There. I've admitted I have a problem.
With the start of the World Cup just hours away, I am no longer willing to keep it a secret.
The rest of the world is building to a feverish pitch for the start of the quadrennial celebration of our planet's most popular sport. Thirty-two countries will be vying for the Cup; 31 of them will come to a standstill every time their country's team takes the field.
Not us. The World Cup will get plenty of viewers, as the game continues to grow in the U.S. Sam's Army, the unofficial fan club of the national team, has grown steadily since it made its debut at a USA/Nigeria match in Foxboro back in 1995. ESPN has bet some $100 million that American fans will tune in to the World Cup matches in 2010 and 2014.
Still, it's easier to find groups who hate soccer around here than it is to find people ready for the first match on Friday. That game is South Africa vs. Mexico, by the way. The Mexicans — El Tri — have undergone a youth movement since the last Cup and should win Group A.
See? I can't help it. I'm all in for the next month of round-the-clock soccer. I'll be battling with our producers at the NESN HD television center to get the games on one of the monitors while we watch the Red Sox.
I know the Yanks (Bob Bradley's team, not Joe Girardi's) are in for a tough match with England on Saturday afternoon. I also know a win in the first game of group play is not vital to advancing. It's what the U.S. does against Algeria and Slovenia that will determine its fate. Anything less than a top-two finish, thereby advancing to the round of 16, would be a huge disappointment.
I know this is Spain's tournament to lose, but a European nation has never won the tournament in another continent. And La Furia Roja is still stinging from a 2-0 loss in the semifinals of last year's Confederations Cup.
In fact, I know what the Confederations Cup is. Not many folks in the contiguous 48 do.
I've watched the Nike "Write the Future" commercial a dozen times or more. I'm part of the reason it set a record for the most views of any viral ad in its first week in the history of the internet.
I know the players are unhappy with the Jubulani ball. I also know goalkeepers like it, and the legendary Diego Maradona (now the Argentine coach) held a free-kick session to prove it flies true. No word if the Hand of God was involved.
I know you should watch the games. If you like the Olympics, you'll love the World Cup. As former English soccer coach Bill Shankly once said, "Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I'm very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that."
Yet, around here, not so much. I'd suggest you give it a try, open your mind to the beauty and intensity of the 1-on-1 battles that happen around the pitch. Yes, some of the world's top players flop to the ground like they were hit by sniper fire in an effort to draw a penalty. Paul Pierce wouldn't even make the top 50 list of Most Dramatic Foul Recipients in South Africa. Yet these same players will run some six miles over the course of a game. And they'll become national heroes — or goats — based on their success or failure.
I'd suggest all of this, but that would be enabling. That would be a gateway to you sharing my problem. So I'll soldier on over the next month, trying to find others with the same addiction.
They're out there. Problem is, most of them are overseas.