Of all the glories of the World Cup, I think the greatest one is an outlet for this nationalism. It gives us an opportunity, every four years, when there are no strings attached to everyone thinking they’re the best in the world and allowing no arguments to the contrary. (The Olympics do this as well, but I’d argue at a lesser intensity.) It is a place to channel all that’s negative, all the ugliness that comes with this tribalism, and point it in one specific direction. It is a place to be proud of who you are and where you came from … even if it’s not always something to be so proud of. I love America. I am ashamed of many things that America does, but there is no other country in the world I would rather live. This is a complex concept, one that will be debated and wrestled with for centuries left to come. But for two hours on Monday, none of that will matter. I will just believe that we will win.
This has always been the fundamental greatness of sports, the reason they’re so enduring and powerful: They turn a world of grey into one of black and white. If my team wins, I am happy, and if they lose, I am sad. Nothing in life is that simple but sports. Now, obviously, the world of sports is not exempt from politics: The exact opposite, in fact. But for two hours, that can be stowed. It is important to remember more difficult things when those two hours are over. But putting all that away during the game isn’t just acceptable: It is thepoint. It is the only sane response to a world of chaos.