Sports Guy

Passion Plays

It was just before 6 o'clock Saturday morning when I heard the screams from next door. They were blood-curdling, the kind of shrieks you hear on television police dramas, the ones that make you think something terrible has happened. Was it a car accident? A murder? Osama striking again? Only after I heard clapping and high fives did it occur to me what was truly going on: My neighbors were watching the World Cup, and underdog Turkey, their native country, had just defeated Senegal to advance to the semifinals.

Under any other circumstances, such a rude awakening would have left me livid, and I probably would have responded with yelling of a different kind. Given the significance of World Cup competition, however, this display of passion and national pride was inspiring—die-hard fans, obsessed with their country's team, staying up all night to watch their boys win one for the homeland. And so I stumbled out of bed to watch the highlights for myself. Early morning television never seemed so exciting.

If the World Cup competition every four years teaches us anything, it's that milquetoast Mariners fans aren't the only ones needing lessons in fanaticism. Sure, many Americans supported their footballers throughout the team's glorious run, but compared to the passionate throngs of fans from almost every other country on earth, representatives of our great land were a noticeably small and silent minority. During Brazil's blowout of Costa Rica, their fans were samba-ing in the aisles. Zealots from South Korea chanted so loudly that at one point during the team's win over Spain, you could hardly hear the announcers on TV. Even in defeat to Germany, who saw to America's eventual ouster, fanatics from Cameroon banged their bongos for the long haul, never stopping, never giving up.

I'm not saying U.S. soccer fans need to get rabid—everyone's familiar with the trampling tragedies touched off by raucous football fanatics. But fans can be part of the game if they make their passion contagious and the players catch on. Here in Seattle, sedentary M's fans will have yet another chance to stand up and cheer this week, as the red-hot Oakland Athletics come to town for a four-game set. As of Monday, the rival A's were only two games back. Knowing how the Mariners play at Safeco Field, perhaps local fans should take a cue from my Turkish neighbors and get their larynxes ready. The boys will need all the help they can get.

Matt Villano

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