Many have asked why we came all the way to Brazil to sit in Bob Ley's windowless panic room at the crap end of Copacabana Beach. From the very first day, we joked, this was to be the Copa das Copas, the World Cup of World Cups. There is truth in humor over the course of 32 days, and we discovered this joke has turned out to be 100 percent true.
Together, we have experienced:
1. The World Cup of Spectacularly Uncomfortable Arm Folding:
One arm over one arm under; one arm under, one arm over; one arm under, one arm under. Not one gave a wink or a thumbs-up.
2. The World Cup of Scoring Too Early
Spain against the Netherlands (too early)
Mexico against the Netherlands (too early)
Algeria against Belgium. (You should never score too early against a Low Country.)
3. The World Cup of England Plumbing New Depths of Crapness
Symbolized by fallen hero Wayne Rooney's shanked corner in Manaus. This was the World Cup in which we recognized we used to have an empire, now we just have Roy Hodgson sitting on the bench, reacting to defeat in the most English of ways.
4. The World Cup of MLS!
Julio Cesar left Toronto to perform penalty shootout heroics, Real Salt Lake's Kyle Beckerman committed hair-on-hair violence, and Red Bull New York's Tim Cahill uncorked a goal that defied logic and even Australian science.
5. The World Cup of Nipples
An image we hope to erase from our minds by 2018: Puma elected to clad their teams -- Algeria, Uruguay and Ivory Coast -- in revealing, "chafing-be-damned" polyester sausage casing.
While on the subject of jerseys, it must be asked: How does the same designer who consistently dispatches the French team in the most stylish garb send out the United States in clown pajamas?
6. The World Cup of Shining Stars
James Rodriguez: a Colombian talent who redefined the way we say the word "James." Lionel Messi: the tiny giant who found a way to shine when it really mattered. Neymar: a hometown hero who lived up to the hype before exiting in tears of pain. Andrea Pirlo: and a suave and cultured Italian great who might never set foot on this stage again.
7. The World Cup of Goalkeepers
Men with such superhuman skills they appeared to have been born on planets as yet undiscovered. The mop-topped reflexes of Mexico's Guillermo Ochoa. The pure shot-stopping ability of Costa Rica's Keylor Navas. The one-man defense that was Nigeria's Vincent Enyeama. The World Cup-record-breaking performance of America's sweetheart, Tim Howard. And perhaps, above all, Manuel Neuer -- a midfielder trapped in a goalkeeper's body, a man who nightly dreams of bursting downfield but who is pinned down to the goalkeeper position because his wrists are just so darn strong.
8. The World Cup of CONCACAF Thunder!
A region that previously was to football what Red Lobster was to fine dining roared. Costa Rica, Mexico and the United States -- that last a team that ran out of time but charmed the world with their hustle and heart, reflecting the passion and positivity of the German magician who cheated the group of death.
9. The World Cup of Extraordinary Coaches
Jogi Low, a man who looks like the German love child of Dr. Oz and Dorothy Hamill and was unashamed to plumb his nasal recesses in public. Louis van Gaal and his extraordinary hair. Big Phil Scolari and his extraordinary resemblance to Gene Hackman. And Jorge Pinto and his extraordinary cuffs. Concacuffs.
10. The World Cup of Miguel Herrera -- Wet Herrera, Dry Herrera, Hallucinatory Herrera, Barfight Herrera
More joy from one man in one match than the entire English nation has experienced since Queen Victoria tragically passed in 1901. (On that note, we were crushed our Herrera for England campaign did not work.)
11. The World Cup of Bald Men
Arjen Robben, Michael Bradley, Jorge Sampaoli and his doppelganger, Pitbull. The off-center rattail of Rodrigo Palacio and the mesmerizing comb-over of Nestor Pitana, the Argentine referee someone needs to have a quiet, honest word with.
12. The World Cup of The Bite Heard Round the World and the Knee in the Back Heard Round the World
13. The World Cup of Anthem Singing
A rabid Brazil ultimately exhausted themselves emotionally before kickoff. Chile and Colombia became locked and focused. England looked as if they could not care less -- as did Prince Harry, which was odd, seeing as "God Save the Queen" is about his grandmother. The United States brought a nation to the brink tears, with Clint Dempsey looking on glassy-eyed, thinking only of scoring within 30 seconds.
Perhaps the best thing about coming all the way down to Rio and spending so much time in football's spiritual home is we now get to return to a country, the U.S., that we have never been to. A country where millions of people have discovered, experienced and exhibited their passion for the game. Inspired by the Outlaws in Natal, Manaus, Recife and Salvador, enormous crowds packed public spaces in Chicago, Kansas City, New York, Dallas, San Francisco and all points in between.
We are two Englishmen who love America very much indeed. And now America loves the sport we love. That's an overwhelming amount of love. We have always joked on our show that Soccer is America's Sport of the Future, as it has been since 1972, and now it seems that future has finally arrived.
That's what has made the 2014 World Cup truly a Copa das Copas.