Mesa Musings: Women's World Cup calls like a siren

They broke my heart.

I'm referring to0020America's women's soccer team, which turned in an inspirational performance over the past month in FIFA's Women's World Cup 2011 in Germany, but came up short in Sunday's final.

Underdog Japan — an obvious team of destiny — beat the Americans on penalty kicks. What mere mortals can trifle with destiny?

Still, I won't lie to you. This guy who used to belittle soccer was bummed.

I fell hard this summer for America's Hope Solo, Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe, Lauren Cheney, et al. I watched every U.S. game during the competition (they played six), and I even viewed matches that didn't involve the U.S. team.

I was all in.

Twenty years ago, the likelihood of me sitting through Norway beating Equatorial Guinea, 1-nil, would have been just that — NIL! Yet, this summer I did exactly that. Funny how one's tastes change.

Some of this year's Women's World Cup games were played before sunup California time. I recorded them in order to savor them at a more convenient time.

Simply put, soccer has captured my fancy. I've become a fan, particularly since my 12-year-old grandson began playing club. He's taught me a lot about the sport. So did my father-in-law, who played in Asia and Europe, and my son-in-law, who was an Orange County high school performer.

They conspired to persuade me.

Still, I'll never cross the street to watch the Seattle Sounders play the Chicago Fire or the New York Red Bulls square off with the Columbus Crew. Applying a baseball analogy from my youth, the MLS seems sort of "Texas League" to me.

There is, however, something special about the World Cup. Like college football, the players play for something bigger than themselves.

Just now, I'll admit to occasionally watching a Saturday morning Premier League telecast from England, featuring Manchester United or Arsenal or Fulham. I'm not a futbol fashionista by any stretch, but the Premier League is the real deal.

Though raised in Newport-Mesa, where soccer was of less importance than canasta, I've grown to appreciate "The Beautiful Game." I remain partial to American football, basketball and baseball, but, over the past four decades soccer has moved inexorably up my top 40 list, from No. 41 to No. 4!

Unlike my kids and grandkids, I wasn't raised on the sport. My introduction came late, during my junior year in college. I took a fitness class, and for two weeks, we played soccer. I wasn't impressed.

Later, I married a girl from Europe. Actually, my wife, Hedy, was born in Java but spent much of her youth in the Netherlands. Her father was a semi-professional soccer player in Java and also played in Holland.

After I married his daughter, my father-in-law began tutoring me on the finer points of soccer. I took him to American football and baseball games, which he loved, and sat with him in his den and watched soccer on Spanish-language TV channels. That was about the only place in those days where one could access televised soccer.

Neither of us spoke Spanish, but he'd explain the game to me in accented English.

My father-in-law died more than a decade ago.

Though a huge fan of the Dutch national team, I'm certain he'd have loved watching the U.S. women play in this year's World Cup. How we'd have cheered during that thrilling victory over Brazil!

Instead, I watched the game alone. Well, not exactly. I watched it with my grandson — via telephone. I was in Costa Mesa; he was at home in North Carolina. We called out the action to one another over the phone.

If only the three of us could have been granted three hours in the same room together to watch that game. What a memory!

Alas, except for Wambach's last-minute miracle header against Brazil, life offers few such perfect moments.

JIM CARNETT lives in Costa Mesa. His column runs Tuesdays.

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