Fantastic writing from Brian Phillips. I'll be honest I watched a maximum of 30 minutes of non-US soccer during the World Cup. Even then, I didn't watch the Belgium game. Soccer isn't my game, but I'll do just about anything that let's me drink and be patriotic.
That said, this is a fantastic commentary of the significance of sport. Or really the significance of how we watch them. Here's the opening, no way you can read this and not read the article.
Watching sports is, among other things, a special way of experiencing time. Sport is like music or fiction or film in that, for a predetermined duration, it asks you to give it control over your emotions, to feel what it makes you feel. Unlike (most) forms of art, though, a game has no foreordained plan or plot or intention. The rules of a game impose a certain kind of order, but it’s different from the order of an artwork. A movie knows where it wants to take you; no one can say in advance where a game will go. All of its beauty, ugliness, boredom, and excitement, all of its rage and sadness emerge spontaneously out of the players’ competing desires to win. For however long the clock runs, your feelings are at the mercy of chance. This happens and then this happens and then this happens. You’re experiencing, in a contained and intensified way, something like the everyday movement of life.