So there I was at 7 am on a Sunday morning, gainfully making my way to a divey sports bar in San Francisco’s lower Haight. The fog was thick, the gay pride parade was gearing up across town, and even though shootings were not uncommon on the corner where I found parking, it was too early for troublemaking, and the streets were dead (of natural causes).

Yet inside the Mad Dog in the Fog, it was another world. The place was packed and the air was hot from all the bodies pushed together like British bricks and mortar. The air was humid too. Bodies throwing off heat AND water? What was with the atmospheric changes?

I found a spot on a wooden bench in the very front of the bar where the pool table had been pushed aside, and 2 small tv’s bravely stared back at us from the ceiling corners. My World Cup teacher, Richard, stood alert, at the ready in his white and red England shirt. He had taught me to say, "In-Ger-Land" (and not "Go, UK!"). The woman next to me hacked several SARS-y coughs and fidgeted ceaselessly. The bench wasn’t comfortable (duh). She couldn’t see the tv’s. She turned to Richard’s expectant wife sitting on the other side of me- your eyesight’s the first to go when you have a baby!

The match started promptly at 8 am- England v Ecuador. Quito and the Queen. The grass was green, the ball white, and men were running back and forth, forth and back. The crowd cheered everytime the ball neared the net. The woman next to me stood up on the bench to get a better view. And the whole time I’m thinking to myself, soccer- I don’t get it.

A male friend had suggested that I put some money on England- that would get me in the game. But why should I have to use money to make something interesting? Or maybe I should just go where the real action is and TiVo the next episode of "Footballers’ Wives." The sad fact of the matter is that soccer is like buttermilk and I’ve been raised on skim milk. I was never indoctrinated into this world- never played as a little girl. And let’s face it- my country just isn’t that into it. Especially not in Texas, where I’m from. I mean, when I got to my East Coast college, I was astounded that there were more sports in the world than football and baseball- they had things called lacrosse and rugby.

I could barely see Beckham’s handsome face. And I am not a morning person. And not that much was really going on. So I decided to go back to bed. There was a man at the door shooing people away. It was 8:15 am and our bar was full. Two women draped in a huge In-Ger-Land soccer flag were crushed. I asked if I could take their picture and they shot me a horrified look: "The GAME’S on! We’ve got to GO!" They ran next door into a cafe. I got in my car.

It turns out that England won- Go UK! Becks scored the single goal. And not till an hour in. Is it just me or would that have been a sorta dull hour?

One of my best friends lives in Hamburg and I emailed her to find out the scoop. She was incredulous:

"I can’t believe that you do not really know what’s going on here! If you had asked this question on the street in Hamburg at the moment, you would be dead. Germany is totally crazed. People from all around the world are running around in groups with the same T-shirt on, drinking German beer. The spirit is amazing and Germany is sooooo happy to be the host of the most important sport event in the world (in fact that’s what they think it is- of course they do not know that a lovely lady in San Francisco has no idea why this is so important).

"Most of my male friends have not called me since the soccer game has started. It is the only time when the boys are not interested in the girls anymore."

In fact another friend told me something I have yet to verify, that two warring nations declared a truce during the World Cup. She figured that if only we could keep men in constant competition, there would be no more war.

So for peace, for the national solidarity it engenders, and for unearthing hot foreign men in metropolises around the world, as well as creating an irresistible international atmosphere -hot and humid- even in the most provencial towns, reminding us all that there’s a great big world out there, I say Viva the World Cup! I can love it and not watch it, right? At least not before eleven am?

Richard World Cup England                                              Soccer Ball Street Haight deflatedMad Dog in the Fog Bar Haight