We've had this infatuation before, after the World Cup was held in the United States in 1994, maybe after the women's World Cup win, in the same stadium where the '99 final was played, the Rose Bowl. America was soccer mad, like Europe and South America, was the wild proclamation.
Not at all. America was merely being America, a nation excited for a time about a special event, a competition that for that day was must-see, like a Super Bowl or a Kentucky Derby. Make it seem important enough and you can sell out anything from log rolling to curling.
But once the circus, well, the World Cup, or now the Olympics, packs up and moves on, the response is different.
Brandi Chastain tore off her shirt after the winning goal and promoters rushed to begin a women's soccer league. But the moms and their daughters didn't go. And the league, in these difficult economic times, slipped into oblivion.
So all the wonderful response to the Olympic hockey final between Canada and the U.S., the seeming fixation from those who don't know a blue line from a blue marlin, the record television ratings that have NHL types turning cartwheels, may be less than it appears.
Especially south of Toronto and west of Chicago.
Long ago when he was general manager of a Golden State Warriors team which somehow would win the NBA title, a gentleman named Dick Vertlieb was advised there was scant interest in the club among the public in Northern California, the home territory.
"Nobody here,'' a young reporter told Vertlieb, "cares about basketball.''
To which Vertlieb shoved the reporter into his car and drove around, pointing out baskets in backyards or on garages. "People who play care about basketball,'' was the Vertlieb response.
But in the U.S., exclusive of Boston, Chicago, Detroit, New York and Philadelphia, they don't play hockey. Not the way kids play baseball, football, basketball or soccer.
There are rinks in California, in Colorado, in Florida. But you can't walk out the door and begin firing slap shots.
The NHL has been in the West for years. Yet in Los Angeles, the only time the Kings even got a third of the attention of the Lakers was when Wayne Gretzky showed up. Southern California loves celebrities.
The man who counts in winter sport is Kobe Bryant. L.A. is Lakers country. The Kings, and their Orange County brethren, the Anaheim Ducks, are third-place material in the Los Angeles Times. Some days not even that big.
The best sporting franchise at the other end of the state is the San Jose Sharks. But except for the people in San Jose, the Sharks border on irrelevance. They sell out HP Arena virtually every game. On sports radio, the station KNBR, the talk is about Tim Lincecum or Al Davis or even how messed up the Warriors have become. Joe Thornton? Who?
To think that because an announced 27.6 million viewers were mesmerized by the gold medal game in Vancouver - which at least was the first event of the Olympics NBC deigned to show live to the West - hockey will find its place is a misconception.
As an executive at a communications firm told Richard Sandomir, the New York Times media critic. "I think there is a warm spot for many Americans with the U.S. Olympic hockey team, dating back to the Miracle on Ice,'' Brad Adgate, senior vice president for research at Horizon Media told Sandomir via e-mail.
"Anytime they are in a gold medal game, like Salt Lake City (2002), there will be a spike in viewing. But there are no coattails with the regular season and Stanley Cup playoffs.''
America was cheering for one team. That almost never happens. In America.
Other countries, it's always us (England or France or Argentina) against them (Germany, Russia, Brazil). Our games invariably are internal, Yankees against Red Sox, Alabama against Florida, Lakers against Celtics, Red Wings against Penguins.
Patriotism is a rare commodity in a melting pot country. Does anybody in the U.S. really dislike Canada? It was almost a case of us against us, a rival but an admirable one. Besides, Sidney Crosby who scored the winning goal plays for Pittsburgh. And now he's back south of the border.
For two weeks, we had skating and skiing and snowboarding, and most of all we had hockey, hockey which tugged at the heart. Now it's over, an affair to remember but not to be duplicated. Maybe it's better that way, even if the NHL wouldn't agree.