In case you missed it, Tony Kornheiser of the Washington Post has a hilarious article on the World Cup soccer phenomenon. As background, his "bandwagon" is a Washington institution that he starts up whenever one of the local teams is doing well, started with the Redskins a few years back. Anyway...

This World Cup Has Kinda Got My Engine Revved Up

By Tony Kornheiser

Thursday, June 20, 2002; Page D01

Bandwagon! Bandwagon! Bandwagon?

Yes, it's time. Start it up, and let it roll all the way to South Korea.

Ain't the kimchi cold!

World Cup, baby! There's nothing like the smell of nil-nil in the morning. Oh, to be down on the field when the teams face off before the game -- what a rush!

It's not the field, Tony, it's the "pitch." It's not the game, it's the "match." And they don't face off, you idiot. It's not hockey.

Yeah. Whatever.

For years folks have been begging me to take The Bandwagon out of the garage and crank it up. But I have resisted. The Bandwagon has been more or less retired to stud. The only public appearances it has made were once in Olney in 1997 -- playoff-starved fans were allowed to touch it, like at a petting zoo -- and the Schwarzenberg bar mitzvah, where they put an ice sculpture of Joe Gibbs eating a bagel on the hood. (Oh, like I should have started it up under Norv or Marty? Hahaha. Norv would have drafted the wrong driver. And we'd have needed to add a second vehicle for Marty's family.)

Now the time is right. Because 1) Soccer fever is sweeping the country like malaria. And 2) We can get a short-term lease on a quality vehicle. And that's good, considering we're in a single-elimination situation, and we play 83-time winner Germany on Friday. Not to put too fine a point on it, but many Germans rank soccer behind only "full scale war" as the favorite sport of the country. (Hey, how about France, huh? Talk about gagging on the fromage! Three games, no goals. Au revoir, Pierre. Isn't it just like the French to go out early and leave it up to us to beat the Germans?)

The problem is what size Bandwagon to hitch up? It's soccer, after all. No matter how many people are jumping on, it's still not a highway load. I was looking for a mini-Bandwagon. The first thing that came to mind was a VW bus -- but that's a German product. My editors thought an enormous, gas-guzzling domestic SUV, like a Cadillac Escalade, might send the proper message: "We're rich, we're gigantic and we can fit your Audi A4 in our glove compartment. So get out of the way, Dieter."

Now I should confess I don't know a whole lot about our World Cup team -- other than the fact that Martina Navratilova isn't on it. My editors bet me I couldn't name five starters. And I said, "You mean out of nine?" (Oh, come on, that's a joke. I know there are 10 starters.)

I named Brad Friedel. And Landon Turner -- no, wait, Landon Prep. No, Landon Donovan. That's two. Claudio Reyna. That's three. I knew there was an O'Brien. (They gave it to me even after I missed on a few first names including "Hugh," "Pat" and "Conan." That's four. And that kid with the Mohawk who looks like Travis Bickle in "Taxi Driver." I mean, really, a Mohawk? Tell me the sky marshals aren't parked next to that kid every time he gets on a plane.

Sadly, I was told Mohawk Boy isn't a starter. That left me to scramble.

I knew I couldn't use Jeff Agoos. He vanished so thoroughly after the Poland game I assume he's in a witness protection program.

"Beasley," I shouted. "Isn't there a Beasley?"

"Mrs. Beasley is the doll on 'Family Affair,' " I was told.

But there is a Beasley. DaMarcus Beasley. (Not Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun. DaMarcus.)

Oh, DaMarcus, you Da Man!

See, I've got World Cup spirit. I'm totally juiced to watch the Senegal-Turkey game. (The truth is I would have to be totally juiced to watch that game. I'm trying to imagine the circumstances under which I ever thought I would use the words Senegal and Turkey in the same sentence, besides: "The first gal I dated liked lamb chops; the senegal liked turkey. I mean, come on, raise your hand if you had Senegal and Turkey in the pool!)

Just deliver me from "Soccer Poets." They're worse than baseball poets are. The baseball poets are pretentious with their timeless game, their emerald chessboards and their elegiac symmetry. But at least they've got the good sense to shut up when Roger Clemens is pitching to Mike Piazza. Soccer poets are unbearable gasbags.

A few years ago one of them told me the reason I didn't like soccer is because I couldn't possibly understand the complexity and subtlety and nuance of soccer. "Soccer is beyond your intelligence," he told me.

"Really?" I said. "You think you have to be Einstein to handle 1-0? Excuse me, one-nil."

He proceeded to tell me that every time the players ran up and down the field "was like a novella." He came close to swooning at the sound of his own voice.

At that point I threatened to kick him in the groin.

Look, soccer's cool. World Cup is big fun, because it's the best players in the world, and they do amazing things with the ball. But it's never going to take over America. For 25 years now the soccer people have been saying, "Tomorrow." Just wait until tomorrow, when the next generation of soccer players grows up. But tomorrows have come and gone, and generations have passed. Hey, we've already got futbol. It's called the NFL. They fill 70,000 seats every game, and when you get "tackled" there, pal, believe me, you get tackled. There's no "Injury Time" in the NFL; this ain't no disco. (Talk about delivering a huge hit, though, how about the flying head butt that Mexican guy landed on Cobi Jones? Oooooh. That was strictly Stone Cold.)

Soccer gets a big run every four years, like the Olympics. We glom onto World Cup because we're Big Event people. When we're going good, like we are now, it creates an excitement the whole country can get lost in. But soccer will always feel like a foreign game here, because it is. Americans like sports where they can use their hands -- football, baseball, tearing into barbecued ribs. Did you ever see how Brits throw the tennis balls at Wimbledon? What a bunch of nancy boys. Americans have opposable thumbs for a reason -- to elevate us from kicking a soccer ball. My dog can kick a soccer ball, but she can't catch a 20-yard out. I rest my case.

I hope we crush Germany on Friday. I hope we pound them like wienerschnitzel. I hope we win the World Cup.

You wanna be on The Bandwagon, there's room.

Just don't ask me to steer with my feet.

2002 The Washington Post Company