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USA vs. Algeria: No stranger in a strange land

The USA vs. Algeria match was this reporter's first-ever live World Cup experience – and he floated on a sea of red, white, and blue in South Africa.

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Years ago, as a cub reporter in Texas, I went out to cover the Women’s National Basketball Association, which was just then starting up. I was writing a profile about a star with the impossibly perfect basketball name of Sheryl Swoopes, who was then playing with a team in Houston. I was sitting on the sideline, watching the players shoot, and score, and I found myself applauding.

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An older reporter looked askance, and finally leaned over. “We’re reporters, man, we’re not supposed to clap,” he said.

I didn’t say anything, but I thought, “I didn’t come to your house and tell you there was no Santa Claus.” Killjoy.

Back in Pretoria, the tension grew as the nil-nil game advanced and the USA players couldn't find the back of the net.

Just in front of me was an American fan, who had clearly come a long way to watch his team win. (The same could be said for the large contingent of Algerians across on the other side of the field.) The Americans were awarded a free kick, and after 70-odd minutes of play, this young man simply couldn’t stand the pressure. He turned his back on the field and faced me. I smiled. He closed his eyes. The American player kicked. And missed.

But when the American player Landon Donovan finally bludgeoned the ball home past the tough and talented Algerian goalie, it was a release of tension like no other. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be the player on the field, striking that goal home. But for the fans, it’s pretty good too.

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