I Love Football/Fútbol

(It’s complicated)

Fall is my favorite time of year. The end of summer means the start of La Liga, which is Spanish soccer, and September means the American football season begins. My favorite sports!

I’ve loved American football since I was a kid. My dad taught me the game, and I was a football cheerleader in high school and then became a big Iowa Hawkeyes fan in college. Still am.

I was even lucky enough to go to the Rose Bowl, which is a trip I’ll never forget. With just a hundred dollars in my pocket, I made it halfway across the U.S. in a small, rented RV with a group of friends. It was crowded. I didn’t sleep for three days.

When we arrived in California, we headed straight to the Iowa fan party. It was the night before the game, and so many Iowans were there, they ran out of alcohol. (That little fact always cracks me up, because if you’ve ever been to an Iowa game at Kinnick Stadium, you know the tailgating is world class!)

After the party, it was finally time for bed. We’d reserved one hotel room to be shared by all of us, but I never made it to the room. Instead, I fell asleep in the lobby and slept there all night. No one bothered me, not even management. I couldn’t believe it.

Iowa lost to Washington, 28-0. Not exactly the outcome I’d hoped for, but it’s a wonderful memory nevertheless.

Rose Bowl

Since moving to Denver, I’ve become a Broncos fan. But for me, football isn’t only about a favorite team. I love the game. There’s nothing more beautiful or athletic than a wide receiver leaping into the air, stretching his entire body and making an impossible catch.

Except for that perfect header into the goal.

I was introduced to the other fútbol–soccer–in 1996. My husband and I were visiting friends in Germany and the European Championship was going on. Germany was in the finals, and like most Europeans, our friends were glued to the TV, watching the match.

Germany won, and the residents in the quiet little Stuttgart suburb went nuts. One big street party ensued, all night long, all over the country.

That was when I became interested in soccer, the globe’s most popular sport with an estimated 265 million active players worldwide. Seriously, 265 million…

So I started following the World Cups and the Euro Cups, but it took another nine years for me to attend a match. Not in the U.S., where no one gives a shit about the sport (although that’s beginning to change), but in Buenos Aires. Boca Juniors vs. Velez Sarsfield, November 20, 2005.

It’s a day I’ll never forget, one of my most precious travel memories. The energy in the stadium was infectious. Fans chanting team songs, a whirlwind of confetti, the deafening roar of the crowd. I’d never been to a sports event like it. Not even the Rose Bowl could compare, and I got hooked.

Boca Juniors

What’s not to love? The rules are simple and there are no commercials during play. Speed and agility matter more than size, and during World Cups, the entire planet gets together, giving everyone a reason to party.

Plus, there are a lot of hot guys (and gals) who play the game. I love it so much, the hero in my novel, Tumbleweed, is a Spanish soccer player!

Since then, I’ve been to matches in Lisbon, Portugal and Guadalajara, Mexico. We subscribe to the beIN sports channel, which was a great find because it turns out the sport never ends. Besides our favorite Spanish La Liga, there are matches throughout the year. League cups, club championships and international competitions.

And what about those 0-0 matches Americans complain about? Obviously, they’ve never seen goalies Hope Solo or Tim Howard play. A blocked goal shot is a beautiful thing, too…

Congratulations to the USA Women’s World Cup Champions! Go Broncos! Go Barca! Go Ray Hudson, the fabulous beIN color commentator! And wish me luck with Fantasy Football. Last year I came in second and tied for most points, winning $300. I hope I win the whole shebang this year!

 

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