Croatia, like most of the world, is crazy about soccer. These were taken in 2008 during the Euro Cup:
No Croatia didn't win the tournament, but they did win one game - which was plenty enough to celebrate.
And the streets are where the party is. This group brought the bar-stools from the bar to the middle of the road.
Isn't it true that sports say a lot about culture?
I have a theory that soccer can never and will never become any more popular in the States than it currently is. Certainly the owners of the LA Galaxy who paid big bucks for David Beckham to come over a few years ago were putting money on the fact that it would.
But it won't. Let me tell you why.
Commercials. Have you ever seen a soccer match? There are no time-outs. No end of innings. No kickoffs. No quarter changes. Other than halftime, the clock keeps on running and running and running.
Which means if you need a bathroom break, a beverage or a BLT you're out of luck. If you want to make popcorn or check the internet you'll miss part of the match and possibly the only goal that will be scored.
And for a culture where ADD is as common as HDTV that just doesn't work for us. We are dependent on calls to the bullpen. We count on the two minute warning. We need Phil Jackson to call a timeout, because we need one too!
But soccer does not afford us such luxury. They run and run and run for 90 minutes. Don't get me wrong, that kind of endurance beats baseball, American football and even basketball. But it also tops the average viewer's ability to sit still for two 45 minute halves.
Why do you think the Super Bowl is one of America's biggest holidays? Because of what happens before during and after the game. Pregame shows, Budweiser ads, halftime shows, wardrobe malfunctions, Dorito ads and postgame shows are all diversions that define the event more than the event itself.
You just can't do that with soccer. It's as simple as that. Sure you can celebrate in the streets like many soccer fans do after the match. But for those fans, the game is the event. Nothing interrupts a good soccer match.
As America prepares for the Super Bowl and the over-consumption that accompanies it, the simplicity of soccer is rather shocking. Perhaps even appealing.