By Tom Ehrich

I didn't plan it this way, but my vacation this week coincides with World Cup play. What a revelation!

I grew up in the world of baseball, football and basketball. Later, when my sons played youth soccer, I came to loathe "herd ball," coddled ball-hogs, and their out-of-control parents.

Imagine my surprise, then, after watching several hours of World Cup play, to discover that soccer/football/futbol at this level is terrific. Yesterday's game between Costa Rica and Greece was one of the best athletic contests I have seen.

I am configuring day three of my vacation around 4:00pm Tuesday, when the USA takes on Belgium.

I wonder how many impressions I formed as a child and as a young adult need now to be reexamined. In fact, I can barely count the ones I already know about, from attitudes toward women to trust in politicians to what wealth can and cannot buy.

Gaining new knowledge is one thing. Rewriting one's internal, often inherited script is something much harder. It takes an open mind, of course, and access to more thorough information. But it also takes an ability to remember, say, one's father or a high school girlfriend, to be glad of the memory, but to unlearn lessons they taught or, more likely, to see the real lessons they were teaching when I was misreading their examples.

Frozen perceptions and frozen attitudes might be the key to the intolerance, bigotry, ugly divisions, political dysfunction and economic inequities now tearing us apart.

Many people are afraid to "update" their perceptions and attitudes. They fear being proved wrong, they feel disloyal to their roots, or they find new understandings too foreign.

Many fear the unknowns that lie beyond updating. If the cohort I was raised to doubt or even loathe are shown to be just folks, not dissimilar from me in meaningful respects and yet profoundly different, how much of my worldview -- and self-understanding -- must change?

I money can't buy happiness, what can it buy? Whence comes happiness?

Many fear the work that is required that understand the other with fresh eyes. I welcome the challenge of trying to figure out soccer, but I could imagine giving in to bafflement.

As I do so, I will simply ignore the triumphalists who gloat how I should have discovered soccer long ago, as they did. The only competition that matters is on the pitch.