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Bend It Like...

It’s world cup time—and that can mean one thing… yes, Wise Guy, I know it means soccer. But, it also means diverse group gatherings, friendly competition—much more friendly than in some of the international stadiums –restaurants and bars open at odd hours of the morning and flags being flown, colors being displayed and a myriad of brightly colored jerseys being worn. Embassies are getting into it as well. Yup—DC is the perfect spot for a little world-wide celebration of athleticism.

So what better thing to do on a scorching 90-some-odd degree day complete with about 3000% humidity, than to stand packed like sardines, shoulder to shoulder with over 2,000 people outdoors for World Cup Soccer. For those whose motto is “never let ‘em see you sweat,” this was probably not the best place to be. I’ll just leave the “yuck” factor there.

Of course, given the amount of individuals, those not arriving for a plumb seat by 7 a.m. are probably out of luck as far as any significant sight lines of even a large screen. Even when a glimpse here or there is possible, the players look like M & Ms kicking a Tick Tack. But this is where the real fun begins. Here’s where strangers become entertainment; where people you didn’t know an hour prior become friends. It all begins with the nickname.

“Hey! Red-Shirt Guy…down in front!” Red Shirt Guy happened to be about 6’2”. To his credit, he apologetically moved a little to the left, affording those of us smaller in stature and farther away a clear shot to the screen without compromising his view of the game. Thank you Red Shirt Guy. Soon to follow included “Gesture Guy,” “Big Hat Man,” “Bikini Woman,” and our favorite “Angel from Heaven,” a little girl equipped with a spray bottle and cold clean water who was kind enough to alternately spray our group and random passersby for the best heat relief of the day.

“Great. So you hang with a group of very dubiously clever people,” you say. Not the point. The point is that in a group of multi-thousands brought together in a somewhat impromptu show of spirit, there was not one angry word uttered, not one incident of violence; and conversation with fellow humans of diverse countries, backgrounds. There was sharing of water, food, (ahem) high-test liquids and good cheer. There were Vuvuzelas being blown without noise complaint, cheering and camaraderie.

At this point, I could make the obvious and probably trite note that if we could solve all the world’s issues with soccer balls, there would be a lot less carnage and tragedy…and maybe, for better or worse, coaches instead of generals. Of course this is unrealistic, even if a better alternative to war. Not to sound Pollyanna-ish though, I do often wonder how it’s possible to show such an ability to engage in friendly competition and why, as human beings we can’t be equally as rational when it comes to larger issues? Rhetorical question—Discuss. Talk amongst yourselves, “Multiple Opinion Guys.” Maybe over some cold beverages and a little ‘football.’