By Sgt. Joe Dees, 214th Fires Brigade July 10, 2014
FORT SILL, Okla. -- The world's most popular sporting event kicked off last month in Brazil and runs until this weekend, with the final match scheduled for July 13.
The Fédération Internationale de Football Association's (FIFA) World Cup is a soccer tournament featuring 32 teams representing nations from around the world.
Like the Olympics, the World Cup only occurs every four years following a two-year qualification process, but like goals in a challenging match, the rarity only makes the occurrence more exciting.
The first World Cup was held in Uruguay in 1930, and has increased in popularity with every tournament, and in the United States this is particularly true since the games were held in the United States in 1994.
With every installment of the world's most popular sporting event, World Cup Fever grows more powerful and epidemic in the United States, especially since the perennial underdog "Yanks" (the U.S. Men's National Team) continues to improve in play quality and competitiveness.
Soccer superfan and the Typhoid Mary of World Cup Fever due to her exuberance, Spc. Jessica Ingalls, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 168th Brigade Support Battalion described the World Cup's appeal.
"Soccer is by far the most popular sport on Earth, and the World Cup is its premiere event, boasting almost a billion TV viewers worldwide," said Ingalls.
"It is the perfect sporting event because it is a chance to see people come together as a country and countries come together as a single world in a friendly competition that allows national pride to guide fandom."
Unfortunately, Team U.S.A. found itself knocked out of the tournament in the Round of 16 for the second tournament in a row with a 2-1 loss to Belgium in which American goalkeeper Tim Howard set a record with 15 saves.
Though the disappointing loss broke the hearts of a nation, American fans can sleep well knowing that their team did far better than expected, advancing from what was known as the "Group of Death" over soccer powerhouses Ghana and Portugal.
"Next time," sighed Ingalls after the loss. "They did a great job for what they had. We don't have the most talented team individually, but they know how to work together to do more than anyone could reasonably expect. Every year I see an improvement, so the 2018 World Cup in Russia can be our chance to really do something."
To soccer haters, World Cup Fever really is a disease, an infection that destroys American exceptionalism and erodes worker productivity like it has done in Europe and South America in past years.
Experts have used numerous pieces of data to estimate the loss of work hours due to World Cup viewership. The June 26 U.S.A. versus Germany match was the most watched soccer match in American history, topping the record set by the United States versus Portugal match from four days before.
The Germany match's popularity was aided by a convenient lunch time slot, but is still believed to have cut American worker productivity by 11 percent.
"There's no reason that something like this needs to hurt productivity or an organization," explained Capt. Scott Caflisch, 529th Network Support Company commander, "this type of event is the perfect opportunity for team building. A lot of the Soldiers wanted to watch the match anyway, so it was a great chance to build morale by getting everybody together and uniting behind a great cause."
Almost half of the 529th NSC watched the match and enjoyed pizza with friends, as well as about two dozen other Soldiers who extended their lunch break to root on "The Yanks" with friends wearing the only United States uniform that carries more pride than that of their soccer team's.
"Some of the Soldiers who came out to watch with us were not soccer fans, they just wanted to join their friends for lunch," smiled Caflisch, "but by the end of the second half they were all cheering and groaning at the action all the same."
And World Cup Fever continues to spread.