For the past month, I've been absorbed by dramas as the continent's national teams, comprised of the best professional atheletes who may or may not play in their own nation's top leagues, compete. We don't have anything comparable, in US professional sports.
Our championships are parochial affairs by highly paid stars. The European championships are -- like the World Cup -- a re-assembly operation forming national squads from players who may be standouts in the top leagues in Britain, France, Italy or Spain (not to mention the more obscure leagues in Eastern Europe.)
Spain is a phenomenon.
The national team is largely comprised of players from Barcelona and Real Madrid, the two top teams in the first division which are also head and shoulders above the rest in the top Spanish league. Their players have competed against each other and with each other so many times that they have practically incorporated the style of play that so dominates the game today: one-touch passes at a ferocious tempo from the middle of the field to the finish at the goal.
Teams that rely on pure physicality are helpless against Spain's skill, touch and conditioning. The competition I followed devotedly has changed my view of the Premier League in Great Britain. England played so far below the level of the top European teams that it makes one wonder about claims that it is the best league in the world. Of course it is only the best through the assembly of top players from Africa and Europe.
The European championship is not the final word in professional football, of course. Brazil and the rest are wrapped up in their separate season and obsessions.
In yesterday's final, Italy played Spain tightly for only half an hour before crumbling under the pressure. And now it is over. The stars play their season starting in August, with exhibition games pitting top European teams against each other in the United States: a kind of paid holiday that helps raise the status of the game, here.
Now I will have to wait until late August to discover the outcome of more mysteries: can Mario Balotelli become a superstar?