The success and hopes for the U.S. soccer team have Americans seeing the World Cup through new eyes this time around. But will any fans see today's match against Belgium through red-white-and-blue contact lenses?
These days, it's difficult to avoid images of World Cup fans supporting their teams. Television coverage of the matches, Facebook and Twitter keep us supplied with a barrage of images of soccer fans wearing goofy hats, outlandish costumes and plenty of body paint (and sometimes only body paint) showing which countries compel their support.
But the image that really grabbed my attention came during a tense moment of the Brazil vs. Chile match. The TV camera zoomed in for a close-up of a female Brazil fan with green eyes too vibrant to be natural. But it wasn't just the color. Her eyes boasted a blue orb with a white stripe framed by a yellow rhombus on a green field -- the flag of Brazil in contact lens form.
Online shoppers can buy USA lenses featuring some white stars on a blue background with a few red and white stripes for about 25 bucks. Or, for you Belgium fans, you can buy lenses featuring black, yellow and red stripes of that nation's flag. But World Cup contact lenses might not be the bargain fans desire.
"The reason you go to a doctor is you care about your eyes. The reason you go to the Internet is you care about your wallet," says optometrist Linda S. Murray, a veteran eye doctor who opened her Vista Linda Eye Care in Mount Prospect in 2011. Some of those lenses can create shadows or diminish the wearer's peripheral vision, she says.
Cosmetic contact lenses are eye-catching, but your eyes also could catch something from them, warns Murray, an optometrist since 1979.
"They're probably not made in the United States, and the comfort and quality of many of these lenses are poor," Murray says. That can lead to infections, ulcers and serious eye problems, she says. She says she's seen problems in people who never learn how to care for their new contact lenses or borrow a pair from a friend.
Patients can buy novelty and cosmetic lenses made in the United States under the guidelines of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Murray notes that eye-care company Alcon unveiled a line of prescription contact lenses last week in a host of colors from a subtle gray to a vibrant gemstone green.
People will buy novelty contact lenses at Halloween to make their eyes appear black, red, yellow or white, look like the eyes of a cat or a reptile, or include spirals and other shapes. Sometimes, people choose cosmetic contact lenses to take attention away from their eyes.
"I had one gentleman, one of his eyes was scarred. He had no vision in that eye, and his whole eye was white," says Murray, who helped that patient order a contact lens for that eye. "It does nothing for his vision, but he has an eye that looks real and it matches his other eye perfectly."
Murray hasn't seen any World Cup contact lenses yet, but she's seen plenty of those contacts made famous by Lady Gaga that give wearers larger-than-life, anime-style, cartoonish eyes.
Eyes may be the window to the soul, and soccer fans might want to hang a flag in that window. But, as a long-suffering Cubs fan, I have learned how to enjoy sporting events where the odds are against my team. That's why I'll be watching the USA vs. Belgium match through rose-colored glasses.