Just how different the United States is from many other nations is exceedingly clear as World Cup competition progresses.
We've always known that we do things much differently here in the states. Heck, we do them differently from state to state! In most cases, it's neither good nor bad; it just is.
But we've also felt like that for all our differences, we could find a way to connect with the rest of the world.
Except on the soccer field.
Not only do U.S. spectators not give a flip about soccer, but our national team (or coach, depending on who you want to blame today) isn't very good at it either. Which is probably why we as spectators don't give a flip about the game.
I like most sports (except basketball, as noted here). And while I'm not a big soccer fan, I enjoy watching at least a little of it because (a) it's something new to learn and (b) I'm fascinated by anything that billions of others across the world are obsessed with. Maybe if I keep watching, I'll have a soccer epiphany. I won't, however, as a Texas born-and-bred U.S. football fanatic, ever be able to refer to soccer as football!
Soccer isn't totally foreign to us. The hubby is somewhat of a fan (Go Arsenal!).
When we lived in
Maryland, we actually got to be part of a chanting international soccer
crowd when we went to an Olympics qualifying game at the Navy-Marine
Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. Cameroon beat Yugoslavia, but it's
the exuberance of all the fans that I remember.
We also watch a fair amount of British television programming, so there
are plenty of references to (their) football teams and
players. Some of our favorite characters are fans, such as dedicated Man U enthusiast Pete of "Cold Feet."
And I do love that sneaker commercial where the kid plays a fantasy pick-up game with some of the world's best players; those, that is, who are under contract to Adidas.
So we watched the U.S.-Ghana game, and part of me really wanted the Americans to pull it out. But I can't say I'm upset that Ghana won. The game meant so much more to the fans there, where it was a half-day holiday so everyone would be able to watch and cheer their guys on to the next round. The players looked so happy afterwards, you just had to be happy for them.
Plus, we have a remote Ghanan connection. One of our family heirlooms is an item that the hubby's grandfather acquired while on a business trip to Ghana many, many years ago.
Foxy Grandpa, as the hubby refers
to the man I never had the chance to meet, worked for a candy company
and regularly traveled to Africa in connection with the business. He came back from one such trip with an Ashanti Stool.
It's a nice piece of furniture. Very solid, well designed and well built, with some nice handcarved touches, very similar to this one. You also
can view larger photos of another stool (the one in the small icon bar above) at
the BC Galleries site.
When I clicked over to the gallery, I was pleased to see that
apparently Ashanti stools are supposed to be covered in dust. I'm
making sure the hubby understands that so he'll ease off on my dusting
and other housekeeping skills.
Corporate kindness could backfire: Some British workers are probably wishing their employers had taken the Ghanan approach and simply given them time off to watch the games.
Blick Rothenberg, a tax specialist firm based in London, tells AccountancyAge.com that UK workers who attend company-sponsored World Cup parties could face a nasty tax bill. (Thanks to TaxProf Blog for the tip.)
Under income tax rules, employers who invite staff to social functions have to declare the hospitality to HM Customs & Revenue if the cost per worker amounts to more than £150 over the course of a year.
Here in the U.S., employee perks usually pop up at holiday time, where companies host office Christmas parties or give workers a nominal gift. The IRS has rules for employers about that, discussed in this earlier post.
Across the pond, the British tax has such guidelines, too, and generally exempts holiday parties. But Blick Rothenberg says the extra expense of World Cup hospitality could put some workers over the £150 limit.
If that happens, then the employees will be charged income tax at their highest marginal rates on the whole value, not just the excess.
That's truly taking one for the team!
Corner kicks: If you want to know more about soccer and the World Cup -- C'mon, quit rolling your eyes. You've read this far, so I thought, maybe … -- you can check out these sites:
If you prefer your soccer in a soap opera vein, there's "Footballers Wive$," (yes, the "s" is a dollar sign; sports stars worldwide make way too much money) touted as a more risqué UK version of "Desperate Housewives." You can get a glimpse of the BBCA show here.
And to get you through the rest of the Cup games in quasi-hooligan fashion, learn along with Stephen Colbert as Alexi Lalas, former U.S. national team member and current president of the MLS' Los Angeles Galaxy, coaches him on proper soccer trash talk.
Have a good day and GOAL!!!