World Cup stirs the soccer soul

Sports commentary

World Cup mania has got me in a tizzy. I’ve been staying up late, getting up early and doing everything I can to adjust to Korea time. I’m having trouble containing my fútbol fanaticism.

It’s similar to Pennant Fever or March Madness, only on a much larger scale — a world-wide scale, no less. The largest, most talked about sporting event in the world started last week, and people from Sweden to Senegal, Italy to Ireland, Poland to Portugal are bubbling over with excitement.

But, despite the event’s colossal importance to the rest of the world, few Americans embrace the World Cup like the rest of the world. The good majority of U.S. sports fans could care less about the 18th edition of soccer’s most heralded crown.

In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that some of our compatriots haven’t even heard of the World Cup. Plenty of Gorge residents would be more inclined to think of the world-class skiing and snowboarding circuit before they thought of soccer.

But knowing what I know about the sport’s popularity here in the valley, I am certain that I’m not alone in my excitement. I would bet that the other 400 players in the Columbia Gorge Soccer League are right there with me, waiting on pins and needles with every touch of the ball.

There’s also a large contingent of fanatics from the high schools, middle schools and the Dynamos Soccer Club who are staying up way past their bedtimes to catch a glimpse of the next Maradona or Pelé.

Just like in Brazil or Italy, there are kids all over the valley trying their best to emulate Ronaldo or Christian Vieri in their backyards — I know because I was one of ‘em. In my soccer heyday, it was Marco Van Basten, Gary Lineker and Jurgen Klinsman. And who could forget Salvatore Schillaci? That name still elicits goosebumps for any World Cup fanatic.

This is the time of year that soccer fans lose control. It doesn’t matter who’s playing, you just can’t get enough of watching the game played at its highest level. And it’s even more awe-inspiring when you can see a game in person.

I had the pleasure of witnessing a World Cup match in Palo Alto, Calif., when it arrived on U.S. shores for the first time in the summer of 1994. Fifth row, center. Quarterfinals. Double-overtime shootout. Probably the best birthday gift I could have ever imagined. (Thanks again, Dad.)

Sweden topped Romania in one of the most riveting matches of that World Cup — perhaps any World Cup — and I was there. The spectacle was without equal.

Swedish and Romanian fans losing all sense of social grace, swept away in unbridled enthusiasm. If your country can be included among the top eight teams in the world, you’re entitled to four years of bragging rights.

The United States may someday understand what all this craziness is about, but until our team advances past the second round, the World Cup will be back-page news. Sidebar stuff.

That’s okay, as long as ESPN renews its broadcasting contract for Germany 2006. Along with the other soccer fiends in the valley and beyond, I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t see all the action on TV. Guess I’d just have to buy a ticket to Germany.

Life savings or no life savings, the World Cup is something that cannot be compromised.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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