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2014 FIFA World Cup: Memories From Past World Cups

The 2014 Brazil World Cup break means a time for reflection and asessment of past World Cup tournaments.

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Michael Steele

Every World Cup causes me to pause and think about where I was the last time the tournament was held. The first World Cup I remember happened in the middle of a crazy time in American history. I was born in the purgatory of after Pele in NASL and before the MLS existed. With no pro league to align myself with because even though Denver has always been at the forefront of the cable and then satellite television industry, there was virtually no exposure for English or any other international league. Even if there was, I had very little luck explaining to my parents about being able to watch any of the matches. So watching the World Cup was about the only exposure I had to the best players on earth. Maybe the MLS would get more ratings if they had a monopoly on television viewers. The MLS was founded on the same principles as the NFL. Though the NFL is a singular league. MLS has competition. But I digress.

So in 1994 I watched all the USA games and rooted for eventual champion Brazil because my friend was from there and his dad went insane when they won. That was the first glimpse of what being a soccer fan was to me. I'd only seen disappointment in championship contests up until then with the Denver Broncos and everything. Denver didn't even have a hockey team!

In 1998 it was so different. The Broncos were Super Bowl champions, the Avalanche had won the cup and were perennial contenders and I could recognize and learn much more about the World Cup because my reading level was above the 4th grade and the MLS existed in it's early Dallas Burn and San Jose Clash days. I was able to recognize players and learn the history of soccer. I was still a World Cup away from enjoying adult beverages and didn't know my American soccer life was about getting up early if I wanted to watch great soccer. Watching France '98 was as fun an experience I can remember because I didn't have a job yet and all I had to do was delay the N64 playing long enough to watch world-class soccer early in the day. I believe that FIFA98: Road to the World Cup is the finest World Cup FIFA edition in existence.

2002 brought the fanatic and belligerence out of me personally even though the matches usually started at 2 in the morning. Japan/South Korea '02 made me stay up many nights to watch the USA have their best showing in the modern era of U.S. Soccer. I was the most involved in this World Cup because my foreign exchange student friend who was from Belgium taught me two things. How to drink and watch soccer. The love for Tottenham didn't transfer. I remember having to beg my parents to take us to shady bars to watch English soccer and one of my friends moms forbid her son from going again because of the conditions of the bar we watched the match. Little did I know watching the Yanks beat Mexico gave me the best comeback for when my south of the border friends try to say something about the CONCACAF rivalry.

2006 was about balancing my relationship with my girlfriend while trying to take care of my job responsibilities and keeping her happy. In my local pool I drew France and stood to win some money until Zinedine Zidane tried the Evander "real deal" Holyfield strategy of headbutting your opponent after France already had the lead. I'm not bitter about losing the money. It was the loss of pride that burns the most. Bruce Arena's second showing at the World Cup teaches me why most national team coaches switch every four years or less.

2010 is living life and trying to be a man. Being poor in 2010 is about as good as a regular guy could have. I don't know how our forefathers lived without high definition television. When we tell our kids that 50 inch televisions used to be for only rich people they will laugh and ask if the dial-up modem connected in the back of the TV set. I locked myself out of my house after Landon Donovan scored in stoppage time against Algeria making me an hour late for work. The Rapids hadn't won their first MLS Cup yet. Real Salt Lake were defending champs.

Which brings me to 2014. With the new media contract for the MLS, the greatly expanded coverage of the Barclay's Premier League, and the return of the World Cup to Brazil including watching all the matches on demand from ESPN3 if you miss them live. In our society the entertainent pie is sliced up in smaller pieces with every passing year. You can be invested as much as you want in any particular artform. That's why the internet is important. If you can't find enough information about any on etopic you can start your own website and be the go-to person for that topic.  The changes in my life and the world can be equated every four years. The world traveled by steam ship in the first tournament. I'm just glad I don't have to watch the matches with my mom or my friends moms anymore.