PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. As sports fans, we get swallowed up in those moments that produce the ultimate highs and lows. In the worst of ways, that’s what America experienced on Sunday–except in this particularly unique devastating blow there was no winner and there was no loser.
As Herb Brooks once said, “Great moments are born from great opportunity.” That’s what we had here, last night.
Whether you love soccer or despise it–I mean, futbol–you can’t deny Sunday’s match between USA and Portugal was breathtaking. If you like sports, you must have enjoyed–or at least appreciated–the sheer competition, energy, passion, sweat, blood, and tears exhibited on Sunday.
After falling behind 1-0 five minutes into the match, the U.S. remarkably clawed its way back and took a 2-1 lead late in the match. I was in center city Philadelphia watching, among hundreds–maybe thousands–of fellow fans and the atmosphere was electric. The country was ready to explode.
Stoppage time came and U.S. still held the one goal lead. Anticipation rose as the U.S. would advance to the knock-out-round of 16 with a win. Over 11,000,000 people watched USA beat Ghana last week, which received a 6.3 US household rating. A 6:00pm E.T. Sunday start, with not much competition on television, and you get a 9.1 overnight rating.
Pandemonium was coming and everyone knew it. Except it didn’t.
Except we experienced one of those moments as sports fans, one of those ‘agony of defeat’ moments, that make you sick to your stomach. One of those moments that has you saying “what if” all night long. As Philadelphians, we know that particular moment way too well.
With literally seconds remaining to go, arguably the best player in the world (they tell me)–Cristiano Ronaldo–created the moment, as great players do. Ronaldo sent a flawless, quintessential, ideal, perfect cross–that even if you never watched a second of soccer before, you knew how special it was–to the front of the net and it was buried by a Portugal header. 2-2.
Time stopped and you just knew it. You knew you were living in one of those moments, as a sports fan. 30 seconds later the game ended in a draw. That was it.
Hate soccer all you want, but if you’re a sports fan you had to have appreciated what you watched on Sunday (a shootout rather than a tie would have been cool, though). Some may be stubborn and refuse to watch it, some may be ignorant and vehemently hate it before giving it a chance, and they’re entitled. I’m no die-hard soccer fan, far from it actually, but I was swept up in it last night. It was sports drama at its finest, unfortunately, the result was just the wrong kind of moment.
I don’t look at individual sports fan bases as unique groups. I would never call myself simply a football fan or a basketball fan, or even a Flyers fan or a Phillies fan. It’s more complex than that. Rather, I call myself a sports fan–a Philadelphia sports fan to be specific. I enjoy the competition, the tournament structure, the relationships built, and the passion exuded in team sports. And as a Philadelphia sports fan, while Monday’s win over Ghana was a happy moment, Sunday night was another one of those Joe Jurevicius moments I can’t erase from my memory.
Nevertheless, I’ll keep coming back for more. It’s why we love sports.