Thankfully, there were no naked Brazilians running around.
Prior to the 1994 World Cup, I had not yet been exposed to the fact that, in an effort to show good sportsmanship at the end of games, soccer players gave their opponents garments which had been marinated in perspiration. Personally, I entrust laundry duty to my wife, who prohibits me from giving away my clothes.
So, upon receiving a souvenir Brazil National Team T-shirt from my uncle, after he attended the Brazil and Netherlands quarterfinal match at the Cotton Bowl in 1994, I was somewhat concerned that the shirt may have possibly been contaminated with a South American's sweat, chest hair or Tuberculosis.
The shirt was selected for me after careful consideration as to which country would win the tournament. My uncle obviously thought Brazil had a good chance of winning. Either that or he just liked their colors.
By the time I received my shirt, Brazil had made it to the final against Italy. Not wanting to be associated with a loser, I sat through my first soccer game, rooting for Brazil, forgoing a Sunday afternoon nap so I could watch every minute on television of over 120 minutes of a match that ended in a scoreless tie and had to be decided by penalty kicks.
According to every person from the beginning of time, deciding a game on penalty kicks is about as enjoyable as getting a back massage with a staple gun. I did not know this at the time and passionately loved the penalty kicks to that point that I contemplated asking them out on a date.
Brazil won the World Cup, which was followed by me simultaneously wearing a smile, sunglasses and pride every time I wore their T-shirt, hoping my friends and neighbors would confuse me for one of the Brazilian players.
My soccer knowledge was growing by leaps and bounds, to where I could confidently espouse to my non-soccer-loving friends, "Only goalies can use their hands," and, "The referee holds up red and yellow cards if players commit a foul. Though I'm not sure how many fouls you can get before fouling out. Five, I guess, or maybe six like the NBA."
Being an avid card collector, Upper Deck did not have to devise much of a marketing strategy to convince me to purchase packages of their World Cup cards in every location I saw them for sale. I hypothesized that, other than the Brazilian players, the cards that were worth the most were of the players who had the most hair.
After a brief stint shuffling through ancestry papers in order to ascertain if I was of Brazilian heritage, I concluded that, since I had more than one name, I was thoroughly wasting my time. Though I did discover that, not only had I mounted, I was riding shotgun on a bandwagon.
Fortunately, a box of Kellogg's Raisin Bran soon informed me that the United States was forming their own professional soccer league.
While enjoying a bowl of cereal and reading over the back of the box, I learned that Major League Soccer would begin play in 1996 and would adhere to the worldwide rules of soccer, right down to overthrowing the use of the letter "s" in team names.
Clubs like the Burn, Mutiny and Galaxy caused utter confusion among American sports fans and cheerleaders. I, however, was excited to have a new sport to follow, partly because I relished hearing Mexican announcers say the word "goal," as if they were simultaneously being mauled by a panther, partly because having never played soccer, I could not definitively say I was not a soccer prodigy and partly because Bud Selig strapped the 1994 World Series into an electric chair and executed it.
It's been 20 years since that World Cup, but if the United States eventually wins one, I will gladly give the shirt off my back . . . even if it's sweaty.
Chris is a Waco, Texas, resident, Editor in Chief of MyBriefs.com, author of the book "Sports Briefs" and the adult writer for the Gab Four. Read more of Chris' solo columns here.