June 23, 2014
Note: Chris is a big soccer fan, so this blog has been prepared by Steve who views the sports calendar as consisting of two periods: Football season and the time until football season.
Sports fans, the World Cup is upon us and you can color me unenthusiastic. While I am a big fan of global sports spectacles, and this one certainly qualifies, I find very little about the sport that redlines my excitement meter.
Please do not mistake my lack of breathless excitement with a dismissive attitude toward the participants themselves. These guys are undeniably terrific athletes. I’ve read that the average soccer player runs three (3) to five (5) miles per game, and that’s impressive since I’ve noticed that I myself now become slightly winded when walking from my couch to the refrigerator. A commentary on my poor cardio vascular status aside, is this any reason to spend 90 minutes watching them do it? When you really think about it, most of the time they are doing things that most of us (kicking a ball), or a trained seal (hitting it with their head) can do, and that just doesn’t strike me as a reason to stock up on the potato chips.
Personally, I find the game’s emphasis on the feet to place undue limitations on the rest of the major extremities, and don’t we all expect our multi-million dollar athletes to be a little more well rounded than that? I think this “feet only” structure also filters down throughout all elements of society in soccer-centric nations. I mean, have you ever seen those guys throw? Think about it, whenever you see one of those uprisings on TV where the disgruntled youth of a country is taking on it’s own armed military by throwing rocks and other projectiles at them, those things hit everything but their intended targets. Compared to them, my wife has the equivalent of a bazooka dangling from her right shoulder. While this state of affairs may have positive ramifications for the resolution of future international conflicts, all wars are to be settled by two opposing armies consisting of ten men and a pile of stones—we’d never lose and countries like the Dominican Republic would join us as world powers—it definitely has a deleterious effect on a country’s overall athletic prowess.
At the risk of sounding a little jingoistic, isn’t soccer really just a little too “kumbaya” for the average American sports fan? Perhaps its just me, but cheering madly for two hours for a game that results in a zero/zero tie just seems to reflect the whole “everybody’s special” mindset surrounding us today rather than the clear victory achieved by crushing your opponent craved by the typical La-Z-Boy ensconsed US sports enthusiast. This “let’s all play nice” gentility just seems to define the game. Where we crave the bone crunching tackle, or the vicious body check, and frown on those who would dare fake an injury, the soccer fan seems to have no problem with some guy dropping like he’s been shot by a sniper whenever someone comes within a few yards of them. And worse, the suspected offender isn’t penalized for his transgression but receives a yellow card warning instead, which is kind of like when we send some country a sternly worded letter for exterminating a few thousand of their own citizens.
To be fair, I must also say that my antipathy toward soccer is also due to the fact that we aren’t very good at it. Our distance from global supremacy in the sport is perhaps best evidenced by the fact that the coach of our national team has already said that we have no chance of winning the cup—which isn’t actually a cup at all, but let’s not get caught up in semantics—a motivational assessment only outdone by those given to the French army prior to the start of hostilities in WWII. Thus, seeing that we are destined to be defeated by one or more countries that most of us couldn’t find on a map, does watching Cameroon grapple with Algeria strike anyone as the best way to spend a Saturday?
Some of you may be big fans of soccer since this would explain the plethora of brightly dressed youngsters in cleats, in various states of indecision, standing in front of me at the fast food place every weekend. Although I won’t be joining you in watching one country claim its preeminence over all challengers with a cumulative goal total that doesn’t reach double digits, I will pay homage to the games’ greatest contribution to sports. Sometime in the late 1800’s, so the story goes, a young man picked up the ball during a game and began to run with it, and thus became the unknowing father of…football.