Last Thursday night I was in the streets of Paris watching thousands and thousands of French celebrate their 4-0 victory over a dreadful Saudi Arabia team.
They celebrated like their soccer team just advanced to the World Cup final.Three nights later while watching an uninspired U.S. team lose to Iran, I couldn't help but draw comparisons to the streets of Tehran. The 2-1 victory over the United State was probably as good a feeling to the Iranians as it was for Brazil hoisting the '94 cup.
Like most kids whose youth was spent in the '80s, the details of why the two countries are such political enemies is sketchy, but it's something that no doubt has gone unnoticed.
In a Sports Illustrated issue previewing the World Cup, an article was written on the hype surrounding the U.S.-Iran matchup. An accompanying picture showed a building in Tehran that had a facade painted with an American flag melting toward hell. Maybe you ought to change your Iranian vacation plans.
That, of course, is not a belief outwardly expressed by all Iranians. Hundreds of fans from both nations danced in the streets together before the match. Is sports the common cure for what ails the world?
Iran's changing attitudes generated disappointment when just two weeks ago a French television station decided to air the American movie "Not Without My Daughter."
It's about an American woman (played by Sally Field) and her daughter's desperate attempt to escape the male-dominated society of Islam in Iran. The Iranian government was disappointed it was shown.
I wound up watching the game in a restaurant in the French Riviera, and aside for a few Americans, everyone there was rooting for Iran. It's human nature to cheer for the underdog, and could there have been a more obvious David and Goliath situation?
So of course the restaurant erupted with enthusiasm when Iran scored its second goal. I was stunned and embarrassed.
I don't care if the United States hit the post on three different occasions. It was shown up by a team with far less talent. And that's a joke. Here it is the World Cup and they're playing like it were an exhibition game against the Vatican.
The United States is still a superior soccer team, but it didn't play like that and that's why the world laughed Sunday. I couldn't help but laugh as well - though it was one of those sarcastic laughs.
I shelled out big bucks for tickets to the U.S.-Yugoslavia match Thursday, and I was anticipating that match for months. I figured the United States would lose to Germany, then beat Iran, setting up a Group F second-place showdown with Yugoslavia.
But the Americans never beat Iran, which means my expensive tickets are almost worthless. The game will still go on, and I'll of course enjoy the World Cup setting, but I would've rather done that with U.S. pride. Instead I'll go to the game with my head hung low.