World Cup delivers the goods

Rarely does anything live up to its hype these days.
Whether it’s this summer’s blockbuster action movie, your favorite band’s latest album or the new bestseller on the New York Times list; the anticipation leading up to the event is often better than the event itself.
Nowhere is the adage truer than in the world of sports.
Fans get downright giddy leading up to major sporting events and more often than not the game, or series, is a letdown.
A quick look at the four major North American sports should provide all the proof needed to quiet the naysayers.
•Major League Baseball’s World Series—unless you live in a major American market and your team’s owner is willing to spend the equivalent of Ghana’s Gross National Product on players, the chances of your team winning a title are slim.
Fans living in cities like Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Kansas City stopped caring about baseball when free agency was implemented in early 1990s.
•The National Basketball Association’s championship—the odds are good that if your team doesn’t have someone named Tim Duncan or Shaquille O’Neal on it, it’s not going to win.
•The National Football League’s Superbowl—there’s a reason the game is nicknamed the “Super Bore.”
In the nearly 40 years the game has been played, there have been only a handful of Superbowls that haven’t been decided prior to the half-time celebrations.
•The National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup—it remains to be seen if the salary cap will provide some much needed parity in the NHL on a long-term basis.
The fastest game on ice could certainly use it.
It was rare that any team other than New Jersey, Colorado or Detroit was able to win the Cup from 1995 onwards.
On the whole, the games just can’t live up to the billing.
However, there is one notable exception to the rule; FIFA’s World Cup Tournament.
Every four years, people from around the world stop whatever it is they are doing to watch what is simply known as “the beautiful game.”
For one full month, some of the world’s top athletes compete with the hopes and dreams of an entire nation riding on their shoulders.
Fans live and die with the results of each game creating some of the most compelling television images you’re likely to see at any point.
This year’s tournament, held throughout Germany, may well have been the best in recent memory.
I could spend hours discussing the highs and lows of a month’s worth of games but this past Sunday’s final between Italy and France summed up the event perfectly.
Great goals.
Great saves.
Displays of unbelievable skill put on by players from both sides.
Extra time.
Penalty kicks.
Heck, we even saw one of the top players of his generation, France’s Zinedine Zidane, temporarily lose his mind when he head-butted Italy’s Marco Materazzi.
What more could you ask for from a sporting event?
I’m always shocked more people in North America aren’t as obsessed with the tournament as I am.
Granted football, or soccer as it is more commonly called, is rapidly gaining in popularity.
Youth leagues across the country are teeming with some of the best young athletes in Canada.
Perhaps by the time some of that young talent is ready to compete on the international stage, more people in this country will have discovered what the rest of us already know; there is nothing quite like the FIFA World Cup.

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