The World Cup kicked off Friday and for openers, it had everything you could ask for: pomp, circumstance, a 200-man oompah band, a dozen women in giant skirts dangling from cables 200 feet above the soccer pitch (voluntarily, one hopes), appearances by randomly selected stars of yesteryear, a veritable cornucopia of goals (six!), and a victory for Germany.
You didn't want to see Germany lose its opener, especially not to the cute but marginally capable team from Costa Rica. If the local lads lose that game, blowing a colossal home-country advantage, they plunge Germany into a funk that casts a pall over the next four weeks. It would have been be a worst-case scenario.
Instead, the home team won 4-2 and rocked Allianz Stadium, the 59,000-seat, hole-in-the-top soccer yard. The sides of the massive structure are covered with some type of see-through plastic. When you're inside looking out, it's like you're trapped inside a party balloon.
And it was a party. The Cup-opening festivities included a World Cup-trophy-bearing appearance by Pele and Claudia Schiffer, the German supermodel, followed by a song from Toni Braxton, which raised the musical question, "Toni Braxton?" Didn't she used to front the Braxton-Hicks Overdrive?
Eat your heart out, Super Bowl.
But though the Germans appreciate stars of yester-century as much as the next country, it was big-time fussball these folks came to see, and they got what the experts are calling the most exciting World Cup lid-lifter ever. All that scoring! I went to a soccer game and a water-polo match broke out.
And even though 4-2 is a rout in soccer, the Costa Rica Ticos weren't really out of it until they were out of it, which was late in the game. They kept it fun.
The win kept alive the German fans' collective hope for their team, which is mired in a six-year slump, and was without its best player, and which is the subject of an ongoing public debate over whether the coach is the future of the German game or a new-age freak tearing down one of world history's great soccer programs.
The win surely played well in Huntington Beach, where German coach Juergen Klinsmann lives with his family, to the chagrin of every soccer purist in Deutschland. The win validated, if briefly and superficially, Klinsmann's revolutionary -- some say heretical -- coaching techniques.
But the 4-2 score also validated the belief among Klinsmann's many critics that all he has created with his revved-up showtime offense is a leaky defense. Germany's midfielders can't be too pleased that an injury-troubled Costa Rica team nobody takes seriously scored twice and had other opportunities.
Juergen's got some explaining to do, like why Costa Rica striker Paulo Wanchope, who already had scored a goal and is always a threat, got behind all but one German defender, and that one defender, Christoph Metzelder, peeled away and gave Winthrop a lob-wedge shot into the net, closing the gap to 3-2.
Germany played without its captain and best player, quarterback Michael "Little Kaiser" Ballack, out for now with a sore calf. The Germans have other guys who can dribble and kick the ball, especially Miroslav Klose, a striker born in Poland, who had two goals and picked up where he left off last Cup, when he had five.