On Thursday I took some time out my normally hectic day to take in the USA v. Germany at a local watering hole. Admittedly I’m not the biggest soccer fan on the planet. Far from it. Clearly for the moment, I’m a bandwagon fan, cheering on the USA in much the same way that I cheer Olympic athletes.
My entire life, I’ve been surrounded by soccer players. Some of my best friends are soccer aficionados and that makes sense since I grew up on the east side of town – a hot bed for soccer? But soccer never registered with me despite the strong opinion many of my friends share that soccer – European futbol, is superior to the NFL.
Yeah right boys. If that makes you feel better about your game, I’m ok with that.
Perhaps persuaded by their collective passion each World Cup Tournament, I vow to give it another try but admittedly it’s more for the social aspect of the event. There’s just no convincing me that their game is better than mine.
But I try to keep an open mind and to understand the nuances of the game better. I listen and attempt to absorb the message of my friends telling me soccer is similar to a chess match.
I don’t like chess either.
Without question the World Cup players have outstanding athletic skills and are very well conditioned. The power and accuracy of their kicks and the way they can shape a ball much like a world class golfer is impressive to say the least. But instead of appreciating these skills I find myself more locked in on the things about the game that annoy me.
I want more scoring. Watching 22 guys run around for 90+ minutes without registering a single goal is boring. It’s like foreplay without the happy ending. Maybe they should reward style points to the best actors on the field. Seriously, World Cup is a dramatic mini-series with all the flopping.
A friend shared a staggering statistic with me. Did you know that 98% of international soccer players taken off the field on a stretcher return to the game within 2 minutes! For real?
Could you see that happening in the NFL? Imagine the game announcer saying:
“There goes Joe Flacco off the field on the cart…it doesn’t look good folks and as the medical staff takes away the star quarterback, with him, they may be taking the hopes of Ravens fans in 2014.”
Then miraculously 30 seconds later, there goes Joe sprinting back out on to the field – SEASON SAVED!
Did he jump into a phone booth and become Superman? Or maybe Barry Bonds was waiting for him in the trainer’s room with his bag of “mojo”?
The childishness doesn’t stop with the whining and flopping. This World Cup they’ve introduced the concept of, “If you can’t beat them, eat them!”
Uruguay’s Luis Suarez bit Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini during their most recent match. It was the third time Suarez has resorted to such despicable tactics during the heat of competition.
Suarez and those connected to the Uruguay squad are anything but remorseful and scoff it off as a “casual play”.
Word is HBO has contacted Suarez to test his interest in a “True Blood” spinoff tentatively titled, “World Cup Vampires.”
Surely I jest but the point is, when you factor in the low scoring (yes I’m American and I like points), the acting, the whining, subjective red cards and the unaccountable stoppage time I just can’t wrap my mind around the game.
During one of the stoppages for an injury that never happened, I turned to a friend (he will remain nameless so as not to incriminate him) who started kicking a soccer ball when he exited the womb and asked, “Do you really think this game is better than the NFL?”
He replied, “Not a chance.”
Finally, one of them said it. For one moment in time, perhaps one fleeting second of unbiased weakness, the truth came out.
They can tell me soccer is the world game. So what? It doesn’t make it the best game. It’s not even as exciting as watching Olympic hockey. I dig pulling for my country but it’s more about patriotism than it is about the game.
Strip away the patriotism and what do you have left?
You have a chess match with a ball. That’s all.
Some at the gathering questioned why the USA isn’t dominant in soccer the way we are in most other sports.
The answer is simple – MONEY!
Our country’s best athletes chase the money and in this country they will find it in baseball, basketball and football. Sure the world-class soccer players abroad take home major cake and those families around the world may raise their kids with such ambitions in mind.
Not in the USA.
In any event I do enjoy the camaraderie afforded by the World Cup. Any time I get a chance to share some laughter and cheer with a few friends that have forgotten more about the game of soccer than I’ll ever know, well, that’s all right with me. We’ll make new memories and pull for the red, white and blue as they advance to the knockout rounds.
I just hope that after 120 minutes of an all out scoreless tie the USA’s fate isn’t decided by a penalty kick shootout. That’s the equivalent of deciding the Super Bowl by having the quarterbacks from each team attempt to throw footballs through a hanging tire.
I can hear my friend Bully now, in my face reprimanding me, “You don’t get it do you?!?”
He’s probably right. But I do get the NFL and that’s enough for me.
26 days until veterans report to training camp…