The past 48 hours featured a series of inspired sports events that captured the hearts and imaginations of people around the world. At Wimbledon, in England, American John Isner and Frenchman Nicholas Mahut played for over 11 hours of match time, with Isner prevailing in the 5th set 70-68. The match, which was twice suspended for darkness, and played over three days, shattered records for the number of games in a set (138), most games in a match (183), most combined aces (215), and most individual aces, 112 by Isner. Both players held serve for 68 consecutive games in the 5th set, and it was a display of will and heroic play that you rarely see.
At the same time, a hemisphere away in South Africa, several upstart teams played remarkable matches. Of course, the United States won yesterday, advancing after Landon Donovan scored during stoppage time to beat Algeria. Today, the Kiwis from New Zealand nearly pulled off the same feat, but failed to score against Paraguay. The World Cup is always a spectacle, because in these matches, teams do not represent a club or a paycheck, but rather their country. South Africans were visibly inspired after their team upset Les Bleus of France two days ago.
For Americans, the World Cup is just one small part of our experience; but for many other countries, the World Cup represents much more –the hopes and dreams of a nation, yearning for something more. Amid these spectacles of sport, which spoiled many a fan in the last few days, a remarkable documentary; The Two Escobars, which premiered on ESPN, tells the story of the Columbian national team leading up to, and during the 1994 World Cup:
“While rival drug cartels warred in the streets and the country’s murder rate climbed to highest in the world, the Colombian national soccer team set out to blaze a new image for their country. What followed was a mysteriously rapid rise to glory, as the team catapulted out of decades of obscurity to become one of the best teams in the world. Central to this success were two men named Escobar: Andrés, the captain and poster child of the National Team, and Pablo, the infamous drug baron who pioneered the phenomenon known in the underworld as “Narco-soccer.” But just when Colombia was expected to win the 1994 World Cup and transform its international image, the shocking murder of Andres Escobar dashed the hopes of a nation. Through the glory and the tragedy, The Two Escobars daringly investigates the secret marriage of crime and sport, and uncovers the surprising connections between the murders of Andres and Pablo.”
Americans might remember the own goal that Andres Escobar scored to propel the Americans to a 1-0 victory at the Rose Bowl. Drug kingpins assassinated Andres Escobar upon his return to Columbia. The Two Escobars is haunting; it shows the power of sports to capture the heart of a people, and the many tragedies of Columbia during those years. Luckily for you the film will appear five more times on ESPN networks during the next month.
The heartbreak kids have done it again. After 90 minutes in which another US goal, this time by Clint Dempsey, was negated by another bad (offsides) call, Landon Donovan, America’s leader, scored the winner during stoppage time, breaking a scoreless tie that would have eliminated the Americans from the World Cup. The Americans once again fought through adversity and many near-miss chances to win their Group for the first time since 1930. This team has displayed mastery in the clutch moments, scoring often at the end of matches during their qualifying run. Now they advance out of Group C as the winner. These boys deserve all the support we can give them. USA! USA! USA! USA!
You’ve heard of the Miracle on Ice, when U.S. Amateurs upset a seasoned Soviet team of professionals in the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, right? Well how about the Miracle on Turf? The Yanks pictured above, a bunch of amateurs, beat England in the 1950 World Cup. In fact, before the game, U.S. coach William Jeffrey had said “We have no chance.” After the stunning 1-0 victory, U.S. defender Harry Keough said “Boy, I feel sorry for these bastards. How are they ever going to live down the fact we beat them?”
Well, Saturday, the U.S. and England face off again in the World Cup. The whole world will be watching, and if the Americans pull off the upset, it will be monumental. Unfortunately, I will be up at school all weekend, so I will be watching the match on DVR. That means, of course, that In A Future Age will be on a long weekend as well.
See you all back on Monday; for now join Sam’s Army!