When you break it down, what we love about sports are the memories they create.
You build stockpiles of those treasured days and nights. We all have our "Miracle On Ice" moments, even if all can’t rise to that level of cherish and intensity.
We fondly remember that special game at your high school. We recall the wonder moment of walking into a professional sporting event for the first time. We remember the moment our beloved team finally made the breakthrough.
Those reading this blog have their specific soccer memories. You remember your first MLS match – which friends were around you and who scored the mighty goal. You also remember the big goal you scored (or stopped) in youth soccer, no matter what level you happened to achieve.
I just bet you remember the moment you absolutely stopped breathing as Landon Donovan, bombing desperately forward with 40 yards of space and a nation full of hope in front of him, concocted that fabulous goal in the dying seconds against Algeria. Yeah, you remember.
Now, if you break down "memories" in some esoteric sense, it’s a beautifully blended mix of action and consequences, all set against a backdrop of romance.
Ah, romance. That’s the link that helps bind all these memories. And that’s why I love the FA Cup.
That’s why I spent a Saturday morning watching Macclesfied, a team I had never heard off three days ago, spending a few minutes to find it on the England map while the Silkmen took on EPL club Bolton. The ground at Moss Rose (capacity 6,000) was abuzz as their side fought off elimination. As I said on Twitter that morning (@SteveDavis90), I simply cannot resist a match televised live from a stadium smaller than most high school football grounds where I live.
That’s why I watched Peterborough-Sunderland on Sunday, although I have absolutely no allegiance to either club. It’s definitely why I’ll be watching this afternoon as once-great Leeds attempts to reclaim a modicum of its former glory, battling Arsenal at the new-day Emirates. (It's just a big ol' bonus that Thierry Henry is likely to feature off Arsene Wenger's bench.) It’s live on Fox Soccer Channel.
(Too bad, isn’t it, that it couldn’t happen at Leeds? How freakin' cool would that be? There’s always hope for a replay, I suppose, if Leeds can get the cup tie back to Elland Road.)
The Fourth Round pairings are already set. Chelsea might be visiting MK Dons (if the third tier side can overcome QPR). Nottingham Forest or Leicester City vs Swindon Town? Yeah, I’ll take some of that. Watford hosting Spurs? I’m in!
The romance of little dreamers taking on the bigger clubs is simply irresistible. But it’s more than that.
I can’t pretend to know what English football was like in the 1960s of 1970s, past what I can read about now and what I can gather as sporting men of a certain age wax nostalgic about George Best, Gordon Banks, Denis Law, Bobby Moore, Pat Jennings and the like. I don’t know much about it … but I know that watching third- and fourth-round FA Cup action is probably as close as I’ll ever get to understanding it, to getting a feel for the romance of the day, when the economy was in the crapper, when discontent was high, but when the grounds rocked with weekly reprieve.
The time, England’s so-called "lost decade," may not inspire fond memories in general. But the soccer from that time does. And the FA Cup, in all its peerless glory, brings a little bit of it home for us.