$250 Million for Kicks
Others followed suit, and soon the entire eerily modernistic and sterile white stadium was ablaze with newspaper torches. When the game was over, the folks on the opposite side of the field started screaming, and the victorious Rome team ran over and accepted the kudos of the wildly enthusiastic crowd.
This was repeated in the other three quadrants, at which point, the torches began to burn down too low to hold and were extinguished, leaving a pall of smoke drifting upward into the darkening sky as the giddy crowds departed.
My companion, a Roman, related that the torches were a throwback to early Christianity where attendees to events at the Coliseum would light torches to show their approval of the show.
The whole experience was unforgettable.
Fast Forward Twenty Years
In the 1970s, the great Brazilian athlete, Pelé—playing for the New York Cosmos—spearheaded an abortive attempt to bring soccer to the United States via the North American Soccer League. Pelé and other international stars drew huge crowds, but the game never caught on and the league collapsed in 1984.
In 1999, women’s soccer made a splash when the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team—led by the charismatic Mia Hamm—made it to the World Cup finals. In that championship game, Brandi Chastain scored with a penalty kick against China to win the title, and in a moment of youthful exuberance, ripped off her shirt. The photograph of the exultant, young woman in a black sports bra, fists clenched and screaming with delight, sent an electric jolt around the world and wound up on the cover of Sports Illustrated. But soon, the country lost interest in soccer, and the Women’s United Soccer League folded in 2003.
Manchester United at the Linc
I have lousy eyesight and do not enjoy games that have a small object of play—baseball and hockey. I grew up on Long Island in a house overlooking the second fairway of a golf course. I tried golf just once and discovered that with my poor vision, that every ball was a lost ball. I haven’t played since.