“Bye, bye, Miss American Pie…”

“Living in America…”

Not exactly in the patriotism songbook, but these are the USA-centric songs that blared from the speakers at a bar near my home as an enthused packed house waited for the World Cup match between the United States and Belgium to begin. Pretty impressive rowdiness for 4 o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon.

A connector like no other.

The music moved into “we will rock you” mode, and the action began. The U.S. eventually lost, 2-1, in extra time after a scoreless 90 minutes. It was worth the two-plus hours just to watch U.S. goalie Tim Howard make one spectacular save after another. With each acrobatic, well-timed punch or dive came the chants—U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A.

The bar was its own universe. It’s set up for sporting events with approximately two dozen television screens, and the windows were blacked out. No sun. No outside existed for all we knew. And inside? Red, white and blue Crazy Town.

I started to see it as pure escape for a few hours. Because the other thing not inside those bar walls—the news. No political in-fighting, no decisions of the court, no unrest in the Middle East, no scandals, no shootings. Also not in the bar? How to pay the mortgage, why the job market is so gloomy, impending divorce, problem children, high cholesterol.

So often we live riveted to our problems. They’re staring at us when we wake up and weighing heavy on our minds when our heads hit the pillow at the end of the day.

The World Cup gave us a chance to all be on the same side for a little while. To chant the same chants and high five at the opponent’s missed shot that came perilously close to being a goal. Troubles checked at the door. Virtual “good fan” passport stamped on the way in. Free-flowing conversation with strangers because the game is the connector. The shared camaraderie, however fleeting.

As we head into the Fourth of July, it was a sound reminder of how rare our unified moments are. Sports have this power.

Someone asked me recently if I miss being a sports writer. I did it for 15 years and loved it, but the answer is no. I don’t miss the crazy hours or the giving over of my schedule to a team that either stays alive in a tournament or doesn’t.

But what I do miss is the exhilaration of being in a venue with a crowd anticipating something and having no idea what the outcome will be. As one tasked with chronicling it, the challenge was heady. And each and every time, each and every game (thousands of them), standing for the national anthem grounded me in my pride for country.

I got a little of that back as I watched the World Cup and chanted “U-S-A” with my fellow citizens. Occasionally sports can bring out an ugly side in people, but in my experience the majority of the time it is not that at all. Light-heartedness, loyalty and community emerge.

It’s a kick to partake and live riveted to the joy of it all.

By Nancy Colasurdo

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