. You knew more about the sport than anybody in the room, and really enlivened the evening. I look forward to reading you blog.
7/28/2014 02:09:41 pm
I enjoyed the FIFA 2014 World Cup more than any other I have watched because I was well-prepared. I have followed all the European teams' top leagues, and read up about CONCACAF and CONMEBOL as much as I could find before the event. ESPN also put out a great magazine in March to highlight the competitor countries. I plan to be just as well-informed or better about the beautiful game for the 2018 World Cup. Thank you to the host country, Brazil for a great tournament.
7/28/2014 02:22:46 pm
I have just finished reading Eight World Cups. You and I began watching World Cup soccer in the same year, 1982, and each has been memorable for me. I was in the hospital in 1990 recovering from abdominal surgery on the day the Italy-Ireland quarter final game was played. The lady in the next bed was from Italy and a few of her family members were in to visit. I did my best to root for Ireland while she and her "team" yelled for every good play by the Azzuri. The floor nurses came by and spoke to us a few times about the noise level, and we all said in chorus, "Come on, it's the World Cup!" So they shut our hall door and let us yell... Italy did a great job I have to admit.
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“I don’t think people understand how Covid affects older Americans,” Mr. Caretti said with frustration. “In 2020, there was this all-in-this-together vibe, and it’s been annihilated. People just need to care about other people, man. That’s my soapbox.”
---Vic Caretti, 47, whose father recently died of Covid at 85.
---From an article by Paula Span, who covers old age for the NYT, which currently has 2646 comments, the majority criticizing the American public – and public officials – for acting as if the pandemic is “over.”
Classic wishful thinking, at a lethal level.