Sports on earth

As Sports On Earth turns 1, staff columnist Chuck Culpepper seeks sports, on Earth. He is spending 14 days rounding the only planet we know well, taking the pulse and temperature of sports in various regions at this particular time in this very large world.

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — A young Ethiopian named Daniel, studying to become a sports agent, says, “It’s a very big, big, big love, you know?”

A young Ethiopian named Sophonius, so eager to show you the elderly soccer stadium that he apparently bucks protocol, says, “It’s a very large passion.”

And an Ethiopian columnist named Seble Tewelderbirhan wrote after a big match in June, “Every restaurant, bar, hotel in Addis Ababa was in the same spirit as the stadium, filled with people who wore the national team T-shirt and discussed what it will be like to go to Brazil.”

Can you feel the planet ready to quiver? Can you feel it just about to fill its streets, honk its horns, test its lungs and hug its strangers? Here comes the quadrennial final shove toward November, when the world finishes shaking out the 32 nations that get to spend the ensuing eight months knowing they’ll grace the one peerless earthly sporting event, the World Cup.

In no place does this tremble more than Africa, its one billion, its 15 percent of humanity. In no African place does the want intensify more than Ethiopia, 84-million-strong aficionado of soccer, these days all splashed with fresh hope. A World Cup qualification would be the ancient country’s first since … the beginning of time. So on the November night when the two-year qualifying slog ends, and group leaders Tunisia and Egypt (and its American coach Bob Bradley) may end up smiling poignantly after their grim unrest, well … Read more