It's the first day of summer vacation, and I better establish some vacation rules quick-like. I just think there should be limits on long the kids play video games, how many snacks they eat, and how often they're allowed to "accidentally" set the house on fire.

But I don't have time to scold them about that stuff right now, and I won't until July 10. I'm too busy following every second of soccer's World Cup.

I don't know much about soccer, but I'm learning fast. For example, I now know that the ability to convincingly fake crippling injury is a critical part of soccer strategy. It might convince the referee to show the offending opponent a bright yellow card, and I don't mean the test strip from the opponent's urine screen. A yellow card serves notice that you're in deep kimchi, and a second one is even worse - get two yellow cards, and they call you a Yellow Cab, because you're out of the game.

Everyone knows that the U.S. team caught cabs to German airports last week, failing to make it to the Cup's second round. The U.S. offense was especially anemic. One ESPN analyst observed that "They just couldn't find the back of the old onion bag."

Team USA's exit required me to find another country to root for. I ultimately chose the Netherlands, for this sound, scientific reason: my neighbor roots for them, and he's a cardiologist, and I'll probably need his services later this summer, thanks to all the fat-encrusted snacks I'm scarfing while watching the World Cup.

Besides, No. 4 son's (age 9) favorite player is the Dutch star Ruud Van Nistelrooij, because when No. 4 plays Nintendo soccer, nobody can stop his tiny digitized Ruud from finding the back of the old onion bag.

I imagine the Netherlands' equipment manager dreads the task of sewing "Van Nistelrooij" on the back of a jersey. But there's never been a problem like that in Brazil's locker room, where most players go by a single name. There are 17 one-name Brazilians this year, including "Juan," "Fred," and a guy whose mono-ker must mean something really different in Brazil than it does in the U.S.: "Kaka."

Fans who are gaga for Kaka, and for players from the other 31 other countries too, have swarmed all over Germany during the tournament. The official World Cup Website has a section called "Fan of the Match," to honor these people. Or maybe to mock them, it's hard to tell.

Pictures and profiles of outrageously costumed and face-painted soccer-lovers from each World Cup match are posted on "Fan of the Match." Visitors to the site can "rate" each fan on a five star scale, with five being the best. Oddly, the top four ratings as I write this belong to cute female fans.

Apparently the fan with the highest overall rating at the end of the Cup wins worldwide glory as "Fan of the Tournament." It's a coveted honor, and comes with a fabulous prize: a lifetime supply of old onion bags.


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