How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Futbol

2011 MLS Cup: L.A. Galaxy vs Houston Dynamo. Photo by Ruel Gaviola

Part 1: The Moment

Five words that I never thought I would utter without a smirk or a wink.

Five words that ranked right up there with “I am dating Salma Hayek” and “I just won the lottery” on my List of Things You Would Never Hear Me Say.

Five words that I’m writing here for the first time anywhere:

I am a soccer fan.

I’ve always loved watching sports and cheering for my hometown teams, but I never gave soccer a second thought. I can’t pinpoint any one reason why I’m suddenly a futbol fanatic. As I look back, though, I realize that there have been a number of soccer moments throughout my lifetime that led me to The Moment when I realized that I loved the sport.

That Moment? Abby Wambach’s header for the game-tying goal in the World Cup quarterfinal this summer. It was an exciting and thrilling match, capped by a miracle of a finish.  As ESPN would describe it, the game was an instant classic. It resonated with me more than the U.S. women’s team 1999 World Cup win. Was I really that moved by a women’s soccer game? I knew the answer and I knew what it meant.

I was hooked.

I found myself more excited about soccer than I did about news of the impending lockouts of my two favorite sports, football and basketball. I caught Premier League highlights on Fox Sports. I watched the occasional international friendly (exhibition). I learned some of the lingo and knew that Wambach’s tying goal was also called an extra-time equalizer. And I followed my hometown team, the LA Galaxy, until the day I went to see my first live professional soccer game last Sunday.

It wasn’t a bad way to see the Home Depot Center for the first time: amidst the sold-out crowd for the 2011 MLS Cup showdown between the Galaxy and the Houston Dynamo. After Landon Donovan scored the winning goal for L.A. and the Galaxy held on for their third championship in franchise history, I smiled to myself and thought, This is another Moment. I could get used to this.

To be continued in Part 2: Cobi, Kobe, and Cantor

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