Roger Bennett on The ESPN World Cup Companion
The World Cup has been a dominant force in my life, creating a spine against which I have come to mark time. Some of my earliest television-watching memories revolve around the delirious spectacle of the 1978 World Cup, as stadiums exploded with confetti whenever Argentina took to the field. 1982 was defined by Brazil’s intense midfielder, Falcao, maniacally celebrating a goal with the veins in his arms bulging from the screen as if in 3-D (Youtube it) and Diego Maradona's 1986 destruction of my beloved England by means foul and fair which caused my brother and I to run out into the street and vent our grief by blasting a soccer ball through the window of our home. My parents, thankfully, understood our pain.
In 1990, I spent the summer as a counselor at a sleepaway camp in Maine and first encountered America's cruel indifference to the sport I loved. The day of England’s semi-final match-up against West Germany was one of the most frustrating of my life. I spent an afternoon driving frantically from one sleepy rural bar to another. All were broadcasting the local Portland minor league baseball game. Not one was able to direct their massive satellite dishes towards a signal that could pull in the World Cup semi-final. In the pre-internet age I had to wait for the next day’s Boston Globe to discover the bitter result. England lost. Perhaps it was for the best.
I moved to the States shortly afterwards, and have watched with wonder as the profile of the World Cup has ineluctably risen tournament to tournament. When this country performed hosting duties in 1994, I viewed the majority of the games alone, courtesy of a Spanish network on an old television set in the corner of a deserted Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap in Hyde Park, Chicago, with only the barbacks for company. Between 1998 and 2002, I lived in D.C. and experienced the tournament achieve cult status in that city. The cognoscenti had become clued-up and flocked to local Brazilian bars or Italian restaurants in Adams Morgan to digest the spectacle. By chance, I was back in D.C. for the U.S.A.-Italy game in 2006, and was shocked to see these venues were jam-packed with lines snaking around the block two hours before kickoff.
Those lines at the bar and the widespread sense of celebration surrounding the 2006 tournament catalyzed the idea for this book. An effort to frame the backstories of World Cups past for all those who had become enraptured with the sport but were finding the plotlines as hard to unravel as if they had jumped into Lost in the middle of season three. Between June 11th and July 11th you will see one team, Italy, defend their trophy, while 31 others attack. Amidst the shocks, disappointments, triumphs and searing losses, our book is guaranteed to enhance your love of the game, and ensure you are the most soccer-literate fan around the office water-cooler.
(Photo © Jamie Glassman)
About the Author
David Hirshey is the Executive Editor of HarperCollins Publishers and was a longtime editor at Esquire magazine. A former college player, he has been covering soccer for more than 30 years for a variety of publications, including the New York Times, the New York Daily News, ESPN The Magazine, and Deadspin.com. He is the co-author of two books, Pele's New World and The Education of an American Soccer Player, and played himself (almost convincingly) in the acclaimed soccer documentary Once In A Lifetime.
Roger Bennett has written books about music, culture, and sport and articles for outlets including ESPN the Magazine, ESPN.com, The New Republic, No Mas, and the Manchester Guardian. His documentary film, Sons of Sakhnin, followed two years in the life of the first Arab soccer team to become champions of Israel.