Rethinking The Whole Soccer Thing

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - June 28, 2006
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A funny thing happened on the way to saying goodbye to the NBA Finals and fully embracing the Major League Baseball season - the World Cup got interesting.

Now, I am well aware that by jumping on the bandwagon, I’m simply joining about 100 million other people in watching the world’s most popular sporting event. But this is a first. Actual interest - not give-up-World Series-tickets type of support, but definitely more stimulating than reruns of Punk’d.

In years past, I’ve tried to pay attention, had roommates who were into it big time, but it just wasn’t happening.

Too foreign.

Too slow.

Far too little scoring.

Wide camera shots that don’t focus closely enough on the action.

A bizarre time-keeping system that goes from low to high, and one that doesn’t even really keep time. As when Germany scored in the 104th minute of a 90-minute contest vs. Croatia. That said, the sliding goal thing by Germany was impressive. Much more so than the U.S. scoring one goal on its own in three games, or England completely blowing its chance to beat Sweden for the first time since the Queen Mum was a pup.

Though my interest has increased from nil to middling, I’m not completely sold nor ready to embrace the concept of soccer being “the beautiful game.” Much like boxing fans who like to call their favorite sport “the sweet science,” soccer’s tag line seems more like a self-serving, high-minded, hoity-toity, mucky-muck promotion of the game than any true reflection of the sport. Still, the Fox Sports Website’s “Babes of the World Cup” sure argues in favor of the game’s true beauty. Seriously. Check it out.

As if you didn’t have enough reasons to visit the home of samba, carnival, the micro bikini and, according to, ladies who “can be very aggressive romantically and forward to the point of harassment” and “dress sexy in all situations, whether business, formal or casual.” By the way, you can get to Rio from Honolulu for around $1,750. That’s solo, of course.

Beyond the confusion among Brazilian stars Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Ricardinho and Robinho, there are other aspects of the game that may take time to get used to.

Anyone who watches the NBA is fully aware that a bit of acting can be beneficial to getting a favorable call from a referee, but if I see one more person writhing in excruciating fake pain after being lightly bumped to the ground I’m gonna go hooligan on my television. Maybe if someone with a greater understanding of the game - meaning nearly anyone - can explain how acting like a spoiled 8-year-old school-girl throwing a tantrum somehow helps a team, I’d love to hear it. I’m sure the explanation will be a fascinating combination of athletic aggression and cultural response to a history of social oppression or some crap like that.

I get that soccer fans are passionate. It’s one of the prime reasons why I’d like to sit in a room full of Brazilians, English, Italians, French or whoever to soak up the excitement of the true experience. But what kind of donkey lights off road flares in a stadium packed with 80,000 testosterone-driven males and women with nationalistic beach wear? Who are the security personnel that allow hand grenades and gasoline to slip by while making sure no one brings outside food into the stadium?

I can’t say that I’ll be glued to the telly for the remainder of the tournament. There’s just too many things going on. But I’ll be watching. And I’m starting to pick up a few things. Sure I got outscored 1,176-126 on an online World Cup trivia game, but I knew the U.S. defeated Mexico on the last go around 2-0.

How I got bit by the soccer bug is unknown, and since my HMO doesn’t cover that sort of thing, it will remain a mystery. So until then, Bravo England! Or whatever I have to say not to get my prat kicked by some shaved-headed, toothless freak with more Guinness than blood in his system.

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