Thursday, June 22, 2006

Are you ready for some fütbol ? Probably not, huh?

I must speak briefly in defense of the World Cup.

There seems to be an anti-soccer bias among sports media types who feel the need to mock what they don’t understand. There must be something in the bylaws of the various sportswriters and sportscasters associations of North America that says that all commentary on fütbol must be mocking in nature and will preferably refer to male soccer players in terms normally associated with flittering ballerinas and their fans as barbaric vandals.

When a sports media person does attempt to provide a rational explanation for his dislike of the sport it usually involves the fact that there isn’t enough scoring in soccer. This reason doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

If your enjoyment of a particular sport is based on frequency of scoring, then it wouldn’t seem possible to be both a fan of baseball and basketball. I haven’t done the research because I’m just a blogger, but I would guess that the discrepancy in scoring between baseball and basketball is much greater than between baseball and soccer. So people who make the low scoring claim should stop the charade and join the others in questioning the sexual orientation of the starting side from Trinidad and Tobago. It’s just more honest.

Closely related to the scoring issue is the claim that there isn’t enough action. Again we should look to baseball where most of the players most of the time are standing there doing nothing. Contrast this with soccer where play rarely stops. There are no Bob Horners or John Kruks playing for Brazil. Every half inning a baseball player can retire to the dugout for a cool drink and a smoke if he so chooses. Soccer players are out there for 90 minutes or until a riot overtakes the field of play, another thing that the pampered baseball players seldom have to confront.

I also suspect that some resentment for this international sport is jingoistic in nature. We Americans are a prideful lot and can be a bit stand-offish when our dominance is tested. It also doesn't help that we've recently had our bat and ball handed to us on the world stage in baseball and basketball. All the more reason, I would think, to rally behind the flag and beat the world at its own game. Although it's too late for that now.

I’m not a rabid soccer fan, but I am quite taken by the sport when I do tune-in. I’m at a loss to explain its spectator appeal. There is a certain grace and rhythm to the sport that creates an artistic symmetry. I guess that’s where all of the nancy-boy talk comes from, we all know how swishy those artists can be.

As a participant, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed playing a sport more than soccer.

Growing up on the northend, soccer wasn’t so much frowned upon as unheard of. Only the southsiders played back in 70s, probably because a shortage of good ballet schools in Laketown.* It wasn’t until I got to college that I found myself on the pitch.

I went to a school with a history of national success in soccer (Go Hawks!). Because a good portion of the student body was drawn from the St. Louis area, one of the early booming regions for youth soccer, we had a strong intramural program. I took to soccer immediately. And I still have a scar from when I slid to protect an open goal and placed my leg between the ball and a rather enthusiastic kick. The resulting injury bled quite a bit, but it was a good kind of bleeding.

This isn't to slight other sports. Nothing beats Notre Dame football on an autumn afternoon. While my interest in baseball and basketball has waned considerably over the years, I can still look in from time to time without feeling the need to call a sports radio talk show and vilify its presence on my television.

I now rest my defense of the World Cup and fully expect to be accused of treason, sedition, and other offenses most foul. In other words, it will be rather jovial in the comments section compared to the last several days.

*Notice how I twist that joke back on itself.

7 comments:

Monkey Boy said...

As a Notre Dame fan I can say I would have rather watched soccer than a Bob Davie coached Fighting Irish squad.

Monkey Boy said...

......and while I don't hate soccer, I think it is about as popular as it should be in the U.S.

Anonymous said...

If you are interested in true athleticism and not overweight, overpaid egos, baseball can't hold a candle to soccer. The sheer endurance required of professional soccer players (and rec leagues right down to 4 and 5 year olds) makes them some of the most motivated, physically fit, talented athletes out there.

Anonymous said...

The issue has to do with American global autonomy. As anyone non-US in the world and they will say they live in a county in a world full of other countries. Americans, on the other hand, think there is America first, and the rest of the world comes in after it. Therefore, we don't even care how we stack up in anything in regards to even world athletic competition, we are satisfied to be the bully in world affairs we believe we are entitleled to be.

UMRBlog said...

Here's my ethnocentric "big three" sports fan view. For every fullback/defender there's probably a power hitting outfielder who never got a chance to develop. For every flashy striker, there's a middle infielder or cornerback we were deprived of.

I lived in Europe for three years and I went to all the big Futbol games and they were fun. The enthusiasm just didn't make the trip back here.

There are countries in africa wich have lost almost all their male population between the ages of 20 and 40 to AIDS. The're still better than us. That's either an argument for giving it up, finding a method to develop (like the Soviets did in Hockey--their method was was called the Red Army) or encouraging more AIDS in America. I kind of like door number two but nobody's come up with the method so, in the meantime, we're a joke.

But, yes, "Go Hawks".

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

Tony,

My theory for why the U.S. continues to trail the third world in soccer supremacy is that here the elite athletes play the big three sports, while in every other country, the elite athletes play soccer. Although this theory was challenged earlier today when I read an interview with an old Cosmos player (his name escapes me, but he was the second best player on his team behind Pele.)

He said that the U.S. team has always had fine athletes, but they lacked in soccer skills. He also said the U.S. is catching up in this respect.

I've read stories about six year-olds in Argentina playing soccer barefoot on a glass strewn dirt lot with a ball made of rolled up socks. They then grow up and kick our ass. It reminds me of how some inner-city kids here learn to play basketball on a neglected playground, with no net on the hoop, and surrounded by crack dealers. Then they grow up and star in the NBA . . . but lose in the Olympics.

So for the good of soccer in this country, I'm going to throw away my kids' soccer shoes, break some beer bottles in the backyard, and toss a balled-up sock back there. Look for the U.S. to bring home the World Cup in 2022. Or for DCFS to pay me a visit next week.

Thanks for commenting,
Dan

Anonymous said...

No question soccer players are some of the finest athletes in the world...but the game is less fun to watch than even golf...why do you think all the fans are drunk and bosterious...they have to entertain themselves for about 98% of every game.

Go hawks!